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United States v. Edwards

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

July 23, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
THOMAS GENE EDWARDS, Defendant/Movant.

          ORDER RECHARACTERIZING AND DENYING § 2255 MOTION AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

          SUSAN P. WATTERS, JUDGE

         On June 4, 2018, Defendant Edwards filed a motion to dismiss the superseding information underlying his guilty plea of March 30, 2017. See Mot. (Doc. 60). Edwards, a federal prisoner proceeding pro se, was notified that the Court intended to recharacterize his motion as a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He was also given an opportunity to withdraw it or to add claims. See Order (Doc. 61) at 1-2. Edwards responded on June 29, 2018, agreeing to recharacterization. See Resp. to Order (Doc. 62) at 1.

         I. Preliminary Review

         Before the United States is required to respond, the Court must determine whether "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 also Rule 4(b), Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts. A petitioner "who is able to state facts showing a real possibility of constitutional error should survive Rule 4 review." Calderon v. United States Dist. Court, 98 F.3d 1102, 1109 (9th Cir. 1996) ("Nicolas") (Schroeder, C.J., concurring) (referring to Rules Governing § 2254 Cases). But the Court should "eliminate the burden that would be placed on the respondent by ordering an unnecessary answer." Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, cited in Advisory Committee Note (1976), Rule 4, Rules Governing § 2255 Proceedings.

         II. Background

         Edwards was indicted on one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 500 or more grams of a substance containing methamphetamine, a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) (Count 1); possession, between December 2015 and June 2016, of 500 grams or more of the same with intent to distribute it, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 2); distribution, in June 2016, of a substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 3); and possessing a firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking crimes alleged in Counts 1 and 2, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count 4). There was also a forfeiture allegation. See Indictment (Doc. 1) at 1-5. If convicted of all counts, Edwards faced a total mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum of life. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(viii); 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i), (D)(ii).

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, Edwards pled guilty to a superseding information charging him with one count of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine. Conviction of that charge subjected him to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 40 years. See Superseding Information (Doc. 40) at 1-2; 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii).

         Edwards was sentenced to serve 135 months in prison, to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. See Minutes (Doc. 53); Judgment (Doc. 54) at 2-3.

         Edwards did not appeal. His conviction became final on August 16, 2017. See Gonzalez v. Thaler, 565 U.S. 134, 150 (2012). He timely filed his (recharacterized) motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on June 4, 2018. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1).

         III. Claims and Analysis

         Edwards claims the Court lacked jurisdiction because the charging documents were not properly signed and because 21 U.S.C. § 841 prohibits only the single act of manufacturing and then distributing a controlled substance, not separate acts of manufacturing and distributing. He also claims he "never personally was presented with a charging document." Mot. (Doc. 60) at 11.

         A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 3231, this Court has subject-matter jurisdiction over alleged violations of federal drug trafficking and firearms laws. No. argument against jurisdiction is available here.

         B. ...


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