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Williams v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

September 28, 2016

Kenneth Lamont Williams, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, United States District Judge.

         Kenneth Lamont Williams (“Petitioner”), a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“Motion to Vacate”) (ECF No. 2129). The United States (the “Government”) has filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 2171), which this Court construes as a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court grants the Government's motion in part and orders additional briefing.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Petitioner was one of twenty-five defendants named in an eighty-five count third superseding indictment. Attorney William Runyon represented Petitioner. In December 2012, Petitioner pled guilty after entering into a plea agreement with the Government. In the agreement, Petitioner agreed to waive his right to make any claims on direct appeal or in a § 2255 motion, except for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct. In June 2013, the Court sentenced Petitioner to 360 months in prison.[1] Petitioner then appealed his convictions and sentence. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. United States v. Williams, 595 F.App'x 238 (4th Cir. 2015) (per curiam).

         Petitioner filed his § 2255 motion on February 25, 2016. The Court ordered the Government to file a response, and on May 16, the Government filed its motion. In addition to arguing that Petitioner's claims lack merit, the Government also argued that Petitioner waived his claims by pleading guilty. Petitioner filed a partial response on June 30, addressing only the Government's waiver arguments and requesting the opportunity to submit further briefing on any claims that the Court finds are not waived.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         Petitioner proceeds under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides, in relevant part:

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 . . . may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). On a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to § 2255, the petitioner bears the burden of proving the grounds for collateral attack by a preponderance of the evidence. Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546, 547 (4th Cir. 1958). In deciding a § 2255 motion, the district court need not hold a hearing if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         To grant a motion for summary judgment, the court must find that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The judge is not to weigh the evidence but rather must determine if there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). All evidence should be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Perini Corp. v. Perini Constr., Inc., 915 F.2d 121, 124 (4th Cir. 1990). “[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non- moving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate.” Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1991).

         In applying this standard, the court is mindful that pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, see Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). The liberal construction requirement, however, does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         ANALYSIS

         At this juncture, the Court addresses only the Government's waiver arguments and Petitioner's responses thereto. The Government contends Petitioner waived many of his claims by signing the plea agreement. Petitioner does not dispute that the plea agreement's waiver provision is ...


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