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Seals v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division

May 10, 2019

CHRISTOPHER SEALS, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          SONJA F. BIVINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Christopher Seals' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 111), and the Government's Motion to Dismiss in response thereto (Doc. 112). This action was referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for report and recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Cases and is now ready for consideration.[1]Having carefully reviewed the record, the undersigned finds that no evidentiary hearing is necessary for the disposition of this matter.[2] Upon consideration, the undersigned hereby recommends that Seals' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 111) be DENIED, that Respondent's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 112) be GRANTED, that this action be DISMISSED, and that judgment be entered in favor of Respondent, the United States of America, and against Petitioner, Christopher Seals. The undersigned also recommends that should Seals file a certificate of appealability, it should be denied, as he is not entitled to appeal in forma pauperis.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Seals was indicted on March 26, 2009, on five counts related to the possession of crack cocaine. (Doc. 1). On July 30, 2009, a superseding indictment was issued, charging Seals with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count One); possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Two); using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count Three); conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Four); and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count Five) . (Doc. 43).

         On September 22, 2009, pursuant to a plea agreement, Seals entered a guilty plea to Count One (conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute crack cocaine) and Count Three (using and carrying a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime) of the superseding indictment, and the Government agreed to dismiss the remaining counts. (Doc. 48; Doc. 52 at 1). On August 17, 2010, Seals was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment as to Count One and 60 months' imprisonment as to Count Three, said terms to run consecutively. (Doc. 79 at 1-2).

         Beginning in February 2011, Seals filed a series of motions seeking collateral relief pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582.[3] (Docs. 82, 85-87, 90-91, 93-95). These motions culminated in the filing of Seals' first § 2255 petition on August 14, 2012.[4] (Doc. 96).

         In his first § 2255 petition, Seals sought a reduction in his sentence pursuant to the Supreme Court's then-recent decision in Dorsey v. United States, 567 U.S. 260 (2012), which afforded more lenient penalties to those convicted of crack-cocaine crimes and had retroactive applicability. (Doc. 96). The Government acquiesced that Seals was entitled to relief from his sentence pursuant to Dorsey. (Doc. 98). On September 4, 2012, the Court vacated Seals' sentence as to Count One of the superseding indictment and re-sentenced him to sixty (60) months' imprisonment. (Doc. 99). Accordingly, Seals' judgment was amended to sixty months' imprisonment as to Count One and sixty months' imprisonment as to Count Three, with the two sentences to run consecutively. (Doc. 100).

         Seals then filed the instant § 2255 motion on April 30, 2017. (Doc. 111). As discussed in detail, infra, in his second motion to vacate, Seals seeks to have his sentence for Count Three reduced pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Dean v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 1170, 197 L.Ed.2d 490 (2017). (Doc. 111 at 6-7). The Government, in its response to Seals' petition, argues that the petition is due to be dismissed as untimely. (Doc. 112). In light of the Government's position, this Court ordered Seals to show cause why his petition should not be dismissed as time-barred. (Doc. 113). Responding to the Court's Order, Seals contends that his petition is not “an actual 2255 Motion, ” but, rather, he is “seek[ing] the Government[']s acquiescence and assent, as well as the [G]overnment's OK as to the granting of the Motion.” (Doc. 114 at 4). Seals further argues that Dean applies retroactively to his case. (Id. at 8).

         For the following reasons, the undersigned finds that Seals' petition is time-barred and, thus, recommends that the Government's Motion to Dismiss be GRANTED, and Seals petition be DENIED as untimely.[5]

         II. ANALYSIS

         As a preliminary matter, the Court observes that, although Seals argues in his response that he is not seeking to file “an actual” § 2255 motion, (Doc. 114 at 4) (emphasis added), where a pro se petitioner seeks collateral review of his sentence, this Court, which has the power to construe pro se pleadings liberally, will interpret his motion as a petition for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[6] See United States v. Holt, 417 F.3d 1172, 1175 (11th Cir. 2005)(“Because, in the instant case, Holt is collaterally attacking his sentence as violating the United States Constitution, the proper avenue of relief is § 2255. . . . Because Holt is proceeding pro se, . . . we may liberally construe his [motion] as a § 2255 motion.”).

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (hereinafter “AEDPA”) provides that:

(f) A 1-year period of limitation shall apply to a motion under this section. The limitation period shall run ...

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