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United States v. Hamilton

April 21, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Vincent Hamilton's motion to vacate his conviction and/or sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is before the court. For the following reasons, the motion is DENIED.


Vincent Hamilton laid in wait as two of his confederates robbed a Chicago bank on December 9, 2004. When they returned to the getaway van, Hamilton floored it and took off, sparking a high speed chase through fifteen city blocks that ended abruptly when Hamilton crashed into a pole. The three robbers tried to flee on foot, only to discover that Hamilton had unwittingly driven into a parking lot surrounded by a high chain-link fence. All three were arrested. A search of the van turned up $119,990; a loaded .380 caliber Beretta semi-automatic; a loaded .38 caliber revolver; black and latex gloves; and three walkie talkies.

At trial, Hamilton testified that the others had roped him into their scheme on the pretext that they needed a ride to go buy some marijuana. What's more, they put a gun to his head when the police appeared on the scene. Naturally, then, Hamilton sped away-only to stymie the robbers' getaway by deliberately crashing into a pole. Fearing the van would explode, Hamilton fled for safety.

The jury, declining to credit Hamilton's tale of deception and duress, convicted him of one count of bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. §2113(a), and one count of possessing a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). This court sentenced Hamilton to a total term of 234 months' imprisonment: 151 months for armed robbery to be followed by 84 months for carrying a firearm. Hamilton's sentence was at the low end of the guidelines range. This calculation reflected the court's considered judgment on two matters. First, Hamilton was less culpable than his co-defendants because he was only minimally involved in planning the robbery; the others presented Hamilton with what he thought was a low-risk opportunity to make some money and he took it. Second, the court imposed a two-point enhancement for obstruction of justice, U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, based on its finding that Hamilton had obviously lied on the stand.

On direct appeal, Hamilton argued that this court (i) failed to adequately consider the relevant § 3553(a) factors in sentencing him; (ii) improperly enhanced his sentence by two levels for obstruction of justice; and (iii) improperly admitted evidence of Hamilton's involvement in prior robberies, namely, an out-of-court conversation between Hamilton and a coconspirator. The Seventh Circuit rejected all three of Hamilton's arguments, and affirmed his conviction and sentence. See United States v. Price, 516 F.3d 597, 606-07 (7th Cir. 2008), cert. denied sub nom. Hamilton v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 2279 (2008).

Hamilton then filed a timely motion under § 2255 in this court. He raises four claims: (i) this court gave excessive weight to the guidelines and failed to address the sentencing factors counsel presented to the court; (ii) this court abused its discretion by imposing a two-point obstruction enhancement; (iii) his conviction was obtained by the wrongful use of other-acts evidence; (iv) trial counsel was ineffective.


Federal prisoners may challenge their detention if their conviction or sentence is based on an error that is "jurisdictional, constitutional, or is a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Harris v. United States, 366 F.3d 593, 594 (7th Cir. 2004) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted); see 28 U.S.C. § 2255. If this court determines that such a defect exists in the judgment or sentence, it "shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

Alternatively, a district court may conduct an evidentiary if the prisoner has alleged facts that, if proven, would entitle him to relief. Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1067 (7th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citations omitted); see Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings. "[A] hearing is not necessary if the petitioner makes conclusory or speculative allegations rather than specific factual allegations." Daniels v. United States, 54 F.3d 290, 293 (7th Cir. 1995).


Claims I-III "A § 2255 motion is neither a recapitulation of nor a substitute for a direct appeal." Varela v. United States, 481 F.3d 932, 935 (7th Cir. 2007) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Issues that were raised and resolved on direct appeal may not be reconsidered on a § 2255 motion unless the law has changed or new facts have come to light. See id.; Peoples v. United States, 403 F.3d 844, 847 (7th Cir. 2005). Here, the Seventh Circuit found on direct appeal that (i) Hamilton's sentence was reasonable, and that this court adequately considered the relevant ยง 3553(a) factors; (ii) the two-point enhancement for obstruction of justice was proper; and (iii) evidence of Hamilton's involvement in prior robberies ...

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