United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL P. MILLS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Sanders, an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons,
has filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Doc. #278. Having
considered the pleadings and the record, including the
relevant parts of Sanders' underlying criminal case,
along with the relevant law, the Court finds that an
evidentiary hearing is unnecessary, and that the § 2255
motion should be denied.
Background Facts and Procedural History
March 3, 2015, Sanders entered a guilty plea to a
federally-indicted charge of conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute at least 15 kilograms but less than 50
kilograms of cocaine. See Docs. #21 & #124.
Prior to sentencing, the United States Probation Service
prepared a Presentence Investigation Report
(“PSR”), and that report noted that Sanders had
received a 2003 conviction for conspiracy to possess cocaine
with intent to distribute in the Circuit Court of Lauderdale,
Mississippi, and a 2005 conviction for distribution of
cocaine in the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Mississippi. Doc. #243 at ¶¶ 30, 31.
The PSR determined that Sanders' criminal conduct score
in the instant case, after adjustment for his acceptance of
responsibility, was a 29. Doc. #243 at ¶ 27. Based on
Sanders' prior drug-related convictions, he was
designated a “career offender” under United
States Sentencing Guideline (“U.S.S.G.” or
“Guidelines”) § 4B1.1(b)(4). U.S.S.G. §
4B1.1(b)(4); see also Doc. #243 at ¶ 24. This
career offender enhancement raised Sanders' Guidelines
range from 108-135 months to 151-188 months. See
Doc. #243 at ¶¶18, 35, 60; see also
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b) & Ch. 5, Pt. A (Sentencing
Table). On October 29, 2015, Sanders was sentenced to 151
months imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release. Doc.
appeal, Sanders' sentence was affirmed. See United
States v. Sanders, 668 F.App'x 613, 614 (5th Cir.
2016); see also Doc. #274. On or about May 11, 2017,
Sanders filed the instant motion, alleging ineffective
assistance of counsel and challenging his career offender
determination under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(b). Doc. #278. The
Government has responded, and this matter is ripe for review.
defendant has been convicted and exhausted his appeal rights,
a court may presume that “he stands fairly and finally
convicted.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S.
152, 164 (1982). A motion brought pursuant to § 2255 is
a “means of collateral attack on a federal
sentence.” Cox v. Warden, Federal Detention
Ctr., 911 F.2d 1111, 1113 (5th Cir. 1990) (citation
omitted). There are four separate grounds upon which a
federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside, or correct a
sentence under 28 U.S.C. §2255: (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). Collateral attack
limits a movant's allegations to those of
“constitutional or jurisdictional magnitude.”
United States v. Samuels, 59 F.3d 526, 528 (5th Cir.
1995) (citation omitted). Relief under § 2255 is
reserved, therefore, for violations of “constitutional
rights and for that narrow compass of other injury that could
not have been raised on direct appeal and, would, if
condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.”
United States v. Capua, 656 F.2d 1033, 1037 (5th
Career Offender Designation
defendant who has at least two prior felony convictions for a
crime of violence or a controlled substance offense qualifies
as a career offender the Guidelines if the defendant is at
least eighteen years old at the time he committed the instant
offense of conviction, and the instant offense of conviction
is either a felony crime of violence or a felony controlled
substance offense. See U.S.S. G. § 4B1.1(a).
The Guidelines classify a “controlled substance
an offense under federal or state law, punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that prohibits
the manufacture, import, export, distribution, or dispensing
of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) or the
possession of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit
substance) with intent to manufacture, import, export,
distribute, or dispense.
U.S.S.G. 4B1.2. The commentary explains that
“controlled substance offense includes the offense of
. . . conspiring. . . to commit such offense.”
Guideline § 4B1.2 cmt. n. 1.
2005 federal conviction for distribution of cocaine base
clearly qualifies as a prior controlled substance offense for
purposes of determining Sanders' status as a career
offender, and he does not claim error as to his prior federal
conviction. However, he claims that his 2003 State conviction
for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute
is no longer a qualifying predicate offense for the career
offender enhancement. Specifically, he maintains that the
conviction is not countable as a “controlled substance
offense” for career offender enhancement purposes,
because Mississippi's controlled substances statute
criminalizes conduct outside of the Controlled Substances
Act. In support of this argument, he cites United States
v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 20016). In
Hinkle, the appellate court found the
defendant's prior Texas conviction for delivery of heroin
did not qualify as a controlled substance offense under
§ 4B1.2, because the Texas conviction could have been
obtained by an offer to sell, which is conduct broader than
that encompassed by the Guidelines definition of a controlled
substance offense. See Hinkle, 832 F.3d at 576; Doc.
#279 at 3, 7.
Court notes that the crime underlying Sanders' 2003
conspiracy conviction was Miss. Code Ann. ...