United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
ORDER AND OPINION
MYERSCOUGH, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
Belinda Young has filed a Petition under 28 U.S.C. §
2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in
Federal Custody (d/e 1), as well as an amended motion seeking
the same relief (d/e 4). Young is serving a 10-year term in
federal prison for conspiring to distribute 5 or more
kilograms of cocaine. She asks the Court to vacate her
sentence under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct.
Johnson, the Supreme Court held that the Armed
Career Criminal Act's “residual clause” is
unconstitutionally vague. See 18 U.S.C. §
922(e)(2)(B) (defining “violent felony” as felony
that “involves conduct that presents a serious risk of
physical injury to another”); see also Welch v.
United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016)
(“Johnson announced a substantive rule that
has retroactive effect in cases on collateral review”).
Since Johnson, many prisoners have filed Section
2255 motions challenging the identically worded
“residual clause” found in the Career Offender
Guideline. See USSG § 4B1.2(a)(2) (defining
“crime of violence” as offense that
“involves conduct that presents a serious risk of
physical injury to another”).
Young qualified as a Career Offender because of two prior
drug convictions: distribution of cocaine and delivery of a
controlled substance. (Presentence Investigation Report,
United States v. Young, No. 3:14-cr-30024, Doc. 89
at ¶ 36 (C.D. Ill. Sept. 25, 2016).) With the Career
Offender Guideline enhancement, her guideline range was
262-327 months. In imposing a sentence of 120 months in
prison, the Court granted Young a significant downward
departure from that guideline range-indeed, the Court imposed
the lowest sentence it could legally impose.
mentioned above, many Section 2255 petitioners have argued
that Johnson impacts the Career Offender
Guideline's residual clause, under which a defendant
qualifies as a Career Offender if she has two prior felony
convictions for a “crime of violence.” USSG
§ 4B1.1(a). But Young qualified as a Career Offender
because she had two prior felony convictions for a
“controlled substance offense, ” not for a
“crime of violence.” Id. Because
Johnson does not implicate the “controlled
substance offense” portion of the Career Offender
Guideline, Johnson cannot entitle Young to relief.
cites several cases in addition to Johnson and
Welch, but none support the proposition that
Johnson has any effect on the “controlled
substance offense” portion of the Career Offender
Guideline. See United States v. McCloud, 818 F.3d
591, 594 n.1 (11th Cir. 2016) (declining to address whether
defendant's armed robbery convictions qualified as
violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act);
United States v. Wilson, 622 Fed.Appx. 393, 404 (5th
Cir. 2015) (finding that defendant's burglary conviction
was not a crime of violence under the Career Offender
Guideline); United States v. Darden, 605 Fed.Appx.
545 (6th Cir. 2015) (remanding for reconsideration where
district court had found that defendant's prior
conviction qualified as a crime of violence).
presents a different argument in her amended Section 2255
motion, where she directs the Court's attention to the
Ninth Circuit's recent decision in United States v.
Quintero-Leyva, 823 F.3d 519 (9th Cir. 2016). In
Quintero-Leyva, the Ninth Circuit held that the
amended commentary to USSG § 3B1.2-which provides for a
reduced offense level for defendants who were minimal or
minor participants in the criminal activity at issue-applies
retroactively on direct appeals. The Ninth Circuit remanded
the case because it “c[ould] not determine from the
record whether or not the [district] court considered all the
factors now listed in § 3B1.2.” 823 F.3d at 523.
argues that, under Quintero-Leyva, she should be
considered for a sentence reduction based on Section
3B1.2's newly amended commentary. But this case is not a
direct appeal; it is a collateral attack, and consequently
the Quintero-Leyva court's reasoning does not
apply here. Indeed, the proper avenue for a defendant seeking
a sentence reduction based on an amendment to the Sentencing
Guidelines is to file a motion under 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) (allowing modification to term of imprisonment if
defendant was sentenced “based on a sentencing range
that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing
Commission”). See, e.g., Hearn v.
United States, No. 10-3092, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
108690, *12 n.2 (C.D. Ill. Oct. 12, 2010) (noting that a
Section 2255 motion is “not the correct motion”
for securing a sentence reduction based on an amendment to
the Guidelines and that a petitioner seeking such relief
should file a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2));
United States v. Jones, No. 12-9407, 2014 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 94762, *25 n.12 (N.D. Ill. July 11, 2014)
(“Section 3582 … is the proper vehicle for
requesting a sentence reduction following changes to the
sentencing guidelines, and its filing does not carry the same
consequences as would a § 2255 motion.”).
Young's defense, she did include her criminal case number
in the caption of her amended Section 2255 motion, so she may
in fact have intended to present the argument in the form of
a motion for a sentence reduction under Section 3572(c)(2).
But because Young styled the motion as a motion for a
sentence reduction under “28 U.S.C. 2255”-and
because the motion arrived one day before the deadline for
her reply brief in support of her Section 2255 motion-the
Court construed the motion as an amended Section 2255 motion
and directed the Clerk of the Court to file it in Young's
Section 2255 case. To spare Young the burden of re-filing her
Section 3B1.2 argument, the Court will direct the Clerk to
re-file the motion in her criminal case. (However, the Court
notes that Young's chances of prevailing appear slim
because, even if Young were to have received a reduction
under Section 3B1.2 from her base offense level of 30, the
offense level would still have spiked to 37 after application
of the Career Offender enhancement.)
Government also argues that Young waived in her plea
agreement the right to collaterally attack her sentence and
that she has procedurally defaulted on her claim because she
did not raise the issue on direct appeal. Because the Court
has determined that Young is not entitled to relief under
Johnson in any event, the Court declines to address
the Government's additional arguments.
reasons above, the Court finds that no evidentiary hearing is
warranted and DENIES Young's Section 2255 motion (d/e 1)
and amended Section 2255 motion (d/e 4). Because Young has
not made a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right, the Court also denies a certificate of
appealability under Rule 11(a) of the Rules Governing Section
2255 Proceedings. See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).
The Clerk of the Court is DIRECTED to re-file Young's
amended Section 2255 motion (d/e 4) as a Motion for Sentence
Reduction in Young's criminal case (No. 3:14-cr-30024).
Court will address that motion in Young's criminal case.
case is closed.