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Enoch Lacey v. United States

September 2, 2011

ENOCH LACEY, PETITIONER-DEFENDANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, RESPONDENT-PLAINTIFF.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On December 10, 2007, Petitioner Enoch Lacey ("Lacey") pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(10) and to possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). On October 6, 2008, Lacey was sentenced to a 166- month term of imprisonment and that sentence was affirmed by the Seventh Circuit on June 25, 2009. Lacey now moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging his § 922(g)(1) conviction; raising an ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and alleging an improper classification under the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("Sentencing Guidelines"). For the following reasons, the Court dismisses Lacey's § 922(g)(1) and Sentencing Guidelines claims as procedurally defaulted and denies Lacey's ineffective assistance of counsel claim as meritless.

BACKGROUND

The following factual background is based on the uncontested facts presented in Lacey's appeal to the Seventh Circuit. United States v. Lacey, 334 Fed. App'x 25 (7th Cir. June 25, 2009).

In June 2006, Lacey was arrested for selling heroin laced with fentanyl in exchange for two firearms in a transaction with an undercover officer. Lacey was arrested after the transaction and pled guilty.

At the October 6, 2008 sentencing, the Court determined that Lacey had an adjusted offense level of 29 as well as a criminal history category of VI, based on prior convictions for delivery of a controlled substance, unlawful use of a firearm by a felon, and unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The Court determined that the appropriate sentencing range pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines was a term of imprisonment of 151 to 188 months. The Court then considered Lacey's request for a below-guidelines sentence based on Lacey's allegations that the undercover officer involved in the transaction used excessive coercion. The Court sentenced Lacey to a 166-month term of imprisonment for his violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and a concurrent term of 120 months for his violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Lacey appealed his conviction on procedural grounds, alleging that the Court failed to adequately consider the coercion argument made as a mitigating factor. The appellate court affirmed Lacey's sentence on June 25, 2009, finding the Court's consideration of Lacey's coercion claim "thorough."

Lacey now moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence based on three grounds: that the gun enhancement was based on a previous conviction that could not be used as a predicate offense because his civil rights had been restored; that his counsel was ineffective for failing to argue for a downward departure during sentencing based on coercion; and that the Court erred when it determined at sentencing that he was career offender under § 4B1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Section 2255 allows a prisoner convicted of a federal crime to move the district court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. This relief is only available in cases where there have been jurisdictional or constitutional errors that result in a "complete miscarriage of justice." Harris v. United States, 366 F.3d 593, 594 (7th Cir. 2004). It is an "extraordinary remedy because it asks the district court essentially to reopen the criminal process to a person who already has had an opportunity for full process." Almonacid v. United States, 476 F.3d 518, 521 (7th Cir. 2007).

DISCUSSION

I. Restoration of Civil Rights

Lacey challenges his § 922(g)(1) conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon. Specifically, he claims that the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC") restored his civil rights following a prior conviction by sending him a letter and that his present possession of a firearm was therefore not a violation of § 922(g)(1). Pursuant to § 922(g)(1), it is unlawful for a person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, whether state or federal, to possess any firearm or ammunition. If the person has had his civil rights restored, however, that conviction does not ...


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