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Salaam v. United States

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

May 28, 2019

Kareem Abdul Salaam, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          ORDER

          R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Kareem Abdul Salaam's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF No. 162. The Court denies the motion for the reasons herein.[1]

         Background

          In March 2007, Petitioner pled guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement to (1) one count of carjacking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119; (2) two counts of Hobbs Act robbery and aiding and abetting the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 1951; and (3) one count of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to, and possessing the firearm in furtherance of, a crime of violence-namely, one of the Hobbs Act robberies-and aiding and abetting the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c)(1)(A). See ECF Nos. 86, 96, 101, & 102. In May 2007, the Court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate term of 348 months' imprisonment followed by five years' supervised release. See ECF Nos. 114 & 118. Judgment was entered on May 29, 2007. See ECF No. 118. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal. In 2008, Petitioner filed a pro se § 2255 motion, which this Court denied in 2009. See ECF Nos. 124, 139, & 140.

         On June 20, 2016, Petitioner (represented by the Federal Public Defender) filed a motion in the Fourth Circuit seeking authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), as made retroactive by Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). See In re Salaam, No. 16-9356, at ECF No. 2 (4th Cir. filed June 20, 2016).[2] On June 27, 2016, the Fourth Circuit granted the motion, and Petitioner's instant § 2255 motion was docketed the same day. See ECF Nos. 161 & 162. The Government filed a response in opposition and a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 167 & 168. Petitioner filed a response in opposition to the Government's motion as well as an attachment containing supplemental authority.[3]See ECF Nos. 171 & 172.

         Legal Standard

         A prisoner in federal custody may attack the validity of his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 by filing a motion in the court that imposed the sentence. For a court to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence, a petitioner must prove one of the following occurred: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court lacked jurisdiction to impose the sentence; (3) the sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a).

         The district court need not hold an evidentiary hearing on a § 2255 motion 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); see United States v. Thomas, 627 F.3d 534, 538 (4th Cir. 2010). The determination of whether to hold an evidentiary hearing ordinarily is left to the sound discretion of the district court. Raines v. United States, 423 F.2d 526, 530 (4th Cir. 1970). “When the district court denies § 2255 relief without an evidentiary hearing, the nature of the court's ruling is akin to a ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” United States v. Poindexter, 492 F.3d 263, 267 (4th Cir. 2007).

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Rule 12, Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings (“The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure . . ., to the extent that they are not inconsistent with any statutory provisions or these rules, may be applied to a proceeding under these rules.”). “A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record . . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). “The evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, with all reasonable inferences drawn in that party's favor. The court therefore cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations.” Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., 789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted).

         Discussion

          Petitioner challenges his § 924(c) conviction by arguing Hobbs Act robbery is not a predicate “crime of violence” in light of Johnson and Welch, supra. See ECF Nos. 162 & 171. The Government moves for summary judgment by arguing Petitioner's claim is untimely, is procedurally defaulted, and fails on the merits. See ECF Nos. 167 & 168.

         “Federal law, as codified at 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), provides that a person who uses or carries a firearm “during and in relation to any crime of violence” or who “possesses a firearm” “in furtherance of any such crime” may be convicted of both the underlying crime (here, Hobbs Act [robbery]) and the additional, distinct crime of utilizing a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence, ” with the latter punishable by at least five consecutive years of imprisonment.” United States v. Simms, 914 F.3d 229, 233 (4th Cir. 2019) (en banc). Section 924(c)(3) defines “the term ‘crime of violence'” as “an offense that is a felony” and:

(A) has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, or
(B) that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of ...

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