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Holliday v. United States

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

June 16, 2017

ANTHONY HOLLIDAY, PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA RESPONDENTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NEAL B. BIGGERS SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the court on the motion of Anthony Holliday to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government has responded to the motion, and the matter is ripe for resolution. For the reasons set forth below, the instant motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence will be denied.

         Section 2255 Proceedings

         Section 28 U.S.C. § 2255 permits an inmate serving a sentence after conviction of a federal crime “to move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). As with the writ of habeas corpus, see 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241, 2254, a § 2255 motion sets forth only four bases on which a motion may be made: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeds the statutory maximum sentence; or (4) the sentence is “otherwise subject to collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Thus, a prisoner must claim either a constitutional violation or want of subject matter jurisdiction to invoke 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In the absence of constitutional or jurisdictional defects, a federal prisoner may invoke § 2255 only if the error constitutes “a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Addonizio, 442 U.S. 178, 185 (1979).

         The district court must first conduct a preliminary review of a section 2255 motion, and “[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of the prior proceeding that the moving party is not entitled to relief, the judge must dismiss the motion.” Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rule 4(b). If the motion raises a non-frivolous claim to relief, the court must order the Government to file a response or to take other appropriate action. Id. The judge may then require the parties to expand the record as necessary and, if good cause is shown, authorize limited discovery.

         Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rules 6-7.

         After reviewing the government's answer, any transcripts and records of prior proceedings, and any supplementary materials submitted by the parties, the court must decide whether an evidentiary hearing is warranted. Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rule 8. Under the statute, an evidentiary hearing must be held unless “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). However, the court need not hold an evidentiary hearing if the prisoner fails to produce “independent indicia of the likely merit of [his] allegations.” United States v. Edwards, 442 F.3d 258, 264 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting United States v. Cervantes, 132 F.3d 1106, 1110 (5th Cir. 1998)).

         Ultimately, the petitioner bears the burden of establishing his claims of error by a preponderance of the evidence. See Wright v. United States, 624 F.2d 557, 558 (5th Cir. 1980). For certain “structural” errors, relief follows automatically once the error is proved. See Burgess v. Dretke, 350 F.3d 461, 472 (5th Cir. 2003). For other errors at the trial court level, the court may grant relief only if the error “had substantial and injurious effect or influence” in determining the outcome of the case. Brecht v. Abrahmson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993); see also United States v. Chavez, 193 F.3d 375, 379 (5th Cir. 1999) (applying Brecht's harmless error standard in a § 2255 proceeding). If the court finds that the prisoner is entitled to relief, it “shall vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct the sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         Procedural Posture

         Anthony Holliday was indicted on February 22, 2012, in the Northern District of Mississippi on the charge of failing to register as a sex offender under 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a), the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”). Doc. 1. He pled guilty to the charge on April 15, 2013, and the court imposed a sentence 30 months imprisonment in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons, 5 years of supervised release, and a special assessment of $100.00. Doc. 29. Holliday did not pursue a direct appeal of his conviction or sentence. He filed the instant Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on August 5, 2014, setting forth the following claims (restated by the court for the sake of clarity and brevity):

(1) The court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the criminal charges because Holliday had not been convicted of a sex offense under federal law - and because he did not travel in interstate or foreign commerce during the relevant period; and
(2) Counsel was ineffective for advising Holliday to plead guilty when he was not subject to the registration requirements of SORNA - thus invaliding his guilty plea as unknowing and involuntary.

Mr. Holliday was incarcerated when he filed the instant suit; as such, he meets the “in custody” requirement to seek federal habeas corpus relief. In addition, though he has since been released from custody, his petition remains viable, as he alleges that he is actually innocent of the crime of his conviction, rather than challenging only the sentence imposed. Lane v. Williams, 455 U.S. 624, 631 (1982).

         The Instant ...


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