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Hall v. United States

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

June 24, 2019

JAMES STEVEN HALL, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          BRIAN J. DAVIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case is before the Court on Petitioner James Steven Hall's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (Civ. Doc. 1, § 2255 Motion).[1]Hall raises a single claim: that he is entitled to a minor-role reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2 and Amendment 794 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The United States has responded (Civ. Doc. 4, Response), and Hall has replied (Civ. Doc. 5, Reply). The § 2255 Motion is ripe for a decision.

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, the Court has determined that a hearing is not necessary to resolve the merits of this action. See Rosin v. United States, 786 F.3d 873, 877 (11th Cir. 2015) (an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 motion is not required when the petitioner asserts allegations that are affirmatively contradicted by the record or patently frivolous, or if in assuming the facts that he alleges are true, he still would not be entitled to any relief). For the reasons set forth below, Hall's § 2255 Motion is due to be denied.

         I. Background

         On May 13, 2015, a grand jury charged Hall with one count of manufacturing counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 471, and one count of passing counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472. (Crim. Doc. 1, Indictment). On August 17, 2015, Hall pled guilty to both counts without a plea agreement. (See Crim. Doc. 25, Minute Entry for Change-of-Plea Hearing).

         The United States Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) in advance of the sentencing hearing. The PSR assigned Hall an adjusted offense level of 15 under U.S.S.G. § 2B5.1(b)(2)(A) because he manufactured counterfeit securities. See PSR at ¶¶ 20, 21, 25. Hall received a two-level reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a total offense level of 13. Id. at ¶ 28. The PSR assigned Hall a Criminal History Category of IV, yielding an advisory sentencing range of 24 to 30 months in prison. Id. at ¶¶ 46, 100.

         At the sentencing hearing, the Court adopted the Guidelines calculation without objection. (Crim. Doc. 40, Sentencing Tr. at 8). After hearing statements from Hall and his father, and after considering the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), the Court sentenced Hall to a term of 24 months in prison. Id. at 32-33; (see also Crim. Doc. 36, Judgment). Hall did not file a notice of appeal. Less than a year after the entry of judgment, Hall filed the instant § 2255 Motion.

         II. Discussion

         Under Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255, a person in federal custody may move to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. Section 2255 permits such collateral challenges on four specific grounds: (1) the imposed sentence was in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court did not have jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the imposed sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the imposed sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C §2255(a) (2008). Only jurisdictional claims, constitutional claims, and claims of error that are so fundamentally defective as to cause a complete miscarriage of justice will warrant relief through collateral attack. United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 184-86 (1979).

         Hall complains that he “was not given a reduction as a minor participant in [his] offense even though [he] was less culpable than the majority of those within the universe of persons participating in similar crimes.” § 2255 Motion at 4. Hall argues that he is entitled to a minor-role reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2 and Amendment 794 to the Sentencing Guidelines. Amendment 794 is a clarifying amendment that spells out some of the circumstances in which a defendant is eligible for a minor-role reduction. See United States v. Cruikshank, 837 F.3d 1182, 1194 (11th Cir. 2016) (finding that Amendment 794 is a clarifying amendment). Amendment 794 added the following language to Application Note 3(C) of § 3B1.2:

In determining whether [a defendant warrants a minimal or minor participant] or an intermediate adjustment, the court should consider the following non-exhaustive list of factors:
(i) the degree to which the defendant understood the scope and structure of the criminal activity;
(ii) the degree to which the defendant participated in planning or organizing the criminal activity;
(iii) the degree to which the defendant exercised decision-making authority or influenced the exercise of ...

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