Baxter v. United States of America
MEMORANDUM OPINION OF THE COURT. Signed by District Judge Aleta A. Trauger on 10/24/2017. (DOCKET TEXT SUMMARY ONLY-ATTORNEYS MUST OPEN THE PDF AND READ THE ORDER.)(jw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF TENNESSEE
JONATHAN CODY BAXTER
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil No. 3:16-cv-01527
Pending before the Court are the Petitioner’s Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct
Sentence In Accordance With 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Docket No. 1); Amended Motion To Vacate,
Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence (Docket No. 2); the Government’s Response (Docket No. 6); the
Petitioner’s Reply (Docket No. 9); the Government’s Supplemental Response (Docket No. 11);
the Petitioner’s [Supplemental] Reply (Docket No. 12); and the Government’s [Second
Supplemental] Response (Docket No. 14). For the reasons set forth herein, the Petitioner’s
Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 To Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence. (Docket Nos. 1, 2)
is GRANTED. The Petitioner will be re-sentenced by separate order in Criminal Case No. 3:12cr-00224.
II. Procedural Background
The Petitioner pled guilty, before now-retired Judge William J. Haynes, Jr., to unlawful
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924, and
possession of a stolen firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(j) and 924. (Docket Nos. 4, 5, 18
in Case No. 3:12cr00224). Through the Plea Agreement, the Petitioner acknowledged that he
qualified as an Armed Career Criminal, and the parties agreed to a sentence of 180 months of
imprisonment. (Docket No. 5, at 3-5, in Case No. 3:12-cr-00224). The parties also agreed that the
Petitioner’s sentence would run concurrently to the sentences imposed in two other federal cases
in which the Petitioner entered guilty pleas on the same day. (Id., at 5-6). At the subsequent
sentencing hearing, on November 8, 2013, Judge Haynes imposed the agreed 180-month
sentence. (Docket Nos. 26, 27, 28 in Case No. 3:12cr00224). The record indicates that no appeal
A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255
The Petitioner has brought this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Section 2255
provides a statutory mechanism for challenging the imposition of a federal sentence:
A prisoner in custody under sentence of a court established by Act of Congress
claiming 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, may
move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.
28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). In order to obtain relief under Section 2255, a petitioner “‘must demonstrate
the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect
or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.’” Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855,
858 (6th Cir. 2005)(quoting Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003)).
If a factual dispute arises in a § 2255 proceeding, the court is to hold an evidentiary
hearing to resolve the dispute. Ray v. United States, 721 F.3d 758, 761 (6th Cir. 2013). An
evidentiary hearing is not required, however, if the record conclusively shows that the petitioner
is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Ray, 721 F.3d at 761; Arredondo v. United States,
178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999). A hearing is also unnecessary “if the petitioner’s allegations
‘cannot be accepted as true because they are contradicted by the record, inherently incredible, or
conclusions rather than statements of fact.’” Id.
Having reviewed the pleadings, briefs, and records filed in the Petitioner's underlying
criminal case, as well as the filings in this case, the court finds it unnecessary to hold an
evidentiary hearing to resolve the Petitioner’s claims.
B. Johnson v. United States
Relying on Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 192 L. Ed. 2d 569
(2015), the Petitioner argues that his prior convictions for aggravated burglary and arson were
improperly considered to be “violent felonies” under the ACCA and that he no longer qualifies to
be sentenced as an Armed Career Criminal. In Johnson, the Supreme Court held that the socalled “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), is
unconstitutionally vague. The ACCA imposes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for
defendants convicted of certain firearms offenses who have three previous convictions for a
“violent felony” or a “serious drug offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The “residual clause” is part
of the definition of “violent felony,” as set forth below in italics:
(2) As used in this subsection–
(B) the term “violent felony” means any crime punishable by
imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, or any act of juvenile
delinquency involving the use or carrying of a firearm, knife, or
destructive device that would be punishable by imprisonment for
such term if committed by an adult, that –
(i) has as an element the use, attempted use, or
threatened use of physical force against the person
of another; or
(ii) is burglary, arson, or extortion, involves use of
explosives, or otherwise involves conduct that
presents a serious potential risk of physical injury
to another. . .
(emphasis added). In Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), the Supreme Court held
that the Johnson decision announced a substantive rule that applies retroactively on collateral
After the Petitioner filed his Motion To Vacate, the Sixth Circuit issued a decision
holding that a conviction for aggravated burglary under Tennessee law does not qualify as a
“violent felony” under the ACCA. United States v. Stitt, 860 F.3d 854 (6th Cir. 2017). Based on
the Stitt decision, the Government concedes that the Petitioner’s aggravated burglary convictions
no longer qualify as violent felonies under the ACCA. (Docket No. 14). Consequently, the
Government agrees that the Petitioner is entitled to be re-sentenced, and represents that the
parties are attempting to reach a negotiated settlement.
Based on the decisions in Johnson and Stitt and in light of the Government’s Response,
the court agrees that the Petitioner no longer qualifies as an Armed Career Criminal and that he is
entitled to be re-sentenced. Accordingly, the Motion To Vacate is GRANTED, and the Petitioner
will be re-sentenced by separate order in Criminal Case No. 3:12cr00224.
ENTER this 24th day of October 2017.
ALETA A. TRAUGER
U.S. District Judge
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