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United States v. Gaines

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

May 8, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
DONAZE GAINES, Defendant-Petitioner.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR RELIEF UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 2255

          JOHN R. ADAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court upon Petitioner Donaze Gaines' Motion for Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. #49). For the reasons stated, the petition is DENIED.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         “To prevail under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a defendant must show a ‘fundamental defect' in the proceedings which necessarily results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an egregious error violative of due process.” Gall v. United States, 21 F.3d 107, 109 (6th Cir. 1994). A federal district court may grant relief to a prisoner in custody only if the petitioner can “demonstrate the existence or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict.” Griffin v. United States, 330 F.3d 733, 736 (6th Cir. 2003).

         II. LAW AND ARGUMENT

         Mr. Gaines argues that he is entitled to resentencing because he no longer has the requisite predicate offenses to support an armed career criminal designation under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) (the “ACCA”). He also argues that he does not qualify as a career offender under the Guidelines. This Court disagrees.

         Mr. Gaines was indicted in 2002 on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (crack) in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (Count 1), and with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e) (Count 2). After a remand to the trial court to reconsider Mr. Gaines' original sentence in light of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the trial court found Mr. Gaines to be a career offender and an armed career criminal, and sentenced him to 300 months incarceration. Mr. Gaines appealed. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the judgment. Mr. Gaines' petition for writ of certiorari was denied.

         Mr. Gaines then filed a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 raising a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, among other things. The district court denied the motion to vacate and declined to issue a certificate of appealability.

         On appeal, the Sixth Circuit granted a limited certificate of appealability. The district court's judgment was affirmed. The Supreme Court denied Mr. Gaines' petition for writ of certiorari.

         Presently before this Court is Mr. Gaines' second motion to vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In this petition, Mr. Gaines asserts that, after Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), he is improperly classified as either an armed career criminal or a career offender. For the reasons that follow, this Court disagrees.

         The Court first addresses Mr. Gaines' claim that he was improperly sentenced as an armed career criminal under the ACCA. The ACCA establishes a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for a criminal defendant charged as a felon in possession of a firearm who had at least 3 prior convictions that are either (1) serious drug offenses or (2) violent felonies. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). A violent felony had three different possible definitions:

(1) an offense that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force” (the “elements clause”);
(2) generic “burglary, arson, or extortion” (the “enumerated offenses clause”); and
(3) an offense that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another ” ...

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