United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
B. BIGGERS SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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).
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.
Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, Rules 6-7.
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.
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).
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;
(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,