United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
BARRY FISCHER U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on an amended motion to vacate,
set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
filed by Defendant Dirk Barfield, Jr., which is opposed by
the Government. (Docket Nos. 66; 74;
80; 84). Defendant argues that his sentence
of 151 months' incarceration must be vacated in light of
Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551,
2556-57 (2015), which held that the “residual
clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act
(“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii), is
void for vagueness and subsequent precedent applying
Johnson to the residual clause in the career
offender guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2). (Docket
Nos. 66; 80). In opposition, the Government
maintains that Defendant was correctly deemed a career
offender at the time of his initial sentencing and that he
remains a career offender based on his prior convictions of
possession within intent to deliver a controlled substance
(cocaine) and aggravated assault, both of which qualify as
predicate offenses without reliance upon the challenged
residual clause. (Docket No. 74). The motion has
been fully briefed and the state court records from the Court
of Common Pleas of Washington County were procured by the
Government and made part of the record before this Court.
(SeeDocket No. 84). After careful consideration of
the parties' positions and for the following reasons,
Defendant's Amended Motion  is denied, and no
certificate of appealability shall issue.
of background, on May 19, 2009, Defendant pled guilty
pursuant to a plea agreement to one count of possession with
intent to distribute and distribution of five (5) grams or
more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable
amount of cocaine base, commonly known as crack, in violation
of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii),
for conduct occurring on or about August 21, 2008.
(Docket Nos. 20; 21; 22;
50). As part of their plea agreement, among other
things, the parties stipulated that Defendant was responsible
for distribution of between 5 and 20 grams of crack cocaine;
the United States agreed not to file an 851 information
stating a prior conviction as a basis of increased
punishment; and Defendant agreed not to seek a sentence below
120 months' (or 10 years') incarceration. (Docket
No. 21 at ¶¶ B.3; C.2). The plea agreement did
not address the potential for a career offender designation;
however, at the change of plea hearing, Government counsel
advised that Defendant was likely a career offender to which
defense counsel concurred. (Docket No. 50 at 16-7,
27-8). The prosecutor also described the basis for the
potential 851 Information that was withheld, i.e., a prior
felony drug trafficking conviction. (Id. at 16-17).
November 18, 2009, Defendant was sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of 151 months, followed by a 5-year term of
supervised release. (Docket No. 34). He was deemed a
career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, based on prior
state court convictions for recklessly endangering another
person, simple assault, and aggravated assault. (Docket
Nos. 27 at ¶ I.6; 51 at 3). Defendant did
not object to the career offender designation at the time.
(See, e.g., Docket Nos. 25; 30;
51). Rather, Defendant moved for a variance from the
advisory guidelines range of 188-235 months'
incarceration. (Id.). The Court granted the variance
motion, in part, reducing the applicable guidelines range to
151-188 months' incarceration based on the disparities
between crack and powder cocaine, and imposed a sentence of
151 months, at the low end of that range. (Docket Nos.
31; 34; 35; 51).
post-sentencing proceedings, Defendant sought a sentence
reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) based on the 2011
retroactive amendments to the crack cocaine guidelines.
(Docket No. 38). The Court denied Defendant's
motion, finding that he was ineligible for the sentence
reduction under binding Third Circuit precedent and that he
had otherwise been afforded the relief provided under the
retroactive amendments by virtue of the Court's having
granted the variance at the sentencing hearing. (Docket
No. 45). On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit affirmed this Court's decision.
See United States v. Barfield, 543 F.
App'x 288 (3d Cir. 2013).
initially filed a pro se § 2255 motion and
brief in support on October 8, 2015 seeking resentencing in
light of Johnson. (Docket Nos. 56;
57). Thereafter, the Federal Public Defender entered
an appearance on his behalf and moved for a stay of
proceedings, which the Court granted, terminating the pro
se motion, without prejudice. (Docket Nos. 59;
counsel, Defendant filed his Amended Motion to Vacate on July
6, 2016. (Docket No. 66). The Government initially
sought a stay of proceedings pending the disposition of
Beckles v. United States, No. 15-8544 (cert. granted
June 27, 2016), by the Supreme Court of the United States.
(Docket No. 70). After reviewing Defendant's
opposition, the Court denied the motion to stay and directed
the Government to file its response. (Docket No.
73). As ordered, the Government filed its response on
November 8, 2016, attaching online docket sheets from the
Administrative Office Pennsylvania Courts
(“AOPC”) as proof of Defendant's prior
controlled substance offense and aggravated assault and
notifying the Court that it was attempting to obtain the
certified conviction records from the Court of Common Pleas
of Washington County. (Docket No. 74). Defendant
submitted a reply brief on December 1, 2016, arguing that the
uncertified docket reports were not sufficient to prove the
predicate offenses and maintaining his position that he no
longer qualified as a career offender without the application
of the now-unconstitutional residual clause. (Docket No.
80). Upon review of the parties' papers, the Court
issued an order on February 14, 2017 directing the Government
to submit a Status Report by February 21, 2017, advising as
to the status of the state court conviction records.
(Docket No. 83). On the Court's deadline, the
Government filed its Status Report, along with the conviction
• certified copies of the charging document, sentence
order and transcript of the plea and sentence hearing as to
the aggravated assault conviction at Criminal Action No.
• certified copies of the charging document and sentence
order regarding the possession with intent to deliver crack
cocaine conviction at Criminal Action No. 2005-01866.
(Docket No. 84). The parties have not sought leave
of court to make any further submissions and the Court
considers Defendant's Amended Motion to be fully briefed
and ripe for disposition.
prisoner in federal custody may move to vacate his or her
sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) if such
“sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution
or laws of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. §
2255(a). A motion under § 2255 is a collateral challenge
that is viewed less favorably than a direct appeal and
“relief under § 2255 is available only when
‘the claimed error of law was a fundamental defect
which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of
justice, and ... present[s] exceptional circumstances where
the need for the remedy afforded by the writ ... is
apparent.'” United States v. Travillion,759 F.3d 281, 288 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Davis v.United
States, 417 U.S. 333, 346, 94 S.Ct. 2298, 41 L.Ed.2d 109
(1974)) (further quotations omitted). Generally, a district
court must order an evidentiary hearing in a federal habeas
case if a criminal defendant's § 2255 allegations
raise an issue of material fact. United States v.
Biberfeld, 957 F.2d 98, 102 (3d Cir. 1992). But, if
there is “no legally cognizable claim or the factual
matters raised by the motion may be susceptible of resolution
through the district judge's review of the motion and
records in the case, ” the motion may be decided
without a hearing. United States v. Costanzo, 625
F.2d 465, 470 (3d Cir. 1980); see alsoUnited
States v. Lilly, 536 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir. 2008). If a
hearing is not held, the district judge must accept the
criminal defendant's allegations as true “unless
they are clearly ...