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United States v. Chandler

United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division

May 7, 2018




         This matter is before the court upon Defendant's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 41). The Government has filed a response (ECF No. 47) and Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No. 48). The case was referred to the undersigned for the issuance of all preliminary orders and any recommendations to the district court regarding dispositive matters. See N.D. Fla. Loc. R. 72.2; see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). After a careful review of the record and the arguments presented, it is the opinion of the undersigned that Defendant has not raised any issue requiring an evidentiary hearing and that the § 2255 motion should be denied. See Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases 8(a) and (b).


         On March 5, 2014, Defendant Danny Chandler, Jr., was charged in a four-count indictment with possession of cocaine and crack cocaine with intent to distribute (“Count One”), possession of a short-barreled shotgun in connection with the offense in Count One (“Count Two”), possession of an unregistered short-barred shotgun (“Count Three”) and possession of a short-barreled shotgun by a convicted felon (“Count Four”). (ECF No. 1). On May 1, 2014, represented by Federal Public Defender Randy Murrell, Defendant pleaded guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement to Counts One, Two and Four. (ECF Nos. 17, 18, 19, 36). The plea agreement, which was the standard plea agreement used in this district, set forth the penalties Defendant faced including a mandatory minimum term of ten years imprisonment on Count Two, and the fact that this term must be served consecutive to any other term of imprisonment that the court imposed. (ECF No. 18 at 1-2).

         The Final Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) reflected a total offense level of 23, and a criminal history category of IV. (ECF No. 23, PSR ¶¶ 19-30, 38). The guidelines range for Counts One and Four was 70 to 87 months, followed by the consecutive mandatory term of 120 months on Count Two. (ECF No. 23, PSR ¶¶ 68, 69).

         The court sentenced Defendant to a total term of 180 months, which was slightly below the applicable guidelines range. (ECF No. 34 at 14; ECF Nos. 25, 26).

         Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court improperly considered his prior conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute to be controlled substance offense as defined by U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(b). (ECF No. 39). The Eleventh Circuit found his argument to be foreclosed by recent precedent and affirmed.

         Defendant timely filed the instant motion, raising two grounds for relief. He claims that his guilty plea was not voluntary, intelligent, and knowing and that the inclusion of a “collateral challenge waiver” in the plea agreement was a violation of his sixth amendment right to conflict-free counsel. The Government opposes the motion.


         Standard of Review

         “Section 2255 does not provide a remedy for every alleged error in conviction and sentencing.” Spencer v. United States, 773 F.3d 1132, 1138 (11th Cir. 2014). Collateral review is not a substitute for direct appeal, and therefore the grounds for collateral attack on final judgments pursuant to § 2255 are extremely limited. A prisoner is entitled to relief under section 2255 if the court imposed a sentence that (1) violated the Constitution or laws of the United States, (2) exceeded its jurisdiction, (3) exceeded the maximum authorized by law, or (4) is otherwise subject to collateral attack. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); McKay v. United States, 657 F.3d 1190, 1194 n.8 (11th Cir. 2011). “Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 >is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for that narrow compass of other injury that could not have been raised in direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.'” Lynn v. United States, 365 F.3d 1225, 1232 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). An evidentiary hearing is unnecessary when “the motion and files and records conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Rosin, 786 F.3d at 877; Gordon v. United States, 518 F.3d 1291, 1301 (11th Cir. 2008).

         Defendant's Grounds for Relief

         Defendant's first ground for relief contains two subparts. First, he claims that the Government's promise to seek a sentence reduction based on his acceptance of responsibility was illusory because his sentence was fixed by the statutory maximum. He asks for the judgment to be vacated and for him to be allowed to plead to a charge without a mandatory minimum. Defendant's argument is flawed.

         The plea agreement contains no “promise” that the Government would seek a reduced sentence based on his acceptance of responsibility. The standard plea agreement provides that the sentence is left solely to the discretion of the district court, that any prediction of the sentence is neither a guarantee nor a binding promise and that the sentence is not subject to accurate prediction due to the variety and complexity of issues that are taken into account. (ECF No. 18 at 3). Adverse rulings or a sentence greater than anticipated were not grounds for withdrawal of the plea. (Id.) The Government reserved the right to ...

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