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Reaves v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division

May 22, 2017




         Donald Lee Reaves, a federal prisoner, seeks to have his sentence vacated, set aside, or corrected pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Doc. 1.[1] For the reasons explained below, Reaves's petition is DENIED.

         I. Standard of Review

         Following conviction and sentencing, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 allows a federal prisoner to file a motion in the sentencing court “to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence” on the basis “that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). To obtain relief under § 2255, a petitioner must: (1) file a non-successive petition or obtain an order from the Eleventh Circuit authorizing a district court to consider a successive § 2255 motion, 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h), § 2255 Rule 9; (2) file the motion in the court where the conviction or sentence was received, see Partee v. Attorney Gen. of Ga., 451 F. App'x 856 (11th Cir. 2012)(unpublished); (3) file the petition within the one-year statute of limitations, 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f); (4) be “in custody” at the time of filing the petition, Spencer v. Kemna, 523 U.S. 1, 7 (1998); (5) state a viable claim for relief under the heightened pleading standards of § 2255 Rule 2(b), see also McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); and (6) swear or verify the petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746.[2] Finally, “[i]n deciding whether to grant an evidentiary hearing, a federal court must consider whether such a hearing could enable an applicant to prove the petition's factual allegations, which, if true, would entitle the applicant to federal habeas relief.” Schriro v. Landrigan, 550 U.S. 465, 474 (2007). However, “if the record refutes the applicant's factual allegations or otherwise precludes habeas relief, a district court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing.” Id.

         II. Procedural History[3], [4]

         On March 26, 2014, a two-count indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in Birmingham, charging defendant Donald Lee Reaves with the offenses of Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of an Unregistered Firearm (sawed-off shotgun), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d), respectively. Crim. Doc. 1.

         Reaves entered a plea of not guilty at arraignment on April 17, 2014, with the assistance of a Federal Public Defender, who was initially appointed to represent him. Reaves subsequently filed a pro se motion seeking substitution of counsel based on “current counsel's difference of opinion and views towards strategies and choices…” Crim. Doc. 12. The motion was granted on June 3, 2014, and the Court appointed Michael V. Rasmussen, Esq., to serve as Reaves' new attorney. Crim. Doc. 17 (docket entry).

         On July 10, 2014, counsel filed a motion to suppress the government's evidence, claiming that the police had gained entry into Reaves' apartment through deception; that the officer's request to see Reaves's driver's license was tantamount to an unlawful, warrantless seizure of the Defendant; and that the warrant used to search Reaves's apartment had been based on an affidavit lacking probable cause. Crim. Doc. 21. The magistrate judge conducted a hearing and later issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending that the motion be denied in its entirety. Crim. Doc. 35. Defense counsel subsequently filed objections to the R&R, and supplemental objections to the R&R. Crim. Docs. 36, 40. On November 5, 2014, the undersigned judge issued an order sustaining the objections as to a portion of the R&R and suppressing all drug evidence found inside Reaves's apartment. Crim. Doc. 47. The November 5 Order, however, overruled Reaves's objections to the remaining portions of the R&R. Id.

         Trial of this case commenced Monday, January 5, 2015, before the undersigned judge and a duly empaneled jury. On January 7, 2015, the jury returned a verdict. The jury found Reaves guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm (Count One), but not guilty as to the sawed-off shotgun charge (Count Two). Crim. Doc. 70.

         On April 22, 2015, the Court found Reaves met the criteria for the Armed Career Criminal Act enhancement, and sentenced him to a custodial term of 192 months as to Count One. Crim. Doc. 83.

         Still represented by Mr. Rasmussen, Reaves filed a direct appeal that ultimately proved unsuccessful, as were his petitions for rehearing en banc and for certiorari. United States v. Reaves, 647 F.App'x 942 (11th Cir. Apr. 11, 2016)(unpublished), cert. denied sub nom. Reaves v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 324, 196 L.Ed.2d 236 (October 11, 2016). Thus, his conviction became final on October 11, 2016. See Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 527, 123 S.Ct. 1072, 1076, 156 L.Ed.2d 88 (2003). He timely filed this § 2255 motion on March 28, 2017, the date it was placed in the prison's internal mail system.[5] Doc. 1 at 5.

         III. Factual Background[6]

         In June 2013, Officer Nakia Garrett went to 1480 Old Shocco Road, Apartment 9 in Talladega, Alabama to serve an arrest warrant on Kimberly Kelly. Garrett had visited the apartment six months earlier to investigate a stolen vehicle and remembered Kelly being present at that apartment, although she had told him that the apartment belonged to Reaves.

         After Garrett knocked on the door and identified himself as a police officer, Reaves allowed Garrett to enter the apartment. Reaves told Garrett that he did not know Kelly. Garrett asked for Reaves's identification to know with whom he was speaking. When he ran Reaves's license through dispatch, Garrett learned that Reaves had an ...

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