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Staples v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

November 22, 2016




         A. Introduction

         In Case No. 08-cr-30074-MJR (“the underlying case”), Charles Staples pled guilty to conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. The undersigned sentenced Staples to 249 months in prison, followed by eight years of supervised release.[1] Judgment was entered March 4, 2009. No direct appeal was taken.

         On June 14, 2016, Staples filed a pro se petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. 2255, based on two Supreme Court decisions: (1) Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which declared unconstitutional a portion of a federal statute -- the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), and (2) Welch v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), which held that Johnson announced a new substantive rule that applies retroactively to cases on collateral review.

         On threshold review of the petition, the undersigned appointed counsel to assist Staples in pursuing any Johnson-based relief to which he might be entitled. Assistant Federal Public Defender Daniel G. Cronin entered an appearance. On August 27, 2016, he filed a detailed memorandum explaining why, in his opinion, “there is no non-frivolous basis for the relief sought” in the § 2255 petition (Doc. 5, p. 1). Mr. Cronin diligently filed a supplemental brief (Doc. 7), after the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided United States v. Hurlburt, 835 F.3d 715 (7th Cir. 2016) (finding the residual clause in § 4B1.2(a)(1) of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutionally vague), and United States v. Rollins, 836 F.3d 737 (7th Cir. 2016) (holding that a crime listed only in the Application Notes to U.S.S.G. 4B1.2, such as robbery, does not qualify as a “crime of violence” so as to support classifying a defendant as a career offender).

         After Mr. Cronin filed his memoranda, the Court adjusted the briefing schedule, inter alia, to provide Petitioner Staples an opportunity to file a pro se reply, after the United States had weighed in with its brief. The United States responded on October 4, 2016 (Docs. 9-10). Mr. Staples failed to file a reply brief by the November 4, 2016 deadline or to seek an extension of that deadline. The issues are fully briefed. For the reasons explained below, the Court finds that a hearing is not needed and denies the petition.

         B. Preliminary Issues

         Under Rule 8(a) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, this Court must determine whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted. 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) (“It is well-established that a district court need not grant an evidentiary hearing in all § 2255 cases, ” such as where the record conclusively shows the prisoner is not entitled to relief.); Kafo v. United States, 467 F.3d 1063, 1067 (7th Cir. 2006) (to justify a hearing, petition must be accompanied by a detailed affidavit which shows that the petitioner has actual proof of the allegations going beyond mere unsupported assertions). The record before this Court conclusively reveals that Staples is not entitled to relief, so no hearing is needed.

         Next, the Court addresses whether Staples' § 2255 petition was timely filed. It was. 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 ...

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