Apodaca v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge William P. Johnson ADOPTING 23 Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition; DENYING 1 Motion to Vacate/Set Aside/Correct Sentence (2255 under Johnson v. USA) and DISMISSING this case with prejudice. Additionally, a Certificate of Appealability is DENIED. (kg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. CV 16-572 WJ/CG
No. CR 06-1528 WJ
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE’S
PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION
THIS MATTER is before the Court on United States Magistrate Judge Carmen E.
Garza’s Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (the “PFRD”), (CV Doc. 23),
filed July 6, 2017; and Petitioner David Apodaca’s Objections to the Magistrate’s
Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (the “Objections”), (CV Doc. 26),
filed August 21, 2017.1 In the PFRD, the Magistrate Judge recommended denying
Petitioner’s Motion to Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) (the “Motion”), (CV Doc. 1), filed June 14, 2016, following the United States
Supreme Court’s decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S. Ct. 886 (2017). (CV Doc.
23 at 8).
The parties were notified that written objections to the PFRD were due within 14
days. Id. Petitioner timely objected. (CV Doc. 26). Respondent did not object to the
PFRD or respond to Petitioner’s Objections, and the time for doing so has passed.
Following a de novo review of the PFRD, the Objections, and the record, the Court will
overrule Petitioner’s Objections, adopt the PFRD, and deny Petitioner’s Motion.
Citations to “CV Doc. __” refer to documents in case number CV 16-572 WJ/CG. Citations to “CR Doc.
__” refer to documents in case number CR 06-1528 WJ.
This case arises from Petitioner’s guilty plea and sentence, but it has come to
involve questions regarding advisory sentence range calculations, the interplay between
precedent from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, and the
Court’s understanding of its own discretion. On September 7, 2007, Petitioner pled
guilty pursuant to a Fed. R. Crim. P. Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement to two counts:
conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess with intent to distribute controlled
substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession with intent to distribute
more than 500 grams of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
(b)(1)(A). (CR Doc. 253 at 2). Petitioner’s pre-sentence report (“PSR”) calculated
Petitioner’s advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.” or “Guidelines”)
range as 292 to 365 months based on Petitioner’s adjusted offense level of 35 and
criminal history category VI. (CR Doc. 566 at 2; CV Doc. 21 at 2). The PSR calculated
this range based on the amount of methamphetamine involved, the firearms found at
Petitioner’s residence, and Petitioner’s role in directing or managing another, which
resulted in an adjusted offense level of 38, and a three-level reduction for Petitioner’s
acceptance of responsibility. (CV Doc. 1 at 3).
The PSR also considered whether Petitioner was a “career offender” under
Guidelines § 4B1. Id. Although the PSR determined that Petitioner was a career
offender, the PSR found that irrelevant because Petitioner’s career offender offense
level, 37, was lower than the adjusted offense level it previously calculated. Id.; see
Guidelines § 4B1.1(b) (providing “. . . if the offense level for a career offender from the
table in this subsection is greater than the offense level otherwise applicable, the
offense level from the table in this subsection shall apply.”). Accordingly, the PSR used
an adjusted offense level of 35 and a range of 292-365 months, rather than the lower
offense level and range under the career offender enhancement.
Contrary to the advisory range calculated in the PSR, the parties stipulated to a
240-month sentence. (CR Doc. 566 at 3). Importantly, the parties calculated Petitioner’s
sentence differently than the PSR. First, based on Guidelines §§ 1B1.3 and 2D1.1, the
plea agreement stated Petitioner’s base offense level was 34. Id. at 4. Like the PSR, the
parties then added two levels under § 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a dangerous
weapon and subtracted three levels under § 3E1.1 because Petitioner accepted
personal responsibility for his criminal conduct, for an adjusted offense level of 33. Id. at
5; see (CR Doc. 417 at 4). The plea agreement does not cite Guidelines § 4B1.1 or
mention a career offender enhancement.
