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Tennison v. United States

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

April 1, 2015

LLOYL TENNISON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court for initial consideration of Petitioner Lloyl Tennison's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, filed on March 23, 2015. (Doc. 1). Petitioner has also filed a memorandum of law in support of his § 2255 motion. (Doc. 3).

Section 2255 of Chapter 28 of the United States Code provides a basis for attacking a federal sentence on the grounds that "the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts requires district courts to conduct preliminary reviews of § 2255 motions. The rule states in relevant part: "If it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of the prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the motion and direct the clerk to notify the moving party. If the motion is not dismissed, the judge must order the United States Attorney to file an answer, motion, or other response within a fixed time, or to take other action the judge may order."

BACKGROUND

In 2012, Petitioner was convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A) upon a guilty plea. (Judgment, United States v. Tennison, No. 12-cr-10015 (C.D. Ill. 2012), Doc. 101). He was sentenced to a term of 240 months' imprisonment and judgment was entered on October 1, 2012. ( Id. ).

Petitioner entered a blind guilty plea to the one-count indictment at a change of plea hearing held on May 14, 2012. (12-cr-10015, Doc. 134). The indictment charged, in relevant part, that beginning in early 2009, Petitioner and six other co-defendants "did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other... to knowingly manufacture methamphetamine and distribute methamphetamine." (12-cr-10015, Doc. 1 at 2). The indictment specified that the conspiracy "involved more than 500 (five hundred) grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine." ( Id. ).

During the change of plea hearing, Petitioner confirmed that he had received a copy of the indictment charging him with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine. (12-cr-10015, Doc. 134 at 4). He indicated that he had discussed the charge generally with his attorney, discussed all possible defenses, discussed his right to a trial by jury, discussed the pros and cons of proceeding to trial, and decided to plead guilty to the charge. ( Id. at 4-5).

The Court satisfied itself that Petitioner fully understood the charge to which he pleaded guilty. It explained that there were three essential elements to the charge in the indictment: first, the Court said, "the government would have to prove that the conspiracy charged in the indictment existed." ( Id. at 6). The Court went on to explain that "[a] conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act [, which in this case] is the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine." ( Id. at 6-7). The Court explained that the second element of the offense is that Petitioner "knowingly and intentionally became a member of that conspiracy, " which means that Petitioner "realized what [he] was doing, [was] aware of the nature of [his] conduct, [and] did not act through ignorance, mistake or accident." ( Id. at 7). Finally, the Court explained that "the third element is that the conspiracy involved more than 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine." ( Id. ). Petitioner indicated that he understood each element and that he did not have any question as to what any of the elements to the offense meant. ( Id. at 7-8).

Next, the Court satisfied itself that Petitioner fully understood the consequences of entering a guilty plea. It explained that that pleading guilty to the indictment would carry a mandatory minimum. ( Id. at 8). The Court told Petitioner that he would face a mandatory term of ten years imprisonment if he did not have a prior felony drug conviction. ( Id. ). The Court also told Petitioner that he faced a mandatory minimum term of 20 years of imprisonment if he had one prior felony drug conviction. ( Id. at 9). Finally, the Court told Petitioner that he would face a mandatory minimum term of life in prison without the possibility of release if he had two prior felony drug convictions. ( Id. ). The Court summarized: "Now, this means that upon my acceptance of your guilty plea here today, you would be convicted of the charge to which you're pleading guilty, and I will have to sentence you to the applicable mandatory minimum, whether it be 10 years, 20 years or life." ( Id. at 9-10). Petitioner indicated that he understood these consequences. ( Id. at 10).

The Court then satisfied itself that there was a factual basis for Petitioner's guilty plea. Petitioner said that he "[p]rovided a place for methamphetamine to be manufactured to get payment for a drug addiction." ( Id. at 21). He indicated that he understood the reasons for which the others involved in this conspiracy were using his house and what they were doing. ( Id. ). Petitioner told the Court that he only used the methamphetamine produced for personal use and that he was not involved in the sale of the methamphetamine, but he also acknowledged that one of the objects of the conspiracy was to distribute the methamphetamine to other people for profit or sale. ( Id. at 22). When asked, he told the Court that he was not sure how much methamphetamine was involved in the conspiracy. ( Id. ). However, Petitioner later confirmed the government's claim that it would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that "the amount of methamphetamine involved in the conspiracy that was reasonably foreseeable was over 500 grams of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine" was substantially true. ( Id. at 24-25).

On the basis of the plea colloquy with Petitioner, the Court found that Petitioner was:

fully competent and capable of entering an informed plea, that [Petitioner was] aware of the nature of the charge against him set out in the indictment and the consequences of his plea and that the [Petitioner's] plea of guilty to the indictment [was] a knowing and voluntary plea supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offense.

( Id. at 26).

Petitioner filed a Notice of Appeal on October 2, 2012. (12-cr-10015, Doc. 107). On appeal, filed under the name United States v. Sidell, Petitioner challenged the imposition of a twenty-year sentence, which this Court determined was the mandatory minimum based upon Petitioner's prior conviction of a drug felony. See United States v. Sidell, 553 F.Appx. 619, 621 (7th Cir. 2014). Petitioner did not dispute "that the conspiracy involved at least 500 grams of a mixture containing methamphetamine." Sidell, 553 F.Appx. at 621. Nor did he challenge this Court's conclusion that his 2009 conviction was a felony drug conviction. Id. Rather, he argued that "the state conviction was not prior' to ...


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