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Johnson v. Quintana

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

February 18, 2015

GUSTAVUS JOHNSON, Petitioner,
v.
FRANCISCO QUINTANA, WARDEN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.

Gustavus Johnson is an inmate confined at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without counsel, Johnson has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [R. 1]

The Court conducts an initial review of habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 F.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). The Court must deny the petition "if it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (applicable to § 2241 petitions pursuant to Rule 1(b)). The Court evaluates Johnson's petition under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). At this stage, the Court accepts the petitioner's factual allegations as true, and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

I

On April 27, 2005, a federal grand jury sitting in Atlanta, Georgia handed down a sixcount indictment charging Johnson and a co-defendant with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B), (C); possession and carrying of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). United States v. Johnson, No. 1:05-CR-194-ODE-CSC-1 (N.D.Ga. 2005).

On September 8, 2005, the government filed a notice pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 that Johnson was subject to enhanced penalties under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1) because he had two prior felony convictions for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, both in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia, on April 3, 1997, in case number Z76739 and on January 9, 1998 in case number Z90942. Id. at R. 42.

On May 10, 2006, Johnson signed a written plea agreement in which he agreed to plead guilty to three of the counts in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining three. Id. at R. 72-1. The agreement specified that as a result of his guilty plea, he faced a minimum ten-year prison term with a maximum of life in prison. The government expressly agreed "that it will give formal notice that the defendant has only one prior conviction for a felony drug offense under 21 U.S.C. § 851." Nonetheless, Johnson agreed that:

6.... Notwithstanding the notice of prior conviction the government will provide under 21 U.S.C. § 851, the defendant understands, agrees, and admits that he, in fact, has previously been convicted of at least two felony drug offenses as listed in the presentence report. In addition, the defendant agrees that at no time will he either challenge or collaterally attack the validity of any of the prior drug felony convictions appearing in the presentence report or any prior drug felony conviction that serves as the basis for the sentencing enhancement under 21 U.S.C. § 851 in this case. Furthermore, the defendant fully understands and acknowledges that the government's promise and agreement to give notice of only one felony drug conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 851 constitutes consideration for the defendants promise and agreement to enter into a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent plea of guilty according to the terms of this plea agreement, and for the defendant's promise and agreement not to challenge or collaterally attack any prior felony drug convictions listed in the presentence report or which serve as the basis for the sentence enhancement under 21 U.S.C. § 851 in this case.

Id. at R. 72-1, pp. 3-4 (emphasis added). In addition to his waiver of the right to collaterally attack his underlying state convictions, Johnson separately waived his right to collaterally attack his soon-to-be imposed federal sentence:

17. To the maximum extent permitted by federal law, the defendant voluntarily and expressly waives the right to appeal his sentence and the right to collaterally attack his sentence in any post-conviction proceeding on any ground, except that the defendant may file a direct appeal of an upward departure from the otherwise applicable sentencing guideline range.

Id. at R. 72-1, p. 7.

Consistent with its obligations under the plea agreement, on October 25, 2006, the government moved for a downward departure in sentencing in light of Johnson's cooperation, resulting in a guidelines range of 235-293 months. [R. 80] On November 1, 2006, the Court sentenced Johnson to a cumulative 248-month term of incarceration, at the lower end of the guideline range. [R. 82]

Johnson subsequently filed a timely motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which was denied in light of his waiver of the right to collaterally attack his sentence. [R. 91, 103] Johnson filed a series of motions before the trial court and the Eighth ...


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