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Taylor v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 26, 2016



          Michael J. Reagan Chief Judge.

         A. Introduction and Procedural History

         Twenty years ago in Case No. 96-CR-40027-WLB, a jury convicted Anthony Dawon Taylor of three charges - conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine (Count 1), and distribution of crack cocaine (Counts 2 and 3), in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 846. The late Judge William L. Beatty sentenced Taylor in November 1996. Judge Beatty determined that Taylor was a career offender within the meaning of § 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Judge Beatty sentenced Taylor to a total of 360 months in prison, followed by 5 years of supervised release. (The term of imprisonment was comprised of 360 months on Count 1, running concurrently with 240 months on each of Counts 2 and 3.) Judgment was entered on November 13, 1996.

         Taylor filed a direct appeal. In June 1997, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed Taylor's conviction and sentence. United States v. Taylor, 116 F.3d 269 (7th Cir. 1997).

         In June 1998, Taylor filed a petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255 (Case No. 98-cv-4207-WLB). Judge Beatty denied the petition but granted a certificate of appealability on particular claim of ineffective assistance of counsel (id., Doc. 26). In June 2002, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of Taylor's § 2255 petition. Taylor v. United States, 287 F.3d 658 (7th Cir. 2002).

         In January 2015, Taylor filed in his closed criminal case in this Court a pro se motion to reduce his sentence under Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, via 18 U.S.C. 3582. Supplemental briefs raised the June 26, 2016 United States Supreme Court decision in Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). On August 26, 2015, the undersigned denied Taylor's motion to reduce sentence after concluding that Taylor was not entitled to a reduction under Amendment 782.

         The Order mentioned that the record then before the Court indicated that, even assuming that the holding of Johnson extended to the residual clause of U.S.S.G. 4B1.2, Johnson furnished no basis for a sentence reduction for Taylor, due to the nature of his prior convictions.[1]

         After Taylor's counsel received a document which potentially called into question the nature of one of Taylor's prior convictions, i.e., whether the aggravated battery conviction fell under the elements clause of U.S.S.G. 4B1.2(a)(1), he sought reconsideration/clarification. On August 28, 2015, the undersigned clarified that the August 26th Order denying Amendment 782 relief (and commenting on Johnson-based arguments for sentence relief) did not preclude Taylor filing a Johnson-based § 2255 petition, if he secured approval from the Court of Appeals to do so.

         On September 18, 2015, Taylor obtained authorization to file a second § 2255 petition. Although finding that Taylor had identified a tenable claim under Johnson, the Court of Appeals pointed out (Doc. 73 in Case No. 96-cr-40027-MJR):

Taylor asserts … that one of his predicate felonies was for aggravated battery in Illinois, which is not necessarily a crime of violence in the wake of Johnson…. Taylor has made a prima facie showing that he may be entitled to relief, so we GRANT his application….
We caution the district court that our review is necessarily preliminary…. Multiple issues remain open in the district court: Whether (and if so how) Johnson applies to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (the residual clause of the career-offender guideline); whether Taylor's battery conviction qualifies under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1); and finally whether Taylor's other convictions suffice for career-offender treatment.

         On October 2, 2015, Taylor filed a pro se combined § 2255 petition and supporting brief herein seeking a corrected sentence based on Johnson. Specifically, Taylor presented two arguments (Case No. 15-1087-MJR, Doc. 1, p. 3, p. 7):

(1) his “aggravated battery conviction does not have … an element of violent force, ” so it cannot count as a crime of violence, and
(2) his burglary conviction “cannot stand as a predicate offense for § 4B1.1 purposes because it does not meet the criteria for federal burglary.”

         On threshold review, the undersigned found Taylor's pro se § 2255 petition not subject to immediate dismissal and, in accord with Administrative Order 176, appointed the Federal Public Defender's Office for the Southern District of Illinois to assist Taylor. Assistant Federal Public Defender Cronin entered his appearance and, in January 2016, filed an amended § 2255 petition plus a detailed supporting brief and exhibits. The amended petition focuses on the argument flagged by the Seventh Circuit - whether Taylor's Illinois aggravated battery conviction qualifies as a predicate offense for career offender purposes. Mr. Cronin acknowledged that to succeed, this argument required the Seventh Circuit to overrule precedent and allow retroactive challenges to Guidelines-based sentences (Doc. 6, p. 3).

         In February 2016, the United States (“the Government”) responded with a lengthy memorandum and additional exhibits. Mr. Cronin filed a reply and a supplement in March and April 2016, respectively. The parties have thoroughly addressed the issues. For the reasons stated below, the Court dismisses Taylor's petition to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence (Doc. 1), as amended and supplemented (Docs. 6-7).

         B. Applicable Legal Standards

         The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) imposes a one-year period of limitations for prisoners to file petitions seeking to modify or vacate their sentences under 28 U.S.C. 2255. 28 U.S.C. 2255(f); Purvis v. United States, 662 F.3d 939, 942 (7th Cir. 2011). Accord Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 524 (2003) (“A motion by a federal prisoner … under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is subject to a one-year time limitation that generally runs from ‘the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final.'“).

The one-year limitation period is triggered by the latest of four events:
(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review; or
(4) the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.

28 U.S.C. 2255(f). The statute does not provide for extensions of time.[2]

         Taylor filed his pro se petition within the one-year period set forth in § 2255(f)(3), based on the Supreme Court's June 26, 2015 decision in Johnson, a decision that has been made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Welch, 136 S.Ct. at 1265 (7th Cir. 2016) (“Johnson is … a substantive decision and so has retroactive effect … in cases on collateral review.”); Price v. United States, 795 F.3d 731, 734 (7th Cir. 2015) (Johnson announced a new substantive rule which applies retroactively on collateral review). This kiboshes the Government's second argument (Doc. 9, pp. 8-15), an argument presented before Welch was decided. The Court treats Taylor's petition as timely-filed.

         Next, under Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, this Court must determine whether to set an evidentiary hearing. Not every petition warrants a hearing. Boulb v. United States, 818 F.3d 334, 339 (7th Cir. 2016). See also Martin v. United States, 789 F.3d 703, 706 (7th Cir. 2015); Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1067 (7th Cir. 2006). The record before this Court conclusively reveals that Taylor is not entitled to relief, so no hearing is needed.

         C. Analysis

         Analysis starts with the proposition that relief under § 2255 is limited. It is “available only in extraordinary situations, ” requiring an error of constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude or a fundamental defect that resulted in a complete miscarriage of justice. Blake v. United States, 723 F.3d 870, 878-79 (7th Cir. 2013). Accord United States v. Coleman, 763 F.3d 706, 708 (7th Cir. 2014).

         Johnson declared unconstitutional part of a federal statute -- the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii). But Taylor was not sentenced under the ACCA, he was sentenced under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines. Johnson did not address the residual clause found in several provisions ...

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