United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville
C. Reeves, United States District Judge
Woody Dean Estep and several co-defendants were charged with
drug trafficking by a federal grand jury in December 2015.
[Record No. 1] Estep's charges included conspiring with
others to distribute a mixture containing methamphetamine
during the period November 2014 through December 3, 2015
(Count 1) and distributing a mixture containing
methamphetamine on August 19, 2015 (Count 5). After
evaluating the government's evidence against him, Estep
decided to enter a guilty plea to Count 1 during a
change-of-plea hearing held on January 29, 2016. [Record No.
84] During the hearing, the undersigned questioned Estep to
confirm that there was a factual basis for his guilty plea
and that the defendant fully understood the potential
penalties and consequences of his decision to forego a jury
was later determined to be a career offender under the
relevant provisions of the United States Sentencing
Guidelines. On May 6, 2016, he was sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of 160 months, to be followed by an eight-year
term of supervised release. [Record No. 175] Although Estep
reserved the right to challenge his sentence through a direct
appeal, he did not do. However, approximately one year later,
Estep moved the Court to vacate, set aside or correct his
sentence in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §2255. [Record No.
254] Estep claims that he is entitled to this relief because
there was an insufficient factual basis to convict him of a
conspiracy offense. Additionally, he contends that the
Supreme Court's recent decision in Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 224 (2016), provides an additional
basis for the relief sought. More specifically, Estep claims
that his prior drug convictions do not qualify as necessary
predicates under the career offender provisions of the United
States Sentencing Guidelines.
accordance with local practice, Estep's motion was
referred to United States Magistrate Judge Edward B. Atkins
for initial consideration. Following briefing by the parties,
Magistrate Judge Atkins filed a Report and Recommendation on
October 17, 2017, recommending that Estep's motion be
denied and the action be dismissed and stricken from the
docket. [Record No. 266] The parties have not filed
objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and
Recommendation within the time permitted.
Court must make a de novo determination of those
portions of the Magistrate Judge's recommendation to
which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
However, “[i]t does not appear that Congress intended
to require district court review of a magistrate's
factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any
other standard, when neither party objects to those
findings.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150
(1985). Nevertheless, the Court has examined the record
de novo and agrees with the Magistrate Judge that
denial of the relief sought and dismissal of the collateral
proceeding is appropriate.
assertion that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a
conspiracy conviction is belied by his admissions outlined in
the written plea agreement and as he acknowledged during the
change-of-plea hearing. In short, as noted by the Magistrate
Judge, Estep has failed to show that he was involved in a
mere buyer-seller relationship.
second claim that he was insufficiently advised regarding the
consequences of entering a guilty plea also falls woefully
short of demonstrating that he is entitled to the relief
sought. Although the defendant is illiterate, the undersigned
went to great (and necessary) lengths during the
change-of-plea hearing to insure that Estep was fully aware
of the elements that the government would be required to
prove to obtain a conviction on Count 1 of the indictment.
The defendant was fully aware of the United States' proof
requirements but acknowledged all elements necessary under
Count 1. The transcript of the change-of-plea hearing fully
confirms that Estep knowingly and voluntarily entered a
guilty plea to this charge.
Mathis, id., provides no relief. As noted by the
Magistrate Judge, Mathis did not announce a new rule
of constitutional law and it is not retroactive to cases on
collateral review. Additionally, it is of no consequence here
because Estep was - and is - a career offender regardless of
to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 22(b), Rule 11(a) of
the Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings, and 28 U.S.C.
§ 2253(c), the Court will deny a Certificate of
Appealability. Estep has failed to show that reasonable
jurists would find this court's “assessment of the
constitutional claims debatable or wrong” or that
reasonable jurists would find “it debatable whether the
petition states a valid claim of the denial of a
constitutional right.” Slack v. McDaniel, 529
U.S. 473, 484 (2000).
sufficiently advised, it is hereby ORDERED
Magistrate Judge's October 17, 2017, Report and
Recommendation [Record No. 266] is ADOPTED
and INCORPORATED by reference.
Defendant/Movant Woody Dean Estep's motion to vacate, set
aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255 [Record No. 254] is DENIED.
action is DISMISSED, with prejudice, and
STRICKEN from the docket.
Certificate of Appealability shall not issue with respect to