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United States v. Askew

United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania

September 12, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MAURICE ASKEW, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM ORDER RE: DEFENDANT’S MOTION (DOC. NO. 358).

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, United States District Judge.

Presently before the Court is Maurice Askew’s “Rule 59 Motion to Alter, Amend, or Reconsider Judgment” – meaning this Court’s Order (doc. no. 349) denying his request to “Alter, Amend, or Reconsider Judgment.” See doc. no. 347. In a nutshell, Maurice Askew’s Motion filed at doc. no. 347, asked this Court to Reconsider its previous Order which refused to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (hereinafter “Section 2255 Motion”). See Askew’s Motion filed at doc. no. 347, the Government’s Response in Opposition filed at doc. no. 348, and this Court’s Order at doc. no. 349. The Court notes for the record, that the Section 2255 Motion to which Maurice Askew’s Motion filed at doc no. 347 relates, was his second Section 2255 Motion, making the instant Motion his Second Request for Reconsideration of his Second 225 Motion.

I. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) permits the filing of a motion to alter or amend a judgment. U.S. v. Fiorelli, 337 F.3d 282, 288 (3d Cir. 2003). A motion under Rule 59(e) is a “device to relitigate the original issue” decided by the district court, and used to allege legal error. Smith v. Evans, 853 F.2d 155, 158-59 (3d Cir.1988).

However, the scope of a Motion for Reconsideration “is extremely limited.” Blystone v. Horn, 664 F.3d 397, 415 (3d Cir. 2011). “The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.” Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. den., 476 U.S. 1171 (1986). A court may properly grant a motion for reconsideration for any of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence not previously available; or (3) to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice. North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reins. Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995). “Because of the interest in finality, at least at the district court level, motions for reconsideration should be granted sparingly; the parties are not free to relitigate issues the court has already decided.” Williams v. City of Pittsburgh, 32 F.Supp.2d 236, 238 (W.D. Pa. 1998) (quoting Rottmund v. Continental Assurance Co., 813 F.Supp. 1104, 1107 (E.D. Pa. 1992)). See also Horizon Unlimited, Inc. v. Richard Silva & SNA, Inc., 2001 WL 41131, *2 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (same).

Also, a motion for reconsideration is not an opportunity for a party to relitigate already decided issues and should not be used “to put forward additional arguments which [the movant] could have made but neglected to make before judgment.” Dodge v. Susquehanna Univ., 796 F.Supp. 829, 830 (M.D. Pa. 1992). See also Williams, 32 F.Supp.2d at 39 (“Stated another way, a motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded in a request for a district court to rethink a decision it has already made, rightly or wrongly”) (quoting Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F.Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). These general rules apply fully when considering a motion to reconsider a court’s decision denying habeas corpus relief. See e.g., Bacon v. Carroll, 2009 WL 3156751, *1 (D. Del. 2009); Griffin v. Hogsten, 2007 WL 1811222, *1 (M.D. Pa. 2007).

II. Discussion

As noted in the Court’s prior Memorandum Order (doc. no. 345), on March 2, 2004, an 18-count Superseding Indictment was filed, charging four persons, including this Petitioner (Maurice Askew) and his brother (Anthony Askew), along with Anthony Williams, and Nicole Harris, with the various offenses stemming from a series of six bank robberies that took place in 2002 and 2003 in Western Pennsylvania. As noted by the Court’s prior Memorandum Order (doc. no. 345), the modus operandi of these robberies was that two masked men, with guns drawn, would enter a bank, and while one of the men would “cover” the employees and patrons, the other would jump over the counter, riffle the drawers for cash, and then the two men would run to a waiting stolen vehicle and flee the scene.

This Court also noted in its prior Memorandum Order that Anthony Williams was the gunman who jumped the counter and took the cash while one of the Askew brothers stood guard in each robbery. Nicole Harris was the driver of the getaway car for the S&T bank robbery on July 8, 2003. Williams and Harris entered into plea agreements with the Government and testified against the Askew brothers at their jury trial in May and June of 2004.

The jury convicted Maurice Askew on all counts of the Superseding Indictment. In sum, Maurice Askew was convicted of bank robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2113(a) (Counts 1, 4); armed bank robbery, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2113(d) (Counts 2, 5); and carrying and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c)(1)(A)(ii) (Counts 3, 6).

This Court sentenced Petitioner, Maurice Askew, on Counts One through Six, to a term of imprisonment of 468 months, calculated as follows: 84 months (7 years) at each of Counts One, Two, Four and Five, to be served concurrently to each other; 84 months (7 years) at Count Three, to be served consecutively to the preceding term of imprisonment; and 300 months (25 years) at Count Six, to be served consecutively to the preceding terms of imprisonment.

Additionally, the Court sentenced Maurice Askew to a term of Supervised Release of 3 years at each of Counts One and Four, to run concurrently, and a term of 5 years at each of the remaining counts, to run concurrently, a special assessment of $600.00, and restitution.

For both Maurice Askew and his brother, the main reason behind their substantial terms of imprisonment was the statutory consecutive sentences that were mandated because they brandished firearms in furtherance of the armed bank robberies. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii). Section 924 provides, in relevant part:

(c)(1)(A) Except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law, any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime . . . uses or carries a firearm, or who, in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence or drug trafficking crimeB . . ...

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