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Gaston v. United States

United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Florence Division

April 7, 2015

Travis Keon Gaston, Aka Trevis Keon Gaston Petitioner,
United States of America, Respondent. Criminal Action No. 4:12-cr-822-RBH-2


R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Travis Keon Gaston’s (“Petitioner’s”) Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence (“Motion to Vacate”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, see ECF No. 142. Petitioner is represented by the Federal Public Defender’s office for purposes of this motion to vacate. For the following reasons, Petitioner’s Motion to Vacate is dismissed.[1]

Procedural History and Factual Background

On October 23, 2012, a federal grand jury returned a three count indictment against Petitioner. See Indictment, ECF No. 2. The indictment charged Petitioner with three firearm offenses. See id. at 1–4.

On May 29, 2013, Petitioner entered into a written plea agreement. See Plea Agreement, ECF No. 77. In the plea agreement, Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to Count 2 of the indictment, and in exchange the Government agreed to move for a downward departure pursuant to United States Sentencing Guideline (“USSG”) § 5K1.1, 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), or Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) if it deemed Petitioner’s cooperation to constitute substantial assistance. See Id. at 6–7. On September 11, 2013, the Court sentenced Petitioner to a total term of 92 months. See Minute Entry, ECF No. 120; Judgment, ECF No. 123.

An appeal has not been filed in this matter. However, on April 25, 2014, Petitioner filed the instant Motion to Vacate. See ECF No. 142. At the Government’s request, the matter was stayed pending the Fourth Circuit’s en banc review of the panel’s decision in Whiteside v. United States, 748 F.3d 541 (4th Cir. 2014). On December 19, 2014, the Fourth Circuit issued its en banc decision in Whiteside, see 775 F.3d 180 (4th Cir. 2014). Accordingly, on December 29, 2014, the Court lifted the stay and directed the Government to file a response. The Government filed a motion to dismiss Petitioner’s motion to vacate on January 9, 2015. See ECF No. 152.

Petitioner’s Motion to Vacate alleges the following ground for relief:

Ground 1: The defendant was erroneously found to have a prior conviction for a crime of violence, ABHAN, thereby increasing his offense level under U.S.S.G. Section 2K2.1 to Offense Level 20.

ECF No. 142 at 5.

Applicable Law[2]

Prisoners in federal custody may attack the validity of their sentences pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In order to move the court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence under § 2255, a petitioner must prove that one of the following occurred: (1) a sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such a sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

In deciding a motion to vacate, the court may summarily dismiss the motion “[i]f it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings 4(b); see 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (a hearing is not required on a § 2255 motion if the record of the case conclusively shows that petitioner is entitled to no relief). An evidentiary hearing “is required when a movant presents a colorable [] claim showing disputed material facts and a credibility determination is necessary to resolve the issue.” United States v. Coon, 205 Fed. App’x 972, 973 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing United States v. Witherspoon, 231 F.3d 923, 925–27 (4th Cir. 2000)). However, a hearing is not required unless the claim shows “disputed facts involving inconsistencies beyond the record.” United States v. Robinson, 238 Fed. App’x 954, 955 (4th Cir. 2007). Conclusory allegations contained within affidavits do not require a hearing. Strong v. Johnson, 495 F.3d 134, 139–40 (4th Cir. 2007). “Thus, no hearing is required 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.’” Arredondo v. United States, 178 F.3d 778, 782 (6th Cir. 1999) (quoting Engelen v. United States, 68 F.3d 238, 240 (8th Cir. 1995)).


Petitioner contends that in light of the original panel decision in Whiteside, United States v. Hemingway, 734 F.3d 323 (4th Cir. 2013), and Descamps v. United States, ___U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), his base offense level was incorrectly determined due to the conclusion that his prior conviction for Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature (“ABHAN”) was a crime of violence. See ECF No. 142-1 at 1. Petitioner contends that, based on the ...

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