United States District Court, C.D. Illinois
CORDARO A. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
ORDER AND OPINION
E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge.
matter is now before the Court on Petitioner Williams'
§ 2255 [1, 3, 4] Motions to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct
Sentence. For the reasons set forth below, Williams'
Motions [1, 3, 4] are Denied.
August 22, 2012, a grand jury returned an indictment charging
Petitioner Williams with Conspiracy to Distribute more than
280 Grams of Cocaine Base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
846, 841(a)(1) and 841 (b)(1)(A). Williams fled the state and
was not arrested until January 16, 2014. Attorney Spencer
Daniels was appointed to represent Williams on July 24, 2014.
On September 5, 2014, Williams entered a plea of guilty
pursuant to a written plea agreement. Under the agreement,
Williams agreed to plea to the lesser offense under §
841(b)(1)(B). Williams conceded that he had at least one
prior felony drug conviction, waived his right to require the
Government to file an information under 21 U.S.C. § 851,
and waived his right to appeal. The plea agreement also
contained a waiver of the right to collaterally attack the
conviction or sentence under § 2255 unless the claims
related directly to the negotiation of the waiver. United
States v. Williams, No. 12-10102, ECF Doc. 20 (C.D. Ill.
2015). The agreement stated that “for statutory
mandatory minimum and maximum purposes, the amount of cocaine
base attributable to the defendant through his own conduct
and the conduct of his co-conspirators that was reasonably
foreseeable to him is more than 28 grams, but less than 280
grams, ” but “for relevant conduct purposes under
USSG § 2D1.1(a) the amount is at least 280 grams, but
less than 840 grams, of cocaine base.”
The Court adopted the Presentence Report, which found that
Williams had two prior felony drug convictions, and at the
sentencing hearing on May 29, 2015, the Court imposed the
statutory minimum sentence of 120 months' imprisonment.
The judgment was entered on June 1, 2015, and amended to
correct a clerical error on June 19, 2015. Williams did not
petitioner may avail himself of § 2255 relief only if he
can show that there are “flaws in the conviction or
sentence which are jurisdictional in nature, constitutional
in magnitude or result in a complete miscarriage of
justice.” Boyer v. United States, 55 F.2d 296,
298 (7th Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 116 S.Ct. 268
(1995). Section 2255 is limited to correcting errors that
“vitiate the sentencing court's jurisdiction or are
otherwise of constitutional magnitude.” Guinan v.
United States, 6 F.3d 468, 470 (7th Cir. 1993), citing
Scott v. United States, 997 F.2d 340 (7th Cir.
1993). Because a § 2255 motion is not a substitute for
direct appeal, Doe v. United States, 51 F.3d 693,
698 (7th Cir. 1995), a petitioner bringing a § 2255
motion is barred from raising: (1) issues raised on direct
appeal, absent some showing of new evidence or changed
circumstances; (2) nonconstitutional issues that could have
been but were not raised on direct appeal; or (3)
constitutional issues that were not raised on direct appeal,
absent a showing of cause for the default and actual
prejudice from the failure to appeal. See Belford v.
United States, 975 F.2d 310, 313 (7th Cir. 1992),
overruled on other grounds by Castellanos v. United
States, 26 F.3d 717, 710-20 (7th Cir. 1994).
agreements that contain appeal and collateral attack waivers
are generally enforceable. United States v. Chapa,
602 F.3d 865, 868 (7th Cir. 2010). However, plea waivers are
not enforceable if: (1) they are involuntary, (2) the
sentence exceeds the statutory maximum, (3) the court relied
on a constitutionally impermissible factor, or (4) counsel
was ineffective in negotiating the plea agreement. Keller
v. United States, 657 F.3d 675, 681 (7th Cir. 2011). In
order to show that counsel provided ineffective assistance in
negotiating a plea agreement, a petitioner must establish
that his attorney's performance fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness, and that he suffered prejudice as
a result of counsel's deficient performance. Wyatt v.
United States, 574 F.3d 455, 457-58 (7th Cir. 2009)
(citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668,
687-88 (1984)). A petitioner must satisfy both requirements
in order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance. See
Strickland, 466 U.S. at 697. In order to show
prejudice, a petitioner must show a reasonable probability
that, but for counsel's errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different. Id. at 694.
Williams' motion raises two arguments. First, he claims
that his counsel was ineffective for failing to raise the
Department of Justice policy (“DOJ policy”) on
mandatory minimums and recidivist enhancements in drug cases
during the plea negotiations. Second, Williams claims that
counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the §
851 enhancement at sentencing. The Government's response
argues that Williams' second claim is untimely, the
collateral attack and § 851 notice waivers are valid,
the DOJ policy did not create any enforceable right and is
not cognizable on collateral review, and Williams cannot show
cause or prejudice.
Williams' Petition is Timely
year period of limitation applies to motions under §
2255, and runs from the latest of four triggering events. 28
U.S.C. § 2255(f). Here, the relevant limitations period
begins to run on “the date on which the judgment of
conviction becomes final.” Id. Williams'
judgment of conviction was entered on June 1, 2015, amended
on June 19, 2015, and became final 14 days later, on July 3,
2015, when the time for filing an appeal expired.
Williams' original § 2255 motion was received on May
12, 2016, well within the one year limitations period. See
ECF Doc. 1. Thereafter, the Court entered a text order
directing Williams to resubmit his motion using the Section
2255 form. Williams completed the form, included another copy
of his first motion, and signed a declaration indicating he
placed the documents in the prison legal mail system on June
7, 2016. The envelope containing the motion is marked
received by FCI Pekin mail room on June 9, 2016, and was
filed with the Court on June 13, 2016. Williams' §
2255 motion, filed less than one year after his judgment
became final on July 3, 2015, is timely.
Williams' motion is clearly within the limitations period
of § 2255(f), the Government's argument to the
contrary is fundamentally incorrect and invites discussion.
First, the Government erroneously contends that Williams
added a new claim when he resubmitted his motion with the
completed form. However, Williams' first and second
motions were exact copies of each other, and the completed
§ 2255 form merely restated the two claims in his first
motion. Compare ECF Doc. 1, at 5, with ECF
Doc. 4, at 5. Second, even if Williams' later filing
added a new claim, it was still timely under § 2255(f).
This is because the Government uses the date of the
sentencing hearing, May 29, 2015, as the starting date, but
the limitations period does not begin to run until “the
date on which the judgment of conviction becomes
final.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Here, the
amended judgment was entered on June 19, 2015, and became
final 14 days later on July 3, 2015. Third, even if
Williams' motion was due on June 12, 2016, as the
Government incorrectly argues, the motion was still timely
under the mailbox rule because it was received in the FCI
Pekin mail room on June 9, 2015. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255
Rule 3(d); Hurlow v. United States, 726 F.3d 958
(7th Cir. 2013).
Williams' First Claim is not Cognizable on ...