At the sentencing hearing, the Court asked how the parties arrived at a 240month sentence. (CR Doc. 417 at 4). Respondent explained the discrepancy was based
on Respondent not including the two-level increase for a managing/directing role
adjustment. Id. Petitioner’s Guidelines range based on offense level 33 was 235 to 293
months, and 240 months was within that range. Id. Neither party mentioned the career
offender enhancement or whether it figured into their calculation. In the end, the Court
found the PSR correctly determined Petitioner’s offense level, Guideline range, and
Petitioner’s career offender status. Id. at 10. However, based on its review of the PSR
and the parties’ representations, the Court was satisfied that the stipulated sentence
departed from the Guidelines range for justifiable reasons and accepted the plea
agreement. Id. at 11.
On June 10, 2016, Petitioner filed his Motion, arguing he was unconstitutionally
sentenced as a career offender. (CR Doc. 580; CV Doc. 1 at 1). Petitioner argues that
under Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), the “residual clause” in the
definition of “career offender” is unconstitutionally vague and that he was deemed a
career offender in reliance on the clause; therefore, he is entitled to be resentenced.
(CV Doc. 1 at 6-16). Specifically, Petitioner claims his conviction for conspiracy to
commit escape is not a “crime of violence” under the Guidelines except under the
residual clause, which Johnson declared unconstitutionally vague. Id. at 13-16.
Petitioner asks that, upon resentencing, he be granted relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c).
Id. at 17; see (CR Docs. 561-76).
On March 6, 2017, the Supreme Court decided Beckles v. United States, holding
that Johnson does not apply to the advisory Guidelines. 137 S. Ct. 886, 890 (2017). The
Supreme Court distinguished the mandatory Guidelines before its decision in United
States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), and the “effectively advisory” Guidelines postBooker. Id. at 893-94. Because the advisory Guidelines “merely guide the exercise of a
court’s discretion in choosing an appropriate sentence,” the advisory Guidelines are not
subject to vagueness challenges. Id. at 892. The Beckles court left open the question
whether its decision applied to sentences entered before Booker, when the Guidelines
“fix[ed] the permissible range of sentences.” Id. at 903 n.4 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting).
Given Beckles’ holding and Petitioner’s reliance on Johnson’s application to the
Guidelines, the Court ordered supplemental briefing to address whether Petitioner’s
Motion survived Beckles. (CV Doc. 13).
Petitioner denies that Beckles is fatal to his Motion. Rather, Petitioner maintains
that “Beckles did not exempt from vagueness challenges in which the sentencing court
was obligated to apply the career offender [G]uidelines.” (CV Doc. 18 at 1). According to
Petitioner, Tenth Circuit precedent “required” district courts to apply career offender
enhancements; district courts were “bound to apply the career offender guideline and
impose a sentence within the imprisonment range dictated by that guideline.” Id. at 2, 8.
Petitioner argues district courts could not depart from the career offender enhancement
“based on general policy disagreements with the guidelines,” so the Guidelines were not
truly advisory. Id. at 9-10. Thus, Petitioner contends, even though he was sentenced
after Booker made the Guidelines advisory, Beckles does not apply to him. Id.
The Magistrate Judge disagreed and recommended denying the Motion. (CV
Doc. 23 at 8). Beckles, the Magistrate Judge reasoned, stated a bright-line rule: the
post-Booker, advisory Guidelines, including the career offender enhancement, are not
subject to vagueness challenges. Id. at 7-8; Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 892 (“Accordingly,
the Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process
Clause. The residual clause in § 4B1.2(a)(2) is not void for vagueness.”). The
Magistrate Judge found that the career offender enhancement was not mandatory such
that Beckles did not apply to Petitioner. (CV Doc. 23 at 5-8).
