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West v. United States

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

November 30, 2016

Vashty West, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Vashty West moves to vacate, set aside, or correct her federal prison sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 2167). The United States (“Government”) has filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 2238). Having thoroughly reviewed the motions and the record in this case, the Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing. For the reasons stated herein, the Court grants the Government's motion and, consequently, dismisses West's § 2255 motion.

         BACKGROUND

         In March 2013, West pled guilty to one count of conspiring to possess various controlled substances with intent to distribute them, see 21 U.S.C. § 846, and to one count of using a firearm to murder a person during and in relation to that conspiracy, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), (j). In July 2013, the Court sentenced West to 240 months on the drug conspiracy charge and to 292 months on the § 924 charge. Both terms were to be served concurrently. West did not appeal.

         West filed her § 2255 motion in May 2016. The Government responded with a motion to dismiss. West filed a response to the Government's motion. Accordingly, this matter is now ripe for consideration.

         APPLICABLE LAW

         West 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 under § 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).

         In conducting the § 2255(b) review in this case, this Court is mindful that pro se filings are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and that federal courts must construe such pleadings liberally to allow the development of potentially meritorious claims, see Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980) (per curiam). The liberal construction requirement, however, does not mean courts can ignore a clear failure to allege facts that set forth claims cognizable in federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990).

         DISCUSSION

         In a ten-paragraph memorandum, West asserts that her § 924 conviction is unconstitutional after Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), that she did not in fact kill the victim or know in advance that her co-defendants planned to murder him, and that her counsel provided ineffective assistance. The Government contends West's Johnson claim lacks merit and her remaining claims are untimely. For the following reasons, the Court agrees with the Government.

         I. Timeliness of Claims

         Section 2255 sets a one-year limitation period for bringing claims. That ...


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