United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY United States District Judge
Brown moves to vacate, set aside, or correct his federal
prison sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF Nos. 31 and
42). The United States (“Government”) has filed a
motion to dismiss (ECF No. 35). 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 in part and, consequently, dismisses Brown's
§ 2255 motion in part. Proceedings on the remaining
portion of Brown's § 2255 motion are stayed.
1999, Brown pled guilty to five charges: two counts of Hobbs
Act robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) (Counts 1
and 4); two counts of use of a firearm during and in relation
to those robberies, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)
(Counts 2 and 5); and one count of possession of a firearm
after a felony conviction, see 18 U.S.C. §
922(g) (Count 3). When Brown pled guilty, his criminal
history included two convictions in North Carolina for
robbery with a dangerous weapon and three convictions in
South Carolina for strong arm robbery. Based on that criminal
history, Brown was subject to a fifteen-year mandatory
minimum sentence on his felon-in-possession charge under the
Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). See
18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). That criminal history also
warranted designating Brown as a career offender under the
United States Sentencing Guidelines. See U.S.S.G.
§ 4A1.1(a). Finally, because Brown's two Hobbs Act
robberies constituted “crime[s] of violence”
under § 924(c), Brown faced an additional mandatory
prison term for each of his § 924(c) charges. The Court
sentenced Brown to 622 months in prison-262 months for Count
3; 240 months each as to Counts 1 and 4, to be served
concurrently with the sentence on Count 3; 60 consecutive
months on Count 2; and 300 consecutive months on Count 5.
2001, Brown filed a § 2255 motion asserting several
constitutional violations. The Court rejected most of his
arguments but found merit to his claim that his 300-month
sentence on Count 5 violated the Constitution's Ex Post
Facto clause. Accordingly, the Court reduced his sentence on
that charge to 240 months. Brown appealed. The Fourth Circuit
dismissed the appeal. Brown v. United States, 65 F.
App'x 467 (4th Cir. 2003) (per curiam).
receiving authorization from the Fourth Circuit to file a
second or successive § 2255 motion, see In re
Brown, No. 16-902 (4th Cir. June 6, 2016), Brown filed
his current § 2255 motion in June 2016. In it, he argued
that his sentences for his two § 924(c) convictions are
unconstitutional under Johnson v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 2551 (2015). The Government responded by filing a
motion to dismiss. Brown replied by amending his § 2255
motion to add challenges to his ACCA enhancement and to his
career-offender designation. As the Government's time for
responding to those new claims has expired, this matter is
now ripe for consideration.
proceeds under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which provides, in
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).
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).
explained below, Brown's challenges to his ACCA
enhancement and his career-offender designation are without
merit. His challenge to his § 924(c) convictions raises
questions that the Fourth Circuit is preparing to answer.