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White v. United States

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

October 30, 2019

Marvin Joshua White, Petitioner,
United States of America, Respondent.


          R. Bryan Harwell Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Marvin Joshua White's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See ECF No. 109. The Government has filed a motion for summary judgment. See ECF No. 127. The Court denies Petitioner's motion and grants the Government's motion for the reasons herein.[1]


         In 2015, a federal grand jury returned a seven-count indictment charging Petitioner with violations of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (Counts One through Four), 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (Count Five), 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e) (Count Six), and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Seven). See ECF No. 2.

         In September 2016, Petitioner, represented by attorney Thurmond Brooker (“plea counsel”), pled guilty to Count Five-possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine-pursuant to a written plea agreement under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). See ECF Nos. 67, 68, 69, & 94. Petitioner's presentence report (“PSR”) showed he had two prior controlled substance offenses within the meaning of the Sentencing Guidelines: (1) two 2004 South Carolina convictions for possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine[2] and (2) a 2007 federal conviction for possession with intent to distribute a quantity of not more than five grams of cocaine base. See PSR at ¶¶ 42, 50. The PSR classified him as a career offender, and his resulting Guidelines range was 188 to 235 months' imprisonment. See PSR at ¶¶ 54, 113. However, under the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, the parties agreed 180 months' imprisonment was the appropriate disposition of the case. See ECF No. 67 at p. 4.

         In April 2017, the Court accepted the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and sentenced Petitioner to 180 months' imprisonment. See ECF Nos. 67, 82, 84, & 95. Judgment was entered on April 11, 2017. See ECF No. 84. Petitioner filed a direct appeal, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and dismissed in part. See ECF Nos. 87 & 99; see also United States v. White, 707 Fed.Appx. 133 (4th Cir. 2017). The Fourth Circuit issued the mandate on March 7, 2018. See ECF No. 102.

         On January 11, 2019, [3] Petitioner filed the instant § 2255 motion. See ECF No. 109. Thereafter, plea counsel filed an affidavit addressing his representation of Petitioner. See ECF No. 122. The Government filed a response in opposition and a motion for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 127 & 128. Petitioner filed a response in opposition to the Government's motion. See ECF No. 146.

         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).


         Petitioner's § 2255 claims allege plea counsel was constitutionally ineffective. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel must be reviewed under the two-part test enunciated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). First, a petitioner must show counsel's performance was deficient and fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Id. at 687-88. Second, the petitioner must show prejudice, meaning ‚Äúthere is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the ...

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