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United States v. Pearson

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

October 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RODERICK CORLION PEARSON, a.k.a. Bullet, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court No. 2:07-cr-00072-RDP-SGC-1 for the Northern District of Alabama

          Before TJOFLAT and NEWSOM, Circuit Judges, and ANTOON, [*] District Judge.

          TJOFLAT, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         After robbing two banks in as many weeks, Roderick Pearson was indicted on five counts. He pled guilty to three of those, and a jury convicted him on the other two. He was sentenced for all five. A little over three years ago, we gave Pearson permission to file a successive motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.[1] In that motion, he collaterally attacked his sentence for one of the five counts and argued his sentence for that count was longer than the law allowed. The District Court granted relief on that count, vacated Pearson's sentence, and held a resentencing hearing. At the resentencing hearing, Pearson raised a brand new § 2255 challenge. The District Court denied the § 2255 challenge on the merits and handed down a new sentence. Pearson now appeals the denial of his brand new § 2255 challenge and his new sentence.

         We hold that the District Court didn't have jurisdiction over Pearson's brand new § 2255 challenge because we never gave Pearson permission to raise it. Thus, we vacate the Court's merits decision and remand with instructions to dismiss the new § 2255 challenge. We also hold that Pearson failed to meet his burden of showing that his new sentence is substantively unreasonable.

         I.

         A.

         During a two-week period between January 12 and January 25, 2007, Pearson robbed two Alabama banks at gunpoint. He followed a similar routine at both banks: he walked into the banks with his face covered; he pulled out a handgun and told everyone to get on the floor; then he ordered the tellers to put money in a bag. Pearson made off with roughly $5, 000 from the first bank and $12, 000 from the second. He was arrested soon after the second robbery and had $11, 610 in cash and a pistol on him. He admitted that he was involved in the second robbery, but he said he wasn't the person who actually robbed the bank at gunpoint.

         B.

         After those two bank robberies, on February 28, 2007, Pearson was indicted on five counts. Counts One and Three were for the robberies themselves.[2] Counts Two and Four were for brandishing a firearm during those robberies.[3] And Count Five was for possessing a firearm (during the second robbery) as a convicted felon.[4] On May 7, Pearson pled guilty to Counts Three, Four, and Five. The trial proceeded on Counts One and Two, and the jury found him guilty as charged.

         Before his sentencing hearing on August 16, 2007, the District Court's probation office prepared a presentence report ("PSR") that prescribed a Guidelines sentencing range of 646 to 711 months' imprisonment for the five convictions as a whole. The Guidelines dictated this range in large part because Counts Two, Four, and Five carried hefty mandatory minimums for Pearson.

         First, on Count Two, Pearson was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 84 months to be imposed consecutively to the sentences on Counts One, Three, and Five under 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and (c)(1)(D)(ii) because he "brandished" a firearm during the commission of the Count One robbery.

         Likewise, second, on Count Four, he was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 300 months to be imposed consecutively to the sentences on Counts One, Two, Three, and Five under 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and (c)(1)(C)(i) because he "brandished" a firearm during the commission of the Count Three robbery.

         Third, on Count Five, Pearson was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), because he had three prior convictions for "violent felonies" as defined in the ACCA.

         At Pearson's sentencing hearing, the District Court adopted the sentencing range that was computed in the probation office's presentence report. The District Court noted that a sentence within the Guideline range would be "a very, very substantial sentence"-too substantial, in fact-and varied down below the range. But the Court could only vary down so much (82 months from the low end of 646 months) because of the substantial mandatory minimums that Counts Two, Four, and Five carried.

         As a result, the Court sentenced Pearson to each of the mandatory minimums, to run consecutively, as it was required to do. With no mandatory minimums for Counts One and Three, the Court used its discretion in crafting a sentence for those two.[5] Specifically, it grouped Counts One and Three with Count Five and borrowed Count Five's 180-month sentence. It then sentenced Pearson to 180 months each for Counts One and Three, and those sentences would run concurrently with Count Five. So Pearson's total sentence was 564 months.

         Pearson appealed and challenged his convictions and total sentence, and we affirmed. See United States v. Pearson, 308 Fed.Appx. 375, 376 (11th Cir. 2009) (per curiam).

         C.

         Next, in November of 2009, Pearson filed a pro se motion to vacate his convictions and sentence under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255. He argued that his Count Two and Four convictions should be vacated because the indictment failed to allege every element of the offenses. The District Court held that this ...


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