United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division
J. DAVIS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case is before the Court on Petitioner Brandon Devon
Rackley's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate,
Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (Civ. Doc. 1, § 2255
Motion) and Supporting Memorandum (Civ. Doc. 2,
Memorandum). Rackley raises two claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel, but the thrust of both claims is the
same. Rackley argues that counsel gave ineffective assistance
by failing to object to a two-level sentencing guidelines
enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) for the
possession of a weapon. The United States has responded in
opposition (Civ. Doc. 5, Response), and Rackley has replied
(Civ. Doc. 7, Reply). The § 2255 Motion is ripe for a
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, Rackley's
§ 2255 Motion is due to be denied.
August 27, 2015, a federal grand jury returned a four-count
indictment against Rackley and two codefendants, Corey Mango
and Demetrice Webb. (Crim. Doc. 1, Indictment). Count One
charged Rackley and the codefendants with conspiracy to
import ethylone and methylone, commonly referred to as
“Molly, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
960(b)(3) and 963. Count Two charged Rackley and the
codefendants with conspiracy to distribute ethylone and
methylone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(b)(1)(C) and 846. Count Three charged Rackley with
distribution of ethylone, in violation of §§
841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). Finally, Count Four charged
codefendant Corey Mango with possession of ethylone with
intent to distribute, in violation of §§ 841(a)(1)
after the grand jury returned the indictment, police executed
a search warrant at 7726 Arancio Drive, Jacksonville,
Florida, where Rackley had received a shipment of 1, 014
grams of ethylone 25 days earlier. (Crim. Doc. 64, Plea
Agreement at 21, 22). Rackley was present at the address,
along with an AR-15 style carbine rifle, a Keltec .40 caliber
rifle, three magazines, and 52 rounds of ammunition.
Id. at 22. The police arrested Rackley pursuant to a
federal arrest warrant. Id.
February 1, 2016, Rackley pled guilty pursuant to a written
plea agreement to Count Two of the Indictment, i.e.,
conspiracy to distribute ethylone and methylone. See
generally Plea Agreement; (Crim. Doc. 62, Minute Entry
for Change of Plea Hearing). Rackley admitted that he agreed
with his codefendants, Webb and Mango, to order ethylone and
methylone from China, to have the drugs shipped to various
locations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and
Pennsylvania, and to distribute the drugs once received. Plea
Agreement at 20-21. Rackley admitted that between 2013 and
2015, he and his coconspirators received shipments of
ethylone or methylone totaling about 17 kilograms, including
2.5 kilograms at 7726 Arancio Drive. Id. at 21.
Specifically, Rackley admitted that on August 3, 2015, he
received a shipment of about one kilogram of ethylone at 7726
Arancio Drive. Id. Rackley also admitted that the
conspiracy continued “through on or about” the
date the grand jury indicted him, August 27, 2015.
Id. at 19. Finally, Rackley acknowledged that when
he was arrested, he was in possession of two firearms: an
AR-15-style Just Right Carbines rifle and a Keltec .40
caliber rifle, as well as three magazines and 52 rounds of
ammunition. Id. at 22. The Magistrate Judge who
presided over the plea colloquy recommended “that the
guilty plea was knowledgeable and voluntary, and that the
offense charged is supported by an independent basis in fact
containing each of the essential elements of the
offense.” (Crim. Doc. 65, Report and Recommendation
Concerning Guilty Plea). The Court agreed with the Magistrate
Judge's recommendation, accepted Rackley's plea of
guilty, and adjudicated him accordingly. (Crim. Doc. 74,
Acceptance of Guilty Plea).
to the Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), Rackley's
total offense level was 31, consisting of a base offense
level of 32, a two-level enhancement under U.S.S.G. §
2D1.1(b)(1) for the possession of a weapon, and a three-level
reduction for acceptance of responsibility under §§
3E1.1(a) and (b). PSR at ¶¶ 32-42. The PSR gave
Rackley a Criminal History Category of III, yielding an
advisory sentencing range of 135 to 168 months in prison.
Id. at ¶ 100. However, the United States moved
for a two-level downward departure under U.S.S.G. §
5K1.1 to recognize that Rackley had provided substantial
assistance. (Crim. Doc. 94, § 5K1.1 Motion).
sentencing hearing for Rackley and his co-defendants occurred
over the course of May 24 and August 4, 2016. (See
Crim. Doc. 124, Sentencing Tr. Vol. I; Crim. Doc. 122,
Sentencing Tr. Vol. II). Neither Rackley nor his attorney
objected to the sentencing guidelines as calculated in the
PSR. Sentencing Tr. Vol. I at 5-6; Sentencing Tr. Vol. II at
5-6. The Court granted the government's § 5K1.1
motion, thereby reducing Rackley's advisory sentencing
range to between 108 and 135 months in prison. Sentencing Tr.
Vol. II at 19. The Court further varied below the reduced
Guidelines range and sentenced Rackley to a term of 86 months
in prison. Id. at 22; (Crim. Doc. 101, Judgment).
did not object to the sentence imposed, Sentencing Tr. Vol.
II at 28, and he did not file a notice of appeal. Less than
one year later, he timely filed the instant § 2255
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). A petitioner's challenge to his
sentence based on a Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective
assistance of counsel is normally considered on collateral
review. United States v. Teague, 953 F.2d 1525, 1534
n. 11 (11th Cir. 1992).
succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
petitioner must show both (1) that counsel's performance
was deficient, and (2) that as a result of counsel's
deficient performance, the petitioner suffered prejudice.
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984).
In determining whether counsel performed deficiently, the
Court adheres to the standard of reasonably effective
assistance. Weeks v. Jones, 26 F.3d 1030, 1036 (11th
Cir. 1994). The petitioner must show, in light of all the
circumstances, that counsel's performance fell outside
the “wide range of professionally competent
assistance.” Id. To show that counsel's
deficient performance prejudiced the defendant, the
petitioner must show that there is a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's error, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. Id. at 1036-37
(citing Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694). A
“reasonable probability” is a probability
sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. In determining whether
a petitioner has met the two prongs of deficient performance
and prejudice, the Court considers the totality of the
evidence. Id. at 695. However, because both prongs
are necessary, “there is no reason for a court…
to approach the inquiry in the same order or even to address
both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes an
insufficient showing on one.” Id. at 697;
see also Wellington v. Moore, 314 F.3d 1256, 1261 n.
1 (11th Cir. 2002) (“We need not discuss the
performance deficiency component of [petitioner's]
ineffective assistance claim because failure to satisfy the
prejudice component is dispositive.”).
Grounds One and Two, Rackley contends that counsel gave
ineffective assistance by failing to object to the two-level
sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1).
That provision instructs courts to apply a two-level increase
to the offense level when “a dangerous ...