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United States v. Soto-Robledo

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 31, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
ALEJANDRO SOTO-ROBLEDO, Defendant-Movant. CR. 14-2443 KG


         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's pro se Notice of Timely Johnson Retroactivity Claim and Preservation of Right (CIV Doc. 1, CR Doc. 63), [1] filed May 16, 2016. On May 19, 2016, the Court entered an order noting that the motion was docketed as a § 2255 motion and granting leave for Defendant Soto-Robledo (“Soto”) to either amend or to withdraw his motion within 30 days of the entry of the Order. Doc. 64. In response to that Order, Soto filed an amended motion pursuant to § 2255 on June 29, 2016 that added two additional claims. Doc. 66. The United States filed a response to that amended motion on August 22, 2016. Doc. 68. Having reviewed the parties' submissions and relevant authorities, the Court finds that the issues are clear and that the § 2255 Motion is not well-taken. The Court will therefore recommend to the presiding judge that the motion be denied without an evidentiary hearing.

         I. Factual Background

         On August 25, 2014, Soto pled guilty to the § 1326 illegal reentry charge in the single-count indictment without the benefit of a plea agreement. Doc. 29. The Honorable Kenneth G. Gonzales sentenced Soto-Robledo to 57 months incarceration on February 3, 2015 after overruling his objections to the Presentence Report (PSR). Doc. 36. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit affirmed Judge Gonzales' decision expressly finding that Judge Gonzales “could reasonably rely on the 16-level enhancement [for a prior drug trafficking conviction] to arrive at an appropriate sentence.” Doc. 62 at 3.

         II. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a court is permitted to vacate, correct or set aside a sentence that was “imposed in violation of the constitution or laws of the United States, or that the Court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to a collateral attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Section 2255 presumes that the movant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his claims unless the record conclusively establishes that the defendant is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         II. Analysis

         Looking at both the original and amended motions filed pursuant to § 2255, Soto raises three claims for relief: (1) retroactive application of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), to his case; (2) lack of jurisdiction for the United States to prosecute Soto in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico; and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to object to an electronically-filed document in his appeal with the Tenth Circuit with an allegedly improper signature.

         A. The Johnson Claim

         Insofar as Defendant relies on the Johnson decision as a basis for relief, his faith is misplaced. In Johnson, the United States Supreme Court determined that the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) residual clause for defining a violent felony, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), was unconstitutionally vague. Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2557. Thus, an enhancement of a sentence using that residual clause was found to be invalid.

         The Supreme Court subsequently held that Johnson applies retroactively to cases on collateral review in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). Moreover, the Tenth Circuit has expanded the Johnson rationale to hold unconstitutional indistinguishable clauses used to define violent felonies, including such clauses found within the advisory federal sentencing guidelines and other statutory provisions. United States v. Madrid, 805 F.3d 1204, 1211 (2015) (career offender guideline § 4B1.1); Golicov v. Lynch, 2016 WL 4988012 (10th Cir. Sept. 19, 2016) (18 U.S.C. §16(b) and, by extension, 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(F)).[2]

         Here, however, Johnson simply is not implicated. No residual clause - ACCA or otherwise - was used to enhance Defendant Soto's sentence. Instead, the then-applicable 16-level enhancement for a prior “aggravated felony” conviction was predicated on Soto's prior drug trafficking conviction in violation of C.R.S.A. § 18-18-405. Drug trafficking offenses are expressly identified as aggravated felonies under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(43)(C), so there was no need to resort to analysis under the crimes of violence residual clause under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(43)(F). Similarly, as the United States points out, a residual clause simply “does not exist under U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2.” Doc. 68. Insofar as Soto was sentenced as a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, that enhancement was also based exclusively on that prior Colorado drug trafficking conviction. Thus, the Johnson holding and rationale are simply inapplicable, and the claim lacks merit.

         B. Claim of Lack of Jurisdiction to Prosecute

         While his amended motion is not a model of clarity, Soto appears to argue that the United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him for illegally returning to the United States after his removal.

         Section 3231 of Title 18 of the United States Code provides that “[t]he district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States.” ...

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