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Edwards v. United States

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

October 10, 2018

WILLIAM ONEIL EDWARDS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          CHARLES S. COODY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. BACKGROUND

         On October 2, 2014, Petitioner William Oneil Edwards pleaded guilty under a plea agreement to conspiracy to sponsor, exhibit, buy, sell, possess, train, or transport a dog for participation in an animal fighting venture, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 & 7 U.S.C. § 2156(a)(1) & (b), and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).[1] The plea agreement contained an appeal/post-conviction waiver on sentencing issues, with exceptions for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct. Following a sentencing hearing on January 15, 2015, the district court sentenced Edwards to 42 months in prison, consisting of consecutive terms of 18 months for the dogfighting conspiracy and 24 months for the firearm count. The district court ordered that the sentence be followed by a term of three years of supervised release.

         Edwards appealed, challenging the reasonableness of the district court's total 42-month sentence. The Eleventh Circuit dismissed Edwards's appeal based on the appeal waiver in his plea agreement.

         On March 10, 2016, Edwards filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion in this court presenting the following claims:

1. His trial counsel rendered ineffective by giving him inaccurate advice about the sentence he would receive upon pleading guilty. Specifically, counsel told him he would only be sentenced to a maximum guideline range of 21 to 27 months in prison based on the firearm count, which would run concurrently with any sentence imposed for the conspiracy count.
2. Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object when the district court violated the notice requirement in Fed.R.Crim.P. 32(h) in imposing his sentence.
3. The Government breached the plea agreement by moving for an upward variance at sentencing and by not recommending that his sentences run concurrently.
4. The district court erred when it granted an upward variance at sentencing.

Doc. # 1 at 4-7; Doc. # 1-1 at 6-19.

         In a memorandum filed to support his § 2255 motion, Edwards asked the court “to vacate his two consecutive sentences and order the Government to honor the promise that induced him to plead guilty: that he be sentenced to concurrent terms of imprisonment.” Doc. # 2 at 20. Alternatively, he asked that the court “grant an evidentiary hearing on the constitutional issues raised [in his § 2255 motion].” Id.

         On June 1, 2016, the Government filed a response to Edwards's § 2255 motion arguing that Edwards's ineffective assistance of counsel claims lacked merit and that his claims raising substantive sentencing issues were barred from collateral review by the waiver provision in his plea agreement. Doc. # 7.

         On June 2, 2016, this court issued an order allowing Edwards until June 22, 2016, to file a reply to the Government's response to his § 2255 motion. Doc. # 8. Subsequently, on August 2, 2016, the court granted Edwards's motion for an extension of time to and including September 2, 2016, to file a reply to the Government's response to his § 2255 motion. See Docs. # 11 & 13. The requisite time passed, however, without Edwards filing a reply to the Government's response.

         On February 7, 2018, after taking notice that the Federal Bureau of Prisons' online database (https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/) indicated that Edwards was released from federal incarceration on February 3, 2017, this court entered an order directing Edwards to notify that court of his current address and advise the court by March 20, 2018, whether he wished to prosecute this action and still sought the relief he ...


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