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United States v. Quarles

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

November 2, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Jesse James Quarles, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

         This matter is before the court on Defendant Jesse James Quarles' (“Defendant”) Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 49.) The United States of America (“Government”) opposed Defendant's Motion, and contemporaneously requested summary judgment. (ECF No. 52.)

         A prisoner in federal custody under sentence of a federal court may petition the court that imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The prisoner may be entitled to relief upon a showing: (1) that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; and (4) that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. Id. A defendant collaterally attacking his sentence or conviction pursuant to § 2255 bears the burden of proving his grounds for collateral attack by a preponderance of the evidence. White v. United States, 352 F.Supp.2d 684, 686 (E.D. Va. 2004) (citing Miller v. United States, 261 F.2d 546 (4th Cir. 1958)). In ruling on a § 2255 motion, the court may dismiss the motion without a hearing where “it plainly appears from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings, that the moving party is not entitled to relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) (noting that a hearing is not required on a § 2255 motion if the record of the case conclusively shows that Defendant is entitled to no relief).

         After reviewing the parties' respective memoranda and the record of the underlying proceedings, the court determines that an evidentiary hearing is unnecessary. For the reasons set forth herein, the court DENIES Defendant's Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF No. 49), and GRANTS the Government's request for summary judgment (ECF No. 52 at 12).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 8, 2014, Defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm. (ECF No. 2.) On September 19, 2014, Defendant and the Government entered into a plea agreement in which Defendant agreed to plead guilty to the indicted charge. (ECF No. 28.) On October 21, 2014, Defendant entered a guilty plea before the court. (ECF No. 32.)

         A Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) was then prepared by the U.S. Probation Office. (ECF No. 35.) The PSR determined that Defendant was an armed career criminal based on three prior convictions for second-degree burglary. (Id. at ¶ 39.) Defendant's predicate convictions for second-degree burglary, along with his other prior convictions, produced a criminal history score of twenty-three points, resulting in a level VI criminal history category. (Id. at ¶ 51, 52.) His base offense level was fourteen, which was increased by four additional levels because he possessed the firearm in connection with another felony offense. (Id. at ¶¶ 67, 68.)

         Because Defendant had at least three prior convictions for violent felonies, making him an armed career criminal within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.4, his offense level became 34. (Id. at ¶ 73.) This was reduced by three levels based on acceptance of responsibility. (Id. at ¶¶ 74, 75.) Because Defendant was an armed career criminal, under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) he was subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). His guideline range was 188 to 235 months. (Id. at ¶ 96.)

         A sentencing hearing was held on April 15, 2015. (ECF No. 44.) Prior to the hearing, Defendant filed objections to the PSR challenging the convictions detailed in paragraph 39 of the PSR. (ECF No. 37.) After hearing arguments from Defendant and the Government regarding the objections and memoranda, the court sentenced Defendant to 180 months of imprisonment. (ECF No. 45.) The court entered judgement on April 17, 2015. (ECF No. 45.) Defendant did not make any direct appeal of the judgment. (ECF No. 52 at 3.)

         On February 19, 2016, Defendant filed a Section 2255 motion, asserting that he was improperly charged as a career criminal. (ECF No. 49.) Specifically, Defendant contends that his three prior burglary convictions are not violent felonies. (Id. at 3.)

         On April 5, 2016, the Government filed a response in opposition to Defendant's Motion, asserting that Defendant's prior second-degree burglary convictions qualify as violent felonies under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), and Defendant was correctly sentenced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). (ECF No. 52.)

         On May 16, 2016, Defendant filed a reply to the Government's Response, adding the argument that the 2016 amendment to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) removes burglary of a dwelling from the definition of a crime of violence, and contends that it is unjust to prevent him from the relief that other defendants will receive in the future. (ECF No. 54 at 3.)

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. The Armed Career Criminal Act

         Under the ACCA, an individual convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), with three previous convictions for violent felonies or serious drug offenses, is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). The ...


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