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Turner v. United States

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

September 28, 2017




         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Joe Lenzie Turner's Amended and Supplemental Petitions to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Docs. 3, 12, 18.) The Government has responded. (Doc. 7.) For the following reasons, Movant's petition is DENIED and this action is DISMISSED with prejudice.

         I. Introduction and Background

         On April 5, 2013, Movant pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine hydrochloride in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. (Doc. 1116 in United States v. Turner, No. 1:11-cr-103 (E.D. Mo. June 19, 2013)). During plea negotiations, the Government sent a letter outlining its position regarding Movant's sentencing calculations:

[Movant] has two prior felony controlled substance convictions, which means that he faces statutory mandatory life imprisonment on Count I, if [the Government notifies the Court of both] prior drug convictions. The plea agreement terms for [Movant] include a guilty plea to Count I, as well as waiver of ... appellate rights, in exchange for the Government filing only one of [Movant's] two prior felony controlled substance convictions.

(Doc. 3-1 at PagelD #: 51.) The letter continued, "The recommended total offense level is 37, the criminal history category is estimated to be III, and the resulting advisory sentencing guidelines range is 262-327 months." (Id.) Finally, the Government contemplated that, in the event of Movant's future cooperation, "a sentence reduction request for a sentence less than 262 months may be made either at the time of sentencing-a [U.S.S.G. §5K1.1] motion, or after sentencing-a [Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b)] motion." (Id. at 52.)

         A presentence report was prepared. (Doc. 1087 in Turner, No. 1:11 -cr-103 [hereinafter PSR].) Movant was assigned a base offense level of 34 based on the quantity of drugs involved, a four-level increase for being an organizer or leader of the criminal activity, and a two-level increase for involving a minor in the offense, resulting in an adjusted offense level of 40. (Id. at ¶ 64-69.)

         Because Movant had two prior felony drug convictions, he qualified as a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a). (Id. at ¶ 70.) Ordinarily, career offenders convicted of crimes that carry a statutory maximum sentence of life in prison-like Movant-are subject to an automatic adjusted offense level of 37. U.S.S.G. §4B 1.1(b). But because Movant was already subject to an adjusted offense level of 40, the greater level was retained. Id.; (PSR at ¶ 70).

         After a three-level reduction for accepting responsibility, Movant's total offense level was 37. (PSR at ¶ 73.) Movant's career-offender classification also increased his criminal history category from IV to VI, which combined with his total offense level to yield a sentencing guidelines range of 360 months to life. (Id. at ¶ 115); U.S.S.G. §4B1.1(b).

         Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Government filed notice of only one of Movant's prior drug convictions-which reduced the mandatory minimum from life in prison to 240 months-and moved the Court for a downward departure under U.S.S.G. §5K1.1 based on Movant's substantial assistance. (See Doc. 1105 in Turner, No. 1.11-cr-103.) The court departed downward and imposed a below-guidelines sentence of 240 months in prison-the statutory minimum. (Doc. 1116 in Turner, No. 1:11-cr-103.) Movant did not appeal.

         Movant then filed this § 2255 Petition and two supplements, raising the following grounds for relief:

(1) The presentence report was inaccurate insofar as it:
(a) misclassified him as a career-offender;
(b) erroneously applied the leadership-role and minor-involved enhancements; and
(c) overstated his criminal history score;
(2) Trial counsel was ineffective for:
(a) Failing to challenge the presentence report;
(b) not seeking a downward departure under U.S.S.G. §4A1.3(b);
(c) advising Movant to accept the plea agreement; and
(d) advising Movant that he had no viable issues for appeal; and
(3) The prosecutor committed misconduct by:
(a) selectively applying the leadership-role enhancement;
(b) reneging on his promise to move for a downward departure based on Movant's substantial assistance at trial;
(c) failing to correct Movant's career-offender classification in the presentence report; and
(d) concealing from the court that Movant was eligible for a downward departure under U.S.S.G. §4A1.3(b).

(Docs. 3, 3-1, 16, 18, 29.) For its part, the Government argues that Movant waived his right to challenge the presentence report and that, in any event, the report was accurate, his counsel was competent and the prosecutor acted professionally. (Doc. 7.) In addition, the Government asserts that, because Movant received the mandatory minimum sentence, he was not prejudiced by any potential error. (Id.) Movant responds that the mandatory minimum was based on stipulations in the plea agreement, which Movant accepted only because of counsel's ineffective assistance. (Doc. 3-1 at ¶ 26; Doc. 16 at ¶ 25.)

         II. ...

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