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United States v. Lee Williams

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

August 6, 2019

JONATHAN HARRY LEE WILLIAMS, Reg. No. 23211-017, Defendant.



         This matter is before the court upon Defendant Jonathan Harry Lee Williams's Amended Motion to Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 68.) The Government has filed a response (ECF No. 70) and Defendant filed a reply. (ECF No. 71.) 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 review of the record, the court recommends that the § 2255 motion be denied without an evidentiary hearing. See Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases 8(a) and (b).


         On January 6, 2015, Williams was charged in a two-count indictment with production of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a) and 2251(e) (“Count One”) and possession of child pornography on a date certain in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252A(a)(5)(B) and (b)(2) (“Count Two”) Williams pled guilty as charged on February 25, 2015, pursuant to a written plea agreement, statement of facts and sealed supplement. (ECF Nos 28-28.) Retained counsel Ryan R. Davis represented him.

         The Final Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) determined Williams's total offense level for conduct involving three victims was 40. (ECF No. 32, PSR ¶¶ 27-57.) Williams had no criminal history, and his criminal history score was I. (Id. at ¶¶ 60-61.) The applicable guidelines range was 292 to 365 months as to Count One and 120 months as to Count Two. (Id. at ¶¶ 81, 82.)

         On May 27, 2015, the court sentenced Williams to a term of 30 years on Count One and ten years on Count Two, to run concurrently, followed by a life term of supervised release. (ECF Nos. 37, 39, 40.)

         Williams appealed, and his appointed attorney Randolph P. Murrell, moved to withdraw from further representation, filing a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). (ECF No. 63 at 3.) The Eleventh Circuit's independent review of the entire record found no arguable issues of merit. It granted the motion to withdraw and affirmed Williams's convictions and sentences. (Id.)

         In Williams's amended § 2255 motion, he contends that his attorney was constitutionally ineffective for failure to make certain objections at either the plea colloquy or sentencing. The Government opposes the motion.


         General 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 section 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). The “fundamental miscarriage of justice” exception recognized in Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 496 (1986), provides that it must be shown that the alleged constitutional violation “has probably resulted in the conviction of one who is actually innocent . . . .”

         Because a motion to vacate under section 2255 is not a substitute for direct appeal, issues which could have been raised on direct appeal are generally not actionable in a section 2255 motion and will be considered procedurally barred. Lynn, 365 F.3d at 1234B35; Bousley v. United States, 523 U.S. 614, 621 (1998); McKay v. United States, 657 F.3d 1190, 1195 (11th Cir. 2011). An issue is “‘available' on direct appeal when its merits can be reviewed without further factual development.” Lynn, 365 F.3d at 1232 n.14 (quoting Mills, 36 F.3d at 1055). Absent a showing that the ground of error was unavailable on direct appeal, a court may not consider the ground in a section 2255 motion unless the defendant establishes (1) cause for not raising the ground on direct appeal, and (2) actual prejudice resulting from the alleged error, that is, alternatively, that he is “actually innocent.” Lynn, 365 F.3d at 1234; Bousley, 523 U.S. at 622 (citations omitted). To show cause for procedural default, a defendant must show that “some objective factor external to the defense prevented [him] or his counsel from raising his claims on direct appeal and that this factor cannot be fairly attributable to [defendant's] own conduct.” Lynn, 365 F.3d at 1235. A meritorious claim of ineffective assistance of counsel can constitute cause. See Nyhuis, 211 F.3d at 1344.

         To prevail on a constitutional claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must demonstrate both that counsel's performance was below an objective and reasonable professional norm and that he was prejudiced by this inadequacy. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 686 (1984); Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 390 (2000); Darden v. United States, 708 F.3d 1225, 1228 (11th Cir. 2013). In applying Strickland, the court may dispose of an ineffective assistance claim if a defendant fails to carry his burden on either of the two prongs. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697; Brown v. United States, 720 F.3d 1316, 1326 (11th Cir. 2013).

         To establish prejudice, defendant must show that, but for counsel's deficient performance, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. “The likelihood of a different result must be substantial, not just conceivable.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 112 (2011) (quoting Strickland). in the case of alleged sentencing errors, a defendant must demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the proceeding would have been less harsh due to a reduction in the defendant's offense level. Glover v. United States, 531 U.S. 198, 203B04 ...

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