Woods v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge James H Hancock on 1/23/2015. (JLC)
2015 Jan-23 AM 10:11
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Case No.: 1:14-cv-8046-JHH
Criminal No.: 1:97-cr-159-JHHTMP
The court has before it Reginald Woods' Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or
Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. #1), filed on August 11, 2014
and Amended Petition (Docs. #4, 5) filed on August 22, 2014. Pursuant to the court's
orders of August 26, 2014 (Doc. #6) and September 25, 2014 (Doc. #9), the United
States Government filed a Response (Doc. #10) to Woods' Section 2255 Motion on
October 3, 2014. In its response, the Government seeks to have the Motion to Vacate
(Doc. #1) dismissed in its entirety. Petitioner filed a Reply to the Government's
Response to his Petition (Doc. #12) on October 30, 2014.
Petitioner Woods' Amended Motion to Vacate (Doc. #4) seeks relief on the
ground that he is being illegally incarcerated on four counts of "aiding and abetting"
a § 924(c) offense. (Doc. #1, ¶ 5). Woods submits that his convictions should be
vacated and a new trial granted because, under Rosemond v. United States, 134 S. Ct.
1240 (2014), he was convicted of a "nonexistent crime" and is actually innocent.
(Doc. #1, ¶ 13).
On May 29, 1997, a federal grand jury returned a ten count indictment against
Reginald Woods on: carjacking (18 U.S.C. § 2119); four counts of armed bank
robbery (18 U.S.C. § 2113 (a) and (d)); and four counts of using/carrying a firearm
during a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924 (c)). (See Doc. #1 in Case No.: 1:97-cr159-JHH-TMP). Woods was convicted by a jury on all counts, and was sentenced to
Woods appealed to the Eleventh Circuit. His conviction was affirmed, and the
Supreme Court denied a petition for certiorari.
In 2006, Woods filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241, in which he challenged his custody as being unlawful and in violation
of his constitutional rights. That petition was dismissed.
In 2012, Woods filed a new petition under § 2241, alleging that the "stacking"
provision of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) had become unconstitutional due to the "evolving
standards of decency" as well as actual changes in operating procedures and how §
924(c) "stacking" is implemented. The District Court denied Woods' petition after
adopting the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation. In so doing, the court
ruled that Woods should have pursued his claim under § 2255, and that because he
did not meet the requirements of § 2255(e) -- the savings clause -- relief under § 2241
(Woods v. Rathman, 1:12cv2855-RDP-RRA, Report and
On August 7, 2014, Woods filed the pending motion. Woods remains in
custody at this time.
Woods' petition is timely only under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3),1 which states that
the statute of limitations runs "from the date on which the right was initially
recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the
Supreme Court and made retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review." The
right on which Woods relies is the rule of law announced in Rosemond v. United
States, 134 S. Ct. 1240 (2014). (Doc. #1 at 14). Rosemond was decided on March
5, 2014. Since Woods filed this Petition on August 11, 2014, his claim is timely
under § 2255(f)(3).
To the extent Woods' Petition may be argued to rely on some other avenue for relief, it is clearly
untimely. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1), (f)(2), and (f)(4).
The question presented by the Rosemond case was: what does the Government
have to prove to convict someone of aiding and abetting under 924(c) (use of a
firearm in a crime of violence or drug trafficking)? The Supreme Court ruled that in
order to aid and abet a crime, one must intend that the crime be committed and
"knowingly and actively" participate in the use of the gun. As such, the ruling affects
only those defendants who are charged with aiding and abetting a violation of 924(c).
If a defendant is charged with and convicted of a 924(c) violation -- not an aiding and
abetting one, but actually having the gun in the commission of the crime -- then this
ruling is not applicable.
The Indictment charged Woods with four counts of violating 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1). In the first three counts charging such violation, Woods was charged with
"knowingly us[ing] and carry[ing] a firearm, that is, a pump-action shotgun." (Counts
3, 5, 7). In the fourth 924(c) count, Woods was charged with "knowingly us[ing] and
carry[ing] a firearm, that is a .38 caliber revolver." (Count 10). He was not charged
with aiding and abetting but instead was charged as a principal. In fact, during the
trial, the Government presented a volume of testimony that every time Woods robbed
a bank he carried a firearm of some type, whether a shotgun or a pistol.2 (Doc. #10
To the extent Woods challenges the sufficiency of the evidence against him as a "principal," such
a claim is not cognizable under § 2255. Questions of credibility are for the jury, and the court assumes
the jury answered them in a way that supports its verdict. See Craig v. Singletary, 127 F.3d 1030, 1044-45
(11th Cir. 1997).
at 8-9). Therefore, the Rosemond case is clearly inapplicable to Woods' case, and the
Petition is due to be denied.
For the foregoing reasons, the Motion (Doc. #1) to Vacate is due to be denied.
A separate order will be entered dismissing this action with prejudice. The Clerk is
DIRECTED to mail a copy of this order to the Petitioner and the United States
Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.
DONE this the
day of January, 2015.
SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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