Whitt v. USA
OPINION AND ORDER: DENYING 231 Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. §2255 Applying Holloway Doctrine as to Samuel L Whitt (1) filed in 1:95CR33. Signed by Judge William C Lee on 11/13/2017. (Copy mailed to pro se party)(lhc)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
FORT WAYNE DIVISION
SAMUEL L. WHITT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
CASE NUMBER: 1:95 CR 33
OPINION AND ORDER
Before the Court is Petitioner, Samuel L. Whitt’s “Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. §2255
Applying Holloway Doctrine” [DE 231] filed on July 3, 2017 wherein he requests a reduction
pursuant to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York's decision in
United States v. Holloway, 68 F. Supp. 3d 310 (E.D.N.Y. 2014). The government responded on
August 7, 2017 [DE 233] to which the Petitioner replied on August 31, 2017. [DE 234]. For the
following reasons, the Motion will be DENIED.
On December 29, 1995, a federal grand jury returned a single count Indictment
charging that Whitt from on or about December 1990, up to and including September 1991,
conspired to distribute a controlled substance, including more than 500 grams of cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 2. (DE 1). Whitt proceeded to trial and, on June
19, 1996, a jury convicted him on the sole count of the Indictment. Thereafter, a presentence
investigation report was prepared, a sentencing hearing was held and a sentencing date was set in
the case. On July 27, 1998, this Court sentenced Whitt to life imprisonment. In determining that
Whitt faced a guidelines range of life in prison, this Court found, among other things, that:
(1) Whitt was responsible for more than 150 kilograms of cocaine resulting in a base
offense level of 38; (2) to that, 4 points were added because Whitt was a leader or organizer
under § 3B1.1; and (3) to that, 2 levels were added because Whitt possessed a firearm under
§2D1.1(b)(1). (DE 133 at 30-31). The Court noted at the time of sentencing that “While
additions of those numbers would result in a level 44, the sentencing guidelines for the offense
level tops out at 43.” (DE 146 at 1). In addition, Whitt’s prior criminal history landed him at a
category IV, the highest category. As a result, this Court sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Subsequently, Whitt has petitioned this Court (as well as the Seventh Circuit and the
Supreme Court) numerous times for review of his conviction and sentence, including two prior
requests for relief under 28 U.S.C. §2255, [see DE 159, DE 192 (construed as a successive §2255
petition)] in this Court.1
Whitt has now served 20 years of his sentence and is 68 years old.2 While incarcerated,
Whitt represents that he has an extensive and solid work history, has taken or is currently taking
classes offered by the Bureau of Prisons, and has no infractions. He further indicates that he has
some medical issues which have been addressed during his incarceration.
In his current petition, Whitt seeks relief, requesting consent of the government, to
have this Court vacate his conviction, sentencing enhancements and criminal history
points, and to resentence him to a reduced sentence. (Whitt Pet. at 1, 7). In his caption he
The Seventh Circuit has also construed a 2005 filing by Whitt in the Seventh Circuit for an
“extraordinary writ” as an unauthorized successive collateral attack.
On November 16, 2015, due to Amendment 782 in the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the
undersigned granted Whitt’s Unopposed Motion to Reduce Sentence, reducing his sentence from life
imprisonment to 360 months imprisonment.
indicates that he is requesting an “Order from Honorable Judge Lee to AUSA Prosecutor”
to resentence him under the Holloway Doctrine. It is to this issue that the Court now turns.
The Government construes Whitt’s present motion as a request for relief under 28 U.S.C.
§2255, likely because that is what Whitt himself styles the Motion. The Government’s position is
simple; this is yet another unauthorized successive collateral attack and it can be dismissed because
Whitt has not received permission from the Seventh Circuit to proceed. However, given the relief
sought by Whitt, it is not altogether clear that his current motion falls within the parameters for
The Court does agree with the Government that as a threshold matter, the Court does not
have the jurisdiction to consider Whitt’s request. Whitt has twice previously sought and was
denied relief under 28 U.S.C. §2255 from this Court, and to the extent the Court construed the
present petition as a successive petition, as the Government suggests it should, the Defendant has
not received permission to file a second or successive petition from the Seventh Circuit. On that
basis the Court would lack authority to grant his request.
That said, the current petition does not appear to be a request under §2255 as Whitt is not
asserting “the right to be released upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of
the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose
such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is
otherwise subject to collateral attack.” See 28 U.S.C.§2255(a). Nor is he suggesting that any new
rule of constitutional law made retroactive on collateral review by the Supreme Court applies. Id.
Moreover, “a district court does not have inherent authority to modify a previously imposed
sentence; it may do so only pursuant to statutory authorization.” United States v. Smartt, 129 F.3d
539, 540 (10th Cir. 1997) (quotation omitted). Once a sentence “has been imposed,” §3582(c)
generally prohibits a district court from “modify[ing] a term of imprisonment.” Congress grants
the district courts authority to modify a final sentence only if it is: (1) upon motion by the Director
of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; (2) on its own motion if the applicable sentencing guideline has
been reduced; or (3) pursuant to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 35. A final sentence is
only modifiable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 35 if: “(1) it has been vacated and remanded; (2) the
government moves to reduce it; or (3) the district court acts within seven days of the original
sentence.” Whitt’s current request does not appear to fall under this category either.
That said, Whitt attempts to circumvent these limitations so as to permit a sentence
reduction in the “interest of fairness,” citing to Holloway, 68 F.Supp. 3d at 11. In Holloway, the
district court permitted a sentence reduction in the “spirit of fairness,” using the authority of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) to revisit the defendant's excessive sentence. 68 F. Supp. 3d
at 311, 314. The defendant in Holloway stole three cars at gunpoint over the course of two days.
Id. at 312. Each carjacking was charged as a separate count, accompanied by three separate charges
for crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) for use of a gun during each carjacking. Id.
Holloway went to trial and was convicted on all counts. Id. Under the then-mandatory Sentencing
Guidelines, he was sentenced to 151 months in prison for the carjacking counts. Id. He was also
sentenced to mandatory consecutive sentences on the three § 924(c) counts: 5 years for the first
conviction and 20 years each for the other two convictions. Id. The § 924(c) sentences were
required by statute to run consecutively to each other and to the carjacking sentence, which resulted
in a total sentence of 691 months, or 57 years and 7 months. Id. at 312-313. Both the Second
Circuit and the United States Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence. Id. at 313.
The district court denied Holloway's § 2255 petition, and the Second Circuit declined to issue a
certificate of appealability. Id. The Second Circuit also denied Holloway's request to file a
successive § 2255 petition. Id. at 313-14.
After serving approximately twenty years of his sentence, Holloway filed a motion to
reopen his § 2255 proceeding under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on
the unduly harsh sentence produced from the mandatory “stacking” of the § 924(c) counts. Id. at
314. District Judge John Gleeson, the sentencing judge, thereafter asked the United States Attorney
to “consider exercising her discretion to agree to an order vacating two or more of Holloway's 18
U.S.C. § 924(c) convictions” so he could face a more just resentencing. Id. After initially declining
Judge Gleeson's request, the United States Attorney ultimately agreed to withdraw her objection
to Holloway's Rule 60(b) motion and agreed to the vacating of two of Holloway's § 924(c)
convictions, so that Judge Gleeson could resentence Holloway based on the remaining convictions.
Id. at 314-16.
In this case, Whitt now relies on the Holloway Doctrine in requesting his conviction be
vacated and his sentence be reduced to be more fair and just. No Circuit Court has yet addressed
Holloway. And, the one consistent theme for the Courts that have addressed the Holloway decision
is that unless the government acquiesces to the reduction, there is no jurisdiction for the district
court to reduce the defendant’s sentence. See, e.g., Wade v. United States, 2015 WL 7732834, at
*2 (D. Md. Nov. 30, 2015) (finding “no basis to apply the benefits of the Holloway decision, a
New York federal district court ruling, to Wade's criminal cases”); Acuna v. United States, 2016
WL 3747531 (D. Hawaii, July 8, 2016) (declining to follow Holloway and noting “Holloway is
contingent on the Government’s acquiescence”); United States v. Horton, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
78611, at *3 (E.D.N.C. June 16, 2016) (viewing the Holloway Doctrine as not so much a doctrine,
but as “a single case carrying no precedential weight in this court.”); Brown v. United States, 2016
WL 4745822 (N.D. Ohio, September 13, 2016) (denying request for relief under Holloway for
lack of jurisdiction and indicating that even if considered a 2255 petition, no relief followed unless
the government acquiesced); United States v. James Earl Smith, Jr., 2017 WL 2889307 (M.D. FL.,
July 7, 2017) (court has no authority to grant the relief sought by defendant and denying request
of modification); James v. United States, 2017 WL 2992093, at *2 (E.D.N.C. July 13, 2017);
United States v. Gonzalez, 2017 WL 4022797 (D. Conn. September 13, 2017); But see United
States v. Ezell, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 109814, at *39 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 18, 2015) (encouraging the
prosecutor to request a reduction of the defendant's sentence as in Holloway); United States v.
Ledezma-Rodriguez, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2017 WL 1368983 (S.D. Iowa, April 10, 2017) (denying
request for lack of jurisdiction but requesting the prosecuting U.S. Attorney to revisit the case
with a “critical eye” noting that it would be a “laudable course…to consider taking any available
steps toward the remedy of the inauspicious and undeserving fate that has befallen this
To the extent, Whitt believes the Holloway Doctrine aids his cause, the Court declines to
apply it here for several reasons. First, Holloway is a district court decision from another
jurisdiction and has no controlling effect on this court. Second, a threshold requirement for its
application is that the Government must agree to a reduced sentence. Here, the Government does
not agree to a reduction of Whitt’s sentence. The Government notes that there is nothing unduly
harsh about Whitt’s sentence which was based, for the most part, on his extensive criminal history
and enhancements for his leadership role in the offense. Accordingly, even if the Court broadly
interpreted Holloway and determined it had some basis for application here, this Court has no
authority to grant Whitt’s entreaty for mercy, absent the Government's agreement. The Motion
must therefore be DENIED.
Based on the foregoing, the Petitioner’s “Motion to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. §2255
Applying Holloway Doctrine” [DE 231] is DENIED.
This 13th day of November, 2017
s/ William C. Lee
United States District Court
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?