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Williams v. United States

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

December 2, 2016

DENNIS L. WILLIAMS, Movant,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN N. LIMBAUGH, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the motion of Dennis Williams to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The motion will be denied.

         Procedural Background

         On September 15, 2014, movant pled guilty to three counts of distribution of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. At sentencing, his advisory Guideline range was calculated to be 130-162 months' imprisonment. This Court sentenced movant to 130 months' imprisonment. United States v. Williams, No. 1:14-CR-67 SNLJ (E.D. Mo.). Movant appealed his sentence to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals asserting that this Court should have varied downward from the Guidelines. See United States v. Williams, No. 14-3895 (8th Cir. February 23, 2016). The Eighth Circuit affirmed movant's conviction and sentence, finding that the 130-month sentence was the bottom of the Guideline range and was reasonable.[1]

         On June 27, 2016, movant filed the present motion to vacate his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In his motion to vacate, movant first asserts that he is entitled to relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).

         Alternatively, movant argues that his attorney was ineffective for: (1) failing to properly object to the calculation of his criminal history points in his sentencing; (2) failing to object to the enhancement he received in the Guidelines related to his possession of a firearm; and (3) advising movant to waive any arguments to such an enhancement. Movant basis his ineffective assistance arguments on the Supreme Court case of Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013).

         Factual Background

         It is undisputed that on December 12, 2011, movant sold 8.2 grams of cocaine base to a confidential informant for the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”). It is also undisputed that on December 15, 2011, movant sold 27.7 grams of cocaine base to a confidential informant for the DEA. And it is also undisputed that on December 22, 2011, movant sold 32.7 grams of cocaine base to a confidential informant for the DEA. These three instances make up the factual circumstances for Counts I, II and III of the indictment in movant's criminal case, to which movant pled guilty on September 15, 2014. See United States v. Williams, No. 1:14CR67 SNLJ (E.D.Mo.).

         According to the DEA, between December 7, 2011 and October 22, 2013, a confidential informant was used to make numerous controlled substance purchases from movant in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri, most of which he was never charged with. During this time period, movant distributed at least 219.2 grams of cocaine base, 50.1 grams of cocaine and 7.5 grams of methamphetamine. According to audio and video evidence obtained from the confidential informant during a buy from movant on February 24, 2012, movant was observed on that date in possession of a high powered semi-automatic rifle and semi-automatic handgun which he used to facilitate the distribution of controlled substances. See Presentence Report, Docket No. 51, United States v. Williams, No. 1:14CR67 SNLJ (E.D.Mo.).

         In his plea hearing, movant stated, under oath that he was satisfied with the way his lawyer had handled his case. He also stated that his lawyer had investigated the case to his satisfaction, and his lawyer had done everything he had asked him to do. Movant stated that it was his intention to give up his right to trial at that time and plead guilty. See Guilty Plea Transcript, Docket No. 69, United States v. Williams, No. 1:14CR67 SNLJ (E.D.Mo.).

         In his sentencing hearing, on December 15, 2014, the Court asked if the parties wanted to address objections to the Presentence Report (“PSR”). See Sentencing Transcript, Docket No. 68, United States v. Williams, No. 1:14CR67 SNLJ (E.D.Mo.). Counsel for movant indicated that he wished to speak to the Court about a two-level enhancement mentioned on the PSR under Specific Offense Characteristics, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1. (b)(1) for possession of a firearm during a drug transaction. Id.

         Defense counsel noted that he had filed a written objection to the proposed enhancement, but that the United States Attorney had a video of movant with a gun in his possession during two of the confidential informant's drug buys, and that defense counsel did not wish to pursue the argument if it meant a larger enhancement for movant for obstruction. The Court then allowed defense counsel and movant a short recess to discuss whether or not to pursue the objection on the record. When defense counsel and movant came back on the record the following conversation occurred under oath:

Mr. Skrien: Your Honor?
The Court: Yes.
Mr. Skrien: I spoke with my client and after some discussion back and forth, it's his decision to withdraw the previously filed objection.
The Court: Come on up.
Mr. Skrien: So we would so move at this time.
The Court: Mr. Williams, your lawyer has filed objections to the presentence report regarding the information that in paragraphs, several paragraphs that indicate that you possessed a firearm during the commission of the drug offenses, and he says ...

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