Petitioner has timely objected to the PFRD. In his Objections, Petitioner argues
again that “when he was sentenced the career offender guidelines were mandatory” in
the Tenth Circuit “and necessarily fixed the guideline imprisonment range;” district
courts were “expected to impose the imprisonment term fixed by the career offender
guidelines.” (CV Doc. 26 at 1). That Booker made the Guidelines advisory “does not
matter,” Petitioner states, because the Tenth Circuit treated the career offender
enhancement as mandatory. Id. at 2. Petitioner relies on the holdings and histories of
five cases: Gall v. U.S., 552 U.S. 38 (2007); Kimbrough v. U.S., 552 U.S. 85 (2007);
U.S. v. Garcia-Lara, 499 F.3d 1133 (10th Cir. 2007), judgement vacated and remanded
by Garcia-Lara v. U.S., 553 U.S. 1016 (2008); U.S v. Friedman, 554 F.3d 1301 (10th
Cir. 2009); and U.S. v. Vasquez, 558 F.3d 1224 (11th Cir. 2009), judgement vacated
and remanded by Vazquez v. U.S., 558 U.S. 1144 (2010). Id. at 2-6. Petitioner contends
these cases prove that when he was sentenced “the career offender guideline
imprisonment range fixed the imprisonment range the court was expected to impose.”
Id. at 6.
As further explained below, the Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge that
Beckles bars Petitioner’s claim that the Guidelines residual clause is unconstitutionally
vague. Furthermore, the cases Petitioner relies on do not show that the Guidelines were
effectively mandatory in the Tenth Circuit post-Booker. Finally, even though the Tenth
Circuit remanded some cases for resentencing following intervening authority from the
Supreme Court, Petitioner is not entitled to resentencing under the facts and
circumstances in this case.
a. Law Regarding Objections
Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the
United States District Courts, a district judge may, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), refer a
pretrial dispositive motion to a magistrate judge for proposed findings of fact and
recommendations for disposition. Within fourteen days of being served, a party may file
objections to this recommendation. Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255
Proceedings for the United States District Courts. A party may respond to another
party’s objections within fourteen days of being served with a copy; the rule does not
provide for a reply. FED. R. CIV. P. Rule 72(b).
When resolving objections to a magistrate judge’s recommendation, the district
judge must make a de novo determination regarding any part of the recommendation to
which a party has properly objected. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Filing objections that
address the primary issues in the case “advances the interests that underlie the
Magistrate’s Act, including judicial efficiency.” U.S. v. One Parcel of Real Prop., With
Bldgs., Appurtenances, Improvements, & Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir.
1996). Objections must be timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review
by the district court or for appellate review. Id. at 1060. Additionally, issues “raised for
the first time in objections to the magistrate judge’s recommendation are deemed
waived.” Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 (10th Cir. 1996); see also U.S. v.
Garfinkle, 261 F.3d 1030, 1030-31 (10th Cir. 2001) (“In this circuit, theories raised for
the first time in objections to the magistrate judge’s report are deemed waived.”).
b. Beckles’ Effect on Petitioner’s Claims
First, the Court must address Beckles’ plain language and its effect on
Petitioner’s claims. As discussed, Petitioner’s argument is that he was deemed a career
offender based on a prior conviction for conspiracy to commit escape; that conspiracy to
commit escape is only a crime of violence based on the Guidelines residual clause; and
the Guidelines residual clause is unconstitutionally vague following Johnson. (CV Doc. 1
at 3, 13-16). Therefore, Petitioner argues, his sentence is unconstitutional and he is
entitled to be resentenced under § 2255(a). Id. at 6.
However, Beckles holds that the advisory Guidelines, i.e., the Guidelines postBooker, are not unconstitutionally vague. Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 892 (“Accordingly, the
Guidelines are not subject to a vagueness challenge under the Due Process Clause.
