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Sandoval v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

April 18, 2017

JONATHAN SANDOVAL, Defendant-Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent.



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on United States Magistrate Judge Carmen E. Garza's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (the “PFRD”), (CV Doc. 12), filed November 14, 2016.[1] In the PFRD, Judge Garza concluded that Petitioner Jonathan Sandoval was not entitled to relief under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), and recommended that his Amended Motion to Vacate a Criminal Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Johnson v. United States) (the “Motion”), (CV Doc. 6), be denied. (CV Doc. 12 at 10).

         The parties were notified that written objections to the PFRD were due within 14 days. (CV Doc. 12 at 10). Respondent United States of America filed United States' Response to Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (the “Respondent's Objections”