STOKES v. USA
ENTRY denying motion for relief pursuant to 28:2255 and denying certificate of appealability. This Entry shall also be entered on the docket in the underlying criminal action 1:11-cr-2-WTL-KPF-1. Signed by Judge William T. Lawrence on 2/23/2017 (dist made)(CBU)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Entry Denying Motion for Relief Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255
and Denying Certificate of Appealability
For the reasons explained in this Entry, the motion of Robert Stokes (“Mr. Stokes”) for
relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be denied and the action dismissed with prejudice. In
addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.
I. The § 2255 Motion
On August 31, 2011, Mr. Stokes was convicted in No. 1:11-cr-0002-WTL-KPF-1 of
possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), and
of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Mr. Stokes was
sentenced to 60 months imprisonment on the § 924(c) offense and to 96 months on the §
922(g)(1) offense, to be served consecutively. No appeal from this disposition was filed.
This is Mr. Stokes’ first motion to vacate. It was placed in the prison mailing system on
April 11, 2016, and filed with the Clerk on April 18, 2016. The United States has responded to
the § 2255 motion by arguing that Mr. Stokes’ challenge based on Johnson v United States, 135
S. Ct. 2551 (2015) warrants no relief.
A motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) is the presumptive means by which a federal
prisoner can challenge his conviction or sentence. See Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343
(1974). The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 establishes a one-year statute
of limitations period for § 2255 motions, 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). For purposes of § 2255(f)(1), that
period runs from “the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final.” A judgment of
conviction becomes final when the conviction is affirmed on direct review or when the time for
perfecting an appeal expires. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522, 527 (2003).
Mr. Stokes’ judgment of conviction was entered on the clerk’s docket on August 31,
2011. The last day on which a timely notice of appeal could have been filed was September 14,
2011. The motion to vacate was filed three years and seven months after the general one year
statute of limitations expired. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1).
Although the parties do not address the statute of limitations issue directly, Mr. Stokes
argues, as his only claim, that the decision in Johnson renders his sentence unlawful. Johnson
was decided on June 26, 2015, and the one year statute of limitation begins from the date a
constitutional right is first recognized by the Supreme Court and is made retroactively applicable
to cases on collateral review. 28. U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3). The Supreme Court has found its holding
in Johnson is retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. United States v. Welch, 136
S. Ct. 1257 (2016). If Mr. Stokes’ claim falls within the scope of the Johnson decision, it would
not be time barred. See Stanley v. United States, 827 F.3d 562 (7th Cir. 2016).
Mr. Stokes’ reliance on § 2255(f)(3) and Johnson to overcome the limitations bar,
however, is misplaced. Johnson has no bearing on his case.
“Johnson holds that part of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) is unconstitutional.” Stanley,
827 F.3d at 564. “Subsection 924(e), called the Armed Career Criminal Act, requires longer
sentences for persons convicted of three or more violent felonies or serious drug offenses.” Id.
Subsection 924(e)(2)(B)(ii) “classifies as a violent felony any crime that ‘is burglary, arson, or
extortion, involves use of explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious
potential risk of physical injury to another.’” Id. (quoting section 924(e)(2)(B)(ii))(emphasis
added). The part of the clause that is italicized in the preceding sentence is the “residual clause,”
which Johnson declared is unconstitutionally vague.
Mr. Stokes’ conviction of illegal possession of a firearm has “never qualified as a violent
felony” and therefore is “unaffected by Johnson.” Stanley, 827 F.3d at 565. Mr. Stokes’ prior
convictions on which his § 922(g) “felon in possession” conviction was based were drug and
firearm offenses. Of most significance is the fact that Mr. Stokes was not sentenced under the
ACCA nor was his sentence enhanced in any way by a crime of violence. The residual clause of
the ACCA simply did not come into play when Mr. Stokes was sentenced.
Because Johnson does not render Mr. Stokes’ sentence unlawful, and in fact, does not
apply at all to his convictions, he is not granted “a fresh window to file a collateral attack.”
Stanley, 827 F.3d at 565. Mr. Stokes’ § 2255 motion is time-barred.
The foregoing circumstances show that Mr. Stokes is not entitled to relief pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255. The motion for relief pursuant to § 2255 is therefore denied. Judgment consistent
with this Entry shall now issue.
This Entry shall also be entered on the docket in the underlying criminal action, No.
II. Certificate of Appealability
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(b), Rule 11(a) of the Rules
Governing ' 2255 Proceedings, and 28 U.S.C. ' 2253(c), the Court finds that Mr. Stokes has
failed to show that reasonable jurists would find it “debatable whether the district court was
correct in its procedural ruling.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). The Court
therefore denies a certificate of appealability.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge
United States District Court
Southern District of Indiana
Electronically registered counsel
Robert Stokes, 09834-028, USP-TERRE HAUTE, Inmate Mail/Parcels, P.O. BOX 33, Terre
NOTE TO CLERK: PROCESSING THIS DOCUMENT REQUIRES ACTIONS IN ADDITION TO DOCKETING AND DISTRIBUTION.
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