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United States v. Hairston

August 21, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge


I. Introduction

Petitioner James Lamont Hairston has filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, Modify or Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 (doc. no. 64). Following this Court's "Miller notice" (doc. no. 66), see United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999), petitioner elected to have his Motion to Vacate decided as filed, and the government filed its response thereto (doc. no. 71). The background for this Motion to Vacate was set forth in the unpublished opinion of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in United States v. Hairston, 220 Fed. Appx. 147 (3d Cir. 2007) following summary remand to this Court to resentence petitioner in light of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), as follows:

James Hairston appeals his sentence, which was imposed after he pleaded guilty to two counts of bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), and one count of armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d). Hairston also agreed to acknowledge responsibility for an additional count of § 2113(a) bank robbery, which was charged in his indictment, but to which he did not plead guilty. For the reasons stated below, we hold that Hairston's sentence is reasonable and adequately accounts for Hairston's mental capacity and the seriousness of his criminal history, and that the District Court otherwise properly considered all of the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors.


Because the parties are familiar with facts of this case, we will only discuss them as necessary to our analysis. In a previous appeal before this Court, Hairston filed a motion for summary remand of his initial 188-month sentence, which was granted with the government's consent. The sole purpose of the remand was to sentence Hairston in accordance with . . . Booker . . . . On July 14, 2005, the District Court resentenced Hairston to 180 months' imprisonment-eight months below the guideline range of 188 to 235 months, and well below the statutory maximum of 65 years' imprisonment.

On appeal, Hairston argues that the District Court, in applying the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, failed to consider sufficiently his mental health problems and to account for the fact that his classification as a career offender overstated the seriousness of his criminal history. As a result, Hairston argues, his 180-month sentence was unreasonable.


. . . Hairston's appeal is without merit because the record reveals that upon resentencing the Court carefully considered Hairston's mental capacity and criminal history, and appropriately reduced his sentence by eight months. The Court explained that: the sentence imposed [is] sufficient but not greater than necessary for the sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense; promote respect for the law and provide just punishment for the offense; to afford adequate deterrence; to protect against the commission of further crimes by the defendant; and provide the defendant with the needed and effective educational or vocational training, medical care or other correctional treatment. (App.301-02.) The Court also recommended that "the defendant be placed in a facility where he can receive mental health treatment if the Bureau of Prisons believe[s] that is necessary." ( Id. at 301.) Although the Court did not discuss the factors stressed by Hairston- his persistent homelessness, mental deficiency, and drug dependence- the Court reviewed and adopted the PSR which contains the facts underlying Hairston's challenge to his career offender status. The Court reasonably exercised its discretion to impose a sentence that factored in Hairston's criminal history, including his significant number of arrests and prior criminal convictions.

Based on the record, it is clear that the District Court gave meaningful consideration to all of the § 3553(a) factors and applied them reasonably to the facts of Hairston's case, after hearing recommendations, argument, and objections from counsel on both sides. In this situation, we defer to the District Court because it is "in the best position to determine the appropriate sentence in light of the particular circumstances of the case." . . .


We have considered all of Hairston's remaining arguments and conclude that they are without merit. For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the District Court's sentence was reasonable under Booker and Cooper. Accordingly, we will affirm the judgment of sentence.

Hairston, 220 Fed.Appx. at 147-149 (citations omitted).

Petitioner's Motion to Vacate raises two grounds for relief: first, petitioner asserts that a state court conviction in which he was represented by counsel having an obvious conflict of interests improperly factored into this Court's determination that he was a career offender, and that this Court should resentence him without regard to that conviction, Motion to Vacate, Ground One, at 5; and second, he requests that this Court "exercise it's ...

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