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Keith Blount v. United States of America

July 3, 2012

KEITH BLOUNT,
PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Keith Blount's ("Petitioner") counseled motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (hereinafter "§ 2255 Motion"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny and dismiss with prejudice Petitioner's Motion and no certificate of appealability will issue.

I.BACKGROUND

On March 3, 1999, Petitioner was found guilty of one count of distributing one kilogram of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), after a jury trial. He was sentenced on November 23, 1999, to 264 months of incarceration, to run concurrently with a state sentence for unrelated conduct. Judgment, ECF No. 102. Petitioner appealed his conviction and asserted three claims. He argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the district court committed plain error in instructing the jury that the government did not have to prove that Petitioner knew that the drugs distributed were cocaine rather than some other controlled substance, and that the government should have been required to submit the question of drug quantity to the jury, despite the fact that his trial counsel agreed to stipulate to the amount distributed, because that fact increased the statutory maximum penalty. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction and sentence on December 20, 2000. Blount v. United States, No. 99-1994, slip op. at 2 (3d Cir. Dec. 20, 2000). Certiorari was denied October 1, 2001. Blount v. United States, 534 U.S. 908, 908 (2001).

On September 23, 2002, Petitioner filed a timely petition to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. ECF No. 113. Petitioner raised five allegations in support of his claim for relief. First, Petitioner contended that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek a mistrial as a result of particular expert testimony by an officer. Second, Petitioner argued that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call co-defendant Vincent Billue to testify at trial. Third, Petitioner alleged that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a downward departure for the time already served in state and county custody. Fourth, Petitioner alleged that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request that an officer's testimony be excluded from the Court's sufficiency of the evidence analysis. Fifth, Petitioner contended that in light of his other arguments, the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.

The Court held hearings on Petitioner's petition on April 30, 2004, June 9, 2004, and June 15, 2004. This Court denied all of Petitioner's claims except the claim that sentencing counsel was ineffective for failing to request a downward departure pursuant to United States Sentencing Guidelines Section 5G1.3 for time served in state and county custody. Blount v. United States, No. 98-412, slip op. at 11-12 (E.D. Pa. July 22, 2004), ECF No. 136. The Court then issued an order scheduling a hearing for a re-sentencing "to consider whether a downward departure, for time spent in state incarceration before federal sentencing, is warranted." See Order, July 22, 2004, ECF No. 136. Although originally scheduled for August 23, 2004, Petitioner's re-sentencing was held approximately a year later on August 26, 2005.*fn1 The Court determined that Petitioner was a career offender and found his offense level to be 34, his criminal history category to be VI, and his imprisonment range to be 262 to 327 months. The Court then granted Petitioner's request for an adjustment pursuant to United States Sentencing Guidelines Section 5G1.3 and re-sentenced Petitioner to 245 months plus 28 days. ECF No. 189.

Petitioner appealed his amended sentence and the Court of Appeals affirmed it on June 8, 2007. ECF No. 200. Petitioner did not file any further appeals or motions until he filed the instant petitioner on June 20, 2011. § 2255 Motion, ECF No. 203. Thus, his second sentence became final on or about September 7, 2007.

In the instant petition, Petitioner raises four grounds as the basis for his petition for relief. First, Petitioner contends that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek a mistrial as a result of particular expert testimony by an officer. Second, Petitioner argues that trial counsel was ineffective for making an uninformed decision not to call co-defendant Vincent Billue to testify at trial. Third, Petitioner asserts that appellate counsel should have raised the foregoing two issues on direct appeal. Fourth and lastly, Petitioner asserts that when his sentence was vacated, he was entitled to resentencing using the advisory guidelines in effect at the time of the resentencing, and is now entitled, pursuant to Pepper v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 1229 (2011), to have the district court consider post-sentencing rehabilitation as a factor in reducing his sentence.

II.LEGAL STANDARD

A federal prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court challenging his sentence based on a violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States may move the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) (Supp. IV 2011). In a § 2255 motion, a federal prisoner may attack his sentence on any of the following grounds: (1) the judgment was rendered without jurisdiction; (2) the sentence imposed was not authorized by law or otherwise open to collateral attack; or (3) there has been such a denial or infringement of the constitutional rights of the prisoner as to render the judgment vulnerable to collateral attack. See id. § 2255(b).

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") establishes a one-year statute of limitations period for § 2255 motions. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f) (Supp. IV 2011). That period generally runs from "the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final." Id. § 2255(f)(1). A petitioner's judgment becomes final when his time to petition for a writ of certiorari for review of the Third Circuit's judgment expires.

See Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 525 (2003) ("[A] judgment of conviction becomes final when the time expires for filing a petition for certiorari contesting the appellate court's affirmation of the conviction."); U.S. Sup. Ct. R. 13(1) (providing ninety-day period to file petition for writ of certiorari to review appellate court judgment).

A petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing as to the merits of his claim unless it is clear from the record that he is not entitled to relief.*fn2 The Court must dismiss the motion "[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief." R. Governing ...


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