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Johnson v. United States

United States District Court, Middle District of Alabama

May 29, 2014

WILLIE CURRY JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CHARLES S. COODY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

This matter is before the court on a motion by Willie Curry Johnson (“Johnson”) to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

I. INTRODUCTION

On February 5, 2009, a jury found Johnson guilty of conspiracy to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine and a detectable amount of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846 (Count 1); possession with intent to distribute at least 5 grams of crack cocaine and a detectable amount of cocaine on November 22, 2005, November 30, 2005, and December 9, 2005, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Counts 2-4); and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of U.S.C. 922(g)(1) (Count 5).

At sentencing on June 9, 2009, over Johnson’s objection, the district court imposed a 2-level leadership role enhancement in calculating Johnson’s advisory guidelines range. After considering Johnson’s advisory guidelines range of 360 months’ to life imprisonment and the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, the district court imposed a 292-month sentence.

Johnson appealed, raising the following claims in the Eleventh Circuit:

1. The district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized from his trailer home because the warrant affidavit lacked sufficient corroboration of the confidential informant’s information.
2. The district court should have suppressed his confession because his Miranda rights waiver was a product of coercion.
3. The evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions.
4. The district court erred in applying a U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a) leadership role enhancement at his sentencing.

Doc. No. 13-2 at 3-17.[1]

On May 24, 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming Johnson’s convictions and sentence. United States v. Johnson, 379 Fed. App’x 964 (11th Cir. 2010). Johnson filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which that court denied on October 4, 2010. Johnson v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 359 (2010).

On September, 2011, Johnson, proceeding pro se, filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 asserting the following as grounds for relief:

1. The district court erred by applying the U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a) leadership role enhancement to his sentence.
2. The district court erred when applying the U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3 relevant-conduct provisions at sentencing, specifically with regard to attributable drug quantity.
3. The Government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by knowingly presenting false evidence in the form of falsified lab reports and falsified controlled-buy recordings.
4. His trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to cross-examine narcotics investigators as to whether the controlled buys involved only powder cocaine.

Doc. Nos. 1 and 8.[2]

On October 25, 2012, Johnson filed an amendment to his § 2255 motion, asserting claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel relating back to his claims that (1) the district court erred by applying the § 3B1.1(a) leadership role enhancement; (2) the district court erred when applying the § 1B1.3 relevant-conduct provisions to determine the quantity of drugs attributable to him; and (3) the Government engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Doc. No. 19.

The Government maintains that Johnson’s claims are either procedurally barred or without merit and that, consequently, he is not entitled to any collateral relief. See Doc. Nos. 13 and 21. Johnson has replied in opposition to the Government’s submissions. See Doc. Nos. 16, 17, and 28. After due consideration of Johnson’s § 2255 motion, the submissions supporting and opposing the motion, and the record in this case, the court concludes that an evidentiary hearing is not required and that, pursuant to Rule 8(a), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings in the United States District Courts, the § 2255 motion should be denied.

II. DISCUSSION

A. General Standard of Review

Because collateral review is not a substitute for direct appeal, the grounds for collateral attack on final judgments pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are extremely limited. A prisoner is entitled to relief under § 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; United States v. Phillips, 225 F.3d 1198, 1199 (11th Cir. 2000); United States v. Walker, 198 F.3d 811, 813 n.5 (11th Cir. 1999). “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).

B. Substantive Claims in § 2255 Motion

1. Substantive Claim Raised and Resolved on Direct Appeal

Johnson claims that the district court erred in applying the U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a) leadership role enhancement to his sentence. See Doc. No. 8 at 2-3. Johnson raised this same claim on direct appeal, where it was decided adversely to him by the appellate court as follows:

Under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(c), a defendant’s offense level is increased by two levels when “the defendant was an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor” of criminal activity that involved fewer than five participants and was not otherwise extensive. U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(c). “[T]he assertion of control or influence over only one individual is enough to support a § 3B1.1(c) enhancement.” United States v. Jiminez, 224 F.3d 1243, 1251 (11th Cir. 2000); see also U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(c), cmt. n.2.
Johnson asserted influence and control over [Coby] Taylor, [Dwight] Moss and [Demetric] Cox by fronting drugs for them to sell and requiring them to pay him out of the proceeds. Moss testified that when he failed to pay Johnson back in full, Johnson stopped fronting him drugs. Johnson also sometimes used runners to deliver drugs for him. Moss testified that at one point he worked as a runner for Johnson. Given this evidence, we cannot say the district court clearly erred in imposing a two-level leadership role enhancement.

United States v. Johnson, 379 Fed. App’x 964, 970-71 (11th Cir. 2010) (footnote omitted).

“The district court is not required to reconsider claims of error that were raised and disposed of on direct appeal.” United States v. Nyhuis, 211 F.3d 1340, 1343 (11th Cir. 2000); see also United States v. Rowan, 663 F.2d 1034, 1035 (11th Cir. 1981). If a claim has previously been raised on direct appeal and decided adversely to a defendant, it cannot be relitigated in a collateral attack under § 2255. See Nyhuis, 211 F.3d at 1343. Furthermore, “[a] rejected claim does not merit rehearing on a different, but previously available, legal theory.” Id.

The Eleventh Circuit decided this claim adversely to Johnson. Because the claim was raised and resolved in Johnson’s direct appeal, this court will not ...


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