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Harris v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 23, 2014




This matter is before the court on the motion of Antonio Harris to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The United States has filed a response in opposition. Also before the court is Harris's motion requesting the court to take judicial notice of and to apply two cases decided by the United States Supreme Court.

I. Background

Following a jury trial, Harris was found guilty of possession of a firearm and ammunition as a previously convicted felon (Count I), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The evidence established that Harris, armed with a handgun, entered a public park in St. Louis during the afternoon of August 29, 2008 and began shooting, ultimately injuring four people. At one point, Harris knelt down to steady himself while he fired at one of the people in the park. One of the victims was a 13-year-old boy whom Harris shot four times as he was running for safety and who suffered permanent injuries. There was testimony that the shooting was prompted by Harris's belief that some of the individuals in the park had been selling drugs near the home where his children lived. The maximum term of imprisonment for Count I was ten years. Approximately one month after the trial, Harris pled guilty to a charge of possession of marijuana in a superseding information (Count II), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a). Because of his prior felony conviction for possession of a controlled substance, Harris faced an enhanced penalty of two years' imprisonment.[1]

On June 29, 2010, Harris was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of 120 months and 24 months, respectively. The judgment was affirmed on appeal. United States v. Harris, 636 F.3d 1023 (8th Cir. 2011).

II. Discussion

In the motion to vacate, Harris asserts five grounds for relief. For the reasons set forth below, the court concludes that none of his claims have merit.

A. Ground One

Harris's first claim is that the court abused its discretion by ordering the sentence on Count II to run consecutively to the sentence on Count I. Harris entered into a plea agreement in which contained the following provision:

Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(A), Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, in exchange for the defendant's voluntary plea of guilty to Count II of the Criminal Information the government agrees to amend Count II to the charge of possession of marihuana pursuant to Title 21, Section 844(a). The government will seek to enhance Defendant's sentence on Count II pursuant to Title 21, Section 851(a)(1), based upon Defendant's prior suspended imposition of sentence previously imposed on a felony possession of a controlled substance in 2002 The government will argue that Defendant should be sentenced to two years of imprisonment on Count II and that this sentence should run consecutive to the sentence imposed on Count I of the superceding indictment.

United States v. Antonio Harris, Cause No. 4:09-CR-535 (CEJ), Doc. No. 107, p. 2 (plea agreement).

During the guilty plea hearing, Harris stated under oath that he had read the plea agreement, discussed it with his lawyer, and understood it. Specifically, Harris testified that he understood that the government intended to enhance the sentence based on his prior felony drug conviction and, as a result, he faced a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment on Count II. He further testified that he understood there was a possibility of consecutive sentencing and that he could receive a sentence of 144 months' imprisonment. Id., Doc. No. 128, pp. 281-307 (transcript of change of plea hearing).

Under the sentencing guidelines, the applicable range of imprisonment was 235-293 months, well above the statutory maximum for both offenses. After considering the violent nature of Harris's conduct, his history and characteristics, the injuries he caused, and the information in the presentence investigation report, the court concluded that an aggregate sentence of 144 months' imprisonment was appropriate to address the sentencing objectives of punishment, deterrence, and incapacitation. Id., pp. 318-321 (transcript of sentencing hearing).

Section 3584(b) of Title 18, U.S. Code, provides that in determining whether to impose consecutive or concurrent terms of imprisonment, the court is required to consider the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). As the record amply bears out, the court gave proper consideration to the relevant sentencing factors under § 3553(a). In the instant motion, Harris offers no factual or legal support for his claim that the ...

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