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United States v. Pratt

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

March 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
ROY DEAN PRATT, Defendant/Movant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Roy Dean Pratt was convicted at trial of possessing firearms after having been previously convicted of a felony offense. [Record No. 32] He was later sentenced to a 320-month term of imprisonment, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. [Record No. 46] The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence. United States v. Pratt, 704 Fed.Appx. 420 (6th Cir. 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17); [Record No. 56]. The matter is now pending for consideration of Pratt's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [Record No. 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1]

         Pratt's § 2255 motion was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for review and issuance of a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1)(B). On January 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18, 201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19, United States Magistrate Judge Candace J. Smith recommended that Pratt's § 2255 motion be denied. [Record No. 70]

         Although this Court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the Magistrate Judge's recommendations to which objections are made, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1)(C), “[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, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">140');">474 U.S. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">140, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">150 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1985). Additionally, a party who fails to file timely objections to a magistrate's recommendation generally waives his right to appeal. Id. at 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">153-54. No. timely objections to the Report and Recommendation were filed. Nevertheless, the Court has examined the record, and following de novo review, agrees with the Magistrate Judge's analysis.

         I.

         Pratt essentially makes two arguments [Record 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] First, he claims that the Court applied the improper guideline under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”). [Id.] Next, he contends that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective. [Id.] Both arguments fail.

         A. Pratt's Challenge to the Court's Application of ACCA

         Pratt contends that three of the convictions used to qualify him for sentencing under the ACCA should have been treated as one conviction pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4A1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1.2(a)(2). As a result, he argues that he did not have the necessary three convictions required to enhance his sentence. Regarding this contention, it is important to note that Pratt raised this issue on appeal with the Sixth Circuit. He asserted that the three prior drug convictions no longer qualified as predicate offences under the ACCA because the statute under which he was convicted was revised after his convictions. However, the Sixth Circuit rejected this argument, affirming the conviction and sentence. Pratt, 704 Fed.Appx. at 428-29; [Record No. 55, pp. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15]

         Because Pratt raised this issue on direct appeal before the Sixth Circuit, he may not relitigate it here. See Wright v. United States, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">182 F.3d 458');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">182 F.3d 458, 467 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999); see also Jones v. United States, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">178 F.3d 790');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">178 F.3d 790, 796 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999) (a § 2255 motion may not be used to relitigate an issue that has already been raised and considered on appeal absent highly exceptional circumstances, such as an intervening change in law). And Pratt has not referenced any highly exceptional circumstances, so review of this argument is barred. Myers v. United States, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">198 F.3d 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">15, 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">19-20 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1999).

         But Pratt's argument also would fail on the merits because the ACCA provides a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years for defendants convicted of violating 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 922(g) who have three prior convictions for “a violent felony or serious drug offense, or both, committed on occasions different from one another…” 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1). To determine whether a defendant has three prior convictions necessary to apply 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 924(e), Courts looks to the date the defendant committed the offense. United States v. Taylor, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Fed.Appx. 508');">301');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Fed.Appx. 508, 520 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Roach, 958 F.2d 679, 683 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1992)). “The fact that [] offenses [are] consolidated for sentencing or for concurrent sentences is immaterial for ACCA enhancement purposes, so long as the separate offenses occurred at different times and/or places.” Taylor, 301');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Fed.Appx. at 520; see also United States v. Player, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Fed.Appx. 331');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 Fed.Appx. 331');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, 336, n.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1 (6th Cir. 2006). Because Pratt committed three drug offenses on three different occasions, [1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" name="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1" id="FN1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1] application of the mandatory minimum of fifteen years imprisonment was appropriate.

         Pratt also argues that his previous serious drug convictions do not qualify as predicate offenses under the ACCA because he was sentenced to probation rather than incarceration. [Record No. 31');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 6] However, a serious drug offense under 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 924 is “an offense under State law … for which a maximum term of imprisonment of ten years or more is prescribed by law…” 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(A)(ii). To determine whether a crime qualifies under the ACCA, a court does “not look to the actual sentence imposed but to the potential maximum punishment under the statute.” United States v. Buchard, No. 94-61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">153, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1995 WL 3851');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">109, at *3 (6th Cir. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1995). Pratt's first-degree drug trafficking offenses “each garnered a ten-year maximum term of imprisonment at the time of conviction… [and] clearly count as serious drug offenses under the ACCA.” Pratt, 704 Fed.Appx. at 428; see also K.R.S. §§ 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18A.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">141');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12');">21');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">18A.1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">141');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">12, 532.060(2)(c) (2001');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1); [Record No. 55, p. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">13].

         Finally, Pratt argues that his prior qualifying serious drug offenses were expunged and should be excluded for purposes of applying the ACCA statutory enhancement to his sentence. Pratt relies on Nelson v. Colorado, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">137 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1249');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">137 S.Ct. 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1249 (201');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">17), stating that, “[w]hen a [d]efendant's offense of conviction is removed, the Supreme Court has held that, ‘once those convictions were erased [for any reason], the presumption of their innocence was restored.'” [Record No. 61');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1-1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, p. 7] (citing Nelson, 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">137 S.Ct. at 1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1255). However, Nelson is distinguishable from Pratt's case. Nelson addressed defendants whose convictions were reversed and vacated. Pratt's serious drug offenses were not reversed or vacated, and he was not acquitted. Instead, he was convicted and sentenced and upon completion of his sentence, the convictions have remained part of his criminal history. [Record No. 41');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1, pp. 8-9] Additionally, Pratt has provided no evidence that his prior qualifying convictions have been expunged or otherwise set aside. Therefore, application of the ACCA statutory enhancement was appropriate.

         B. Claims of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Pratt asserts that his counsel was constitutionally ineffective for: (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1) failing to investigate relevant evidence and the charges brought against him during the pretrial phase of this matter; (2) failing to object, failing to request to strike, and failing to confer with Pratt regarding strategy during trial; and (3) failing to object to the application of the ACCA statutory enhancement at sentencing and the use of certain Sentencing Guidelines to calculate his guidelines range. Pratt must show two elements to succeed on ineffective assistance of counsel claims. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1');">1984). First, he must establish that counsel's performance was deficient which “requires showing that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. Second, Pratt must show that his counsel's deficient performance prejudiced him. Id. To demonstrate that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced him, Pratt must “show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional ...


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