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United States of America v. Howard Willis

March 15, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
HOWARD WILLIS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stengel, J.

MEMORANDUM

Howard Willis is a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In response, the government filed a motion to dismiss the petition based on Mr. Willis's waiver of the right to collateral review. For the reasons below, I will grant the government's motion and dismiss Mr. Willis's petition.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 17, 2007, a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Mr. Willis charging him with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, distribution of a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. On January 16, 2008, Mr. Willis entered a plea of guilty to these charges pursuant to a plea agreement with the government.

At a sentencing hearing on April 16, 2008, I determined that Mr. Willis's Total Offense Level was 29 with a Criminal History Category of I, which yielded an advisory sentencing guidelines range of 87-108 months' imprisonment on the drug trafficking charges, with a consecutive sixty month sentence of imprisonment for the firearm charge. Mr. Willis, however, faced a mandatory 120 month sentence on the drug trafficking charges which brought his mandatory minimum sentence to 180 months' imprisonment.

After a thorough consideration of all of the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), I sentenced Mr. Willis to a total of 180 months' incarceration, and five years of supervised release. Mr. Willis did not appeal his conviction and sentence.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A federal prisoner in custody under sentence of a federal court challenging his sentence based on a violation of the U.S. 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). 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 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

A petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the merits of his claims unless it is clear from the record that he is not entitled to relief. The court must dismiss the motion "if it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief." See Rule 4(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255. A prisoner's pro se pleading is construed liberally. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); see also Huertas v. Galaxy Asset Mgmt., 641 F.3d 28, 32 (3d Cir. 2011).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Untimeliness

Based on his § 2255 motion and the record of proceedings, it plainly appears that Mr. Willis is not entitled to relief. Initially, I note that Mr. Willis's § 2255 motion is untimely. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA") establishes a one-year statute of limitations period for § 2255 motions. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). Section 2255(f) outlines four possible dates from when the one-year statute of limitations period begins to run:

(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 ...


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