The residual clause in § 4B1.2(a)(2) is not void for vagueness.”). Petitioner was
sentenced on January 3, 2008–nearly three years after the Supreme Court made the
Guidelines “effectively advisory.” Booker, 543 U.S. at 245. Accordingly, Petitioner’s
claim that the Guidelines residual clause is unconstitutionally vague contradicts Beckles’
Petitioner claims the question Beckles left open is whether its holding applies to
cases when “the career offender guideline fixed the imprisonment range.” (CV Doc. 26
at 6). Put differently, “Beckles did not exempt from vagueness challenges cases in
which the sentencing court was obligated to apply the career offender guidelines.” (CV
Doc. 18 at 1). The problem with this argument is that it is not reflected in Beckles’ actual
language. The Supreme Court stated “the advisory Sentencing Guidelines, including
[the] residual clause, are not subject to a challenge under the void-for-vagueness
doctrine.” Beckles, 137 S. Ct. at 896. The Court did not qualify that statement by
exempting sentences following Booker where the Guidelines range was “fixed” or where
the sentencing courts felt “obligated” to apply a career offender enhancement. The only
question left open was whether the pre-Booker, mandatory Guidelines are subject to
vagueness challenges. Id. at 903 n. 4 (Sotomayor, J., dissenting) (“The Court's
adherence to the formalistic distinction between mandatory and advisory rules at least
leaves open the question whether defendants sentenced to terms of imprisonment
before our decision in [Booker]–that is, during the period in which the Guidelines did ‘fix
the permissible range of sentences,’—may mount vagueness attacks on their
sentences.”) (citation omitted). Petitioner’s case does not fit into the question Beckles
left open. Beckles’ plain language forecloses Petitioner’s claim, and any exception has
not been invited by the Supreme Court.
c. Whether the Career Offender Enhancement was Mandatory in the Tenth
Although he was sentenced after Booker, Petitioner maintains that the
Guidelines, particularly the career offender enhancement, were not “truly advisory” and
were “effectively” mandatory in the Tenth Circuit. (CV Doc. 18 at 8). Petitioner relies on
two Supreme Court cases, Gall and Kimbrough; two Tenth Circuit cases, Garcia-Lara
and Friedman; and one Eleventh Circuit case, Vasquez, for this argument. (CV Doc. 26
at 2-6). These cases are best discussed chronologically to understand Petitioner’s
First, Petitioner cites Garcia-Lara, which Petitioner argues shows that district
courts “risked reversal” for disagreeing with career offender enhancements. (CV Doc.
26 at 3-4). Garcia-Lara, which was decided on August 22, 2007, involved a defendant
who qualified as a career offender under the Guidelines. 499 F.3d at 1134. The
sentencing judge believed that the defendant’s Guidelines range of 262 to 327 months
overrepresented the defendant’s criminal history, resulting in a sentence greater than
necessary. Id. at 1135. Instead, the judge sentenced the defendant to 140 months,
which was at the bottom of the defendant’s Guidelines range without the career offender
enhancement. Id. at 1134. The government appealed that sentence as substantively
On appeal, the Tenth Circuit stated it reviews sentences under an abuse of
discretion standard. Id. at 1335-36. The court explained that a sentencing judge must
consider the factors in § 3553(a), including the advisory Guidelines range, and that a
sentencing judge abuses its discretion by ignoring the advisory Guidelines range. Id. at
1336-37. Finally, the court denied it was treating the Guidelines as mandatory, but the
court clarified that a sentencing judge must find “reasonable justification” for departing
from the advisory Guidelines range. Id. “A court’s conclusion that the Guidelines are
simply ‘wrong’ or an inadequate reflection of the statutory sentencing purposes is an
unreasonable application of the § 3553(a) factors unless the court can justify the
sentence imposed in light of the facts of the particular case considered under §
3553(a).” Id. at 1337-38. In this particular case, the Tenth Circuit held that departing
from the Guidelines “may be reasonable if there are sufficiently compelling reasons . . .
that justify the imposition of a non-Guidelines sentence,” but that the district court did
not provide any. Id. at 1140.
On December 10, 2008, the Supreme Court decided both Gall and Kimbrough. In
Gall, the Supreme Court rejected “an appellate rule that requires ‘extraordinary’
circumstances to justify a sentence outside the Guidelines range.” 552 U.S. at 47. This
approach, the court explained, “come[s] too close to creating an impermissible
presumption of unreasonableness for sentences outside the Guidelines range.” Id. In
Kimbrough, the question presented was whether a sentence outside the Guidelines
range is per se unreasonable when the sentence is based on a judge’s disagreement
with the crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. 552 U.S. at 91. The
Supreme Court answered “no;” the Guidelines, including the cocaine Guidelines, are
advisory only, and treating the crack/powder disparity as effectively mandatory was
error. Id. As a general matter, courts may vary from the Guidelines based solely on
policy considerations, though the sentence must still be reasonable under the
sentencing factors in § 3553(a). Id. at 110-11.
The Tenth Circuit explained the effect of Gall and Kimbrough on its standard of
review in United States v. Smart, 518 F.3d 800 (10th Cir. 2008), decided March 4, 2008.
In pertinent part, the Tenth Circuit wrote that it may no longer require district courts to
support variances from the Guidelines with “extraordinary” facts. 518 F.3d at 807.
Further, Gall and Kimbrough ended the court’s “practice of permitting a variance only if
the district court ‘first distinguish[es] [the defendant’s] characteristics and history from
those of the ordinary . . . offender’ contemplated by the Guidelines.” Id. at 808 (quoting
Garcia-Lara, 499 F.3d at 1140 n. 5). Finally, the court stated it “may not conclude that
simply by diverging from the Guidelines, a district court has disregarded the policy
considerations which led the Commission to create a particular Guideline.” Id. at 809.
To do so “could lead to excessive deference to the macro-level § 3553(a)
determinations reached by the Sentencing Commission, and too little deference to the
micro-level determinations reserved for the district courts.” Id. At no point did the Smart
majority characterize its prior standard of review as treating the Guidelines as
As discussed, Petitioner was sentenced in January, 2008–one month after Gall
and Kimbrough and two months before Smart. Still, Petitioner cites two cases decided
after he was sentenced. First, Petitioner argues Friedman, 554 F.3d 1301, shows that
the Tenth Circuit treated the career offender enhancement as mandatory even after Gall
and Kimbrough. (CV Doc. 26 at 5). Like Garcia-Lara, Friedman involved a district court
who sentenced a defendant as if he were not a career offender. 554 F.3d at 1302-04.
Again, the Tenth Circuit reversed, holding the sentence was substantively unreasonable
in light of the defendant’s criminal history, the sentence’s failure to afford adequate
deterrence and protection for the public, and the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing
disparities. Id. at 1308. The Tenth Circuit stated “even given the highly deferential
abuse-of-discretion standard of review, the sentence imposed by the district court is
substantively unreasonable.” Id. The court detailed the defendant’s extensive recidivist
history, including eight bank robberies, the defendant’s lack of remorse or
understanding the impact of his crime, and his blaming the “system” rather than taking
responsibility. Id. at 1309. In conclusion, the Tenth Circuit held “there is simply nothing
in the limited record in this case to indicate, considering the totality of the
circumstances, that the sentence imposed by the district court is reasonable in light of
the factors set out in § 3553(a). Id. at 1310.
The defendant argued that “the district court simply disagreed with the career
offender provisions of the Guidelines, something it [was] entitled to do” following
Kimbrough. Id. at 1311. However, the district court did not say it disagreed with career
offender enhancements or that it did not believe career offender enhancements did not
accord with § 3553(a). Id. Rather, the district court stated “‘[u]nder the nature of the
offense and the characteristics of the individual, [the defendant] might not be regarded
as a career offender and would be given a sentence of 57 months.’” Id. The Tenth
Circuit found “[t]his exceedingly limited and ambiguous statement . . . simply does not
support [the defendant’s] assertion that the district court believed the career offender
guideline poorly reflected the statutory considerations set out in § 3553(a).” Id.
In a footnote, the court elaborated on this point, stating it declined to decide how
it “should review district court sentences based simply on a policy disagreement with the
Guidelines.” Id. at 1311 n.13. The court noted the difference between the crack cocaine
Guidelines at issue in Kimbrough with the career offender enhancement. Id. Again
though, the Friedman court did not hold that district courts may not depart from career
offender enhanced Guidelines ranges based on policy disagreement. Still, Petitioner
argues district courts were “warned” not to depart from the career offender
enhancement in Friedman. (CV Doc. 26 at 5).
Finally, Petitioner cites Vasquez for the proposition that career offender
enhancements were mandatory and not merely advisory. Id. at 6-7. In Vasquez, the
Eleventh Circuit explicitly held that district courts were not permitted to consider their
disagreement with career offender enhancements when sentencing. 558 F.3d at 1228.
The court reasoned that Kimbrough applied only to the cocaine Guidelines and not to
career offender enhancements. Id. Further, the court noted the First, Seventh, and
Eighth Circuits agreed with it on this point. Id. at 1228-29.
On appeal to the Supreme Court, then-Solicitor General Elena Kagan refused to
defend the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, arguing instead that under Booker and
Kimbrough district courts may disagree with any of the Guidelines on policy grounds.
2009 WL 5423020, at *10. Solicitor General Kagan asked that the Supreme Court
remand to the Eleventh Circuit for it to reconsider its decision. Id. at *16. The Supreme
Court granted that request. Vasquez, 558 U.S. 1144. Petitioner submits that this is
when the career offender Guidelines became truly advisory. (CV Doc. 26 at 6).
Having reviewed the cases on which Petitioner relies, the Court concludes that
career offender enhancements were not “effectively mandatory” in this Circuit postBooker. Petitioner has not shown, as the Eleventh Circuit explicitly held in Vasquez, that
district courts in the Tenth Circuit could not consider their disagreement with the career
offender enhancement in imposing a sentence. Rather, in Garcia-Lara, the Tenth Circuit
held that district courts may do so, but they may do so only for “compelling reasons” or
with a “reasonable justification” for the sentence. Garcia-Lara, 499 F.3d at 1137, 1141.
Gall and Kimbrough changed that by not requiring “extraordinary circumstances” to
depart from the Guidelines. See Smart, 518 F.3d at 807 (“Moreover, although a district
court must provide reasoning sufficient to support the chosen variance, it need not
necessarily provide ‘extraordinary’ facts to justify any statutorily permissible sentencing
variance . . .”).
Contrary to Petitioner’s argument, the Tenth Circuit in Friedman followed the
Supreme Court’s mandates in Gall and Kimbrough, since the court based its holding on
the substantive unreasonableness of the defendant’s sentence, not because the district
court impermissibly ignored the career offender enhancement. See Friedman, 554 F.3d
at 1311. Again, unlike in Vasquez, the district court in Friedman did not state its
disagreement with the career offender enhancement and decline to factor that in. Id.;
see id. at 1311 n.13. Therefore, although Smart recognized that the Supreme Court
abrogated certain elements of the Tenth Circuit’s sentence review, those elements did
not make the career offender enhancement “effectively mandatory” such that
Petitioner’s claim survives Beckles.
d. Under the Facts and Circumstances of This Case, Petitioner is not entitled
to be Resentenced
Following Gall and Kimbrough, the Tenth Circuit remanded some cases for
resentencing. See, e.g., Smart, 518 F.3d 800. For instance, in United States v. Trotter,
the Tenth Circuit remanded a case to the district court for the court to clarify the basis of
its refusal to depart from a sentence based on the crack/powder disparity. 518 F.3d 773,
774 (10th Cir. 2008). The government argued that the sentencing judge was bound by
the Guidelines whether he agreed with them or not, and the Tenth Circuit could not tell
from the record whether the sentencing judge properly understood the scope of his
discretion following Gall and Kimbrough. Id. Accordingly, the Tenth Circuit remanded for
clarification. Id. In a similar case, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded where a
sentencing judge presumed a sentence within the Guidelines was reasonable and did
not have the benefit of Gall and Kimbrough. U.S. v. Leyva-Ortiz, 325 Fed. Appx. 710,
713, 717-18 (10th Cir. 2009) (unpublished).
Even though the Tenth Circuit remanded some cases for resentencing, the Tenth
Circuit only remanded for resentencing when three criteria were met: (1) the defendant
was sentenced before Gall and Kimbrough were decided; (2) a direct appeal of the
sentence had not been resolved when those cases were decided; and (3) the record
indicated that the district court may not have fully comprehended its discretion to
impose a non-Guidelines sentence. Id. at 717. Petitioner cannot meet the first or third
criteria. First, Petitioner was sentenced in January, 2008, one month after Gall and
Kimbrough were decided. Any deficiencies in how the Court understood its discretion
after Garcia-Lara were cured by Gall and Kimbrough. This alone is enough to deny
Petitioner resentencing under these criteria.
Furthermore, nothing in the record indicates the Court misunderstood its
discretion to vary from the Guidelines. Petitioner is serving a 240-month sentence
despite the fact his Guidelines range was 292 to 365 months. At the sentencing hearing,
the Court noted its discretion but stated that “nothing jump[ed] out” to the Court as
warranting a departure from the Guidelines. (CR Doc. 417 at 8-9). Nonetheless, the
Court agreed that the parties’ stipulated sentence, a 52 month departure from
Petitioner’s Guidelines range, “depart[ed] for justifiable reasons.” Id. at 11. Therefore,
even if the Tenth Circuit “expected” the Court to sentence Petitioner within the
Guidelines range, or in general the career offender Guidelines ranges were “effectively
mandatory,” the Court did not treat the career offender enhancement as mandatory in
Finally, the Court notes it is not clear whether Petitioner’s career offender status
actually impacted his sentence. As first discussed, Petitioner’s PSR ignored Petitioner’s
career offender status because his adjusted offense level was higher without the career
offender enhancement. (CV Doc. 1 at 3). Petitioner’s plea agreement does not include
any language indicating a career offender enhancement was used in calculating his
sentence for purposes of the plea agreement, and neither party mentioned a career
offender enhancement at sentencing. Accordingly, it is difficult if not impossible to say
Petitioner is correct that the Court was bound to impose the stipulated sentence if it accepted the plea
agreement, (CV Doc. 1 at 2); however the Court was also free to reject the plea agreement if it was not
satisfied with the sentence. See U.S. v. Sandoval-Enrique, No. 16-2043, __ F.3d __, 2017 WL 4002006,
at *3-6 (10th Cir. Sept. 12, 2017) (affirming district judge who rejected two plea agreements over
concerns about ineffective sentences).
the sentence in the plea agreement was “based on” a career offender enhancement.
See Freeman v. U.S., 564 U.S. 522, 535-40 (2011) (Sotomayor, J., concurring in the
judgment) (discussing determining how a sentence in a plea agreement is “based on” a
particular Guidelines range).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court concludes that Beckles forecloses
Petitioner’s claim that Johnson applies to the Guidelines and that the Guidelines
residual clause is void for vagueness. Further, although Gall and Kimbrough abrogated
Tenth Circuit law, the career offender enhancement was not “effectively mandatory” in
the Tenth Circuit post-Booker. Finally, even if Petitioner is correct that the Tenth Circuit
treated the career offender enhancement such that it was not “truly advisory,” Petitioner
is ineligible for resentencing because Petitioner’s career offender status did not affect
his ultimate sentence.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Magistrate Judge’s Proposed Findings
and Recommended Disposition, (CV Doc. 23), is ADOPTED, Petitioner’s Motion to
Correct Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), (CV Doc. 1), is
DENIED, and that this case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Additionally, a
Certificate of Appealability is DENIED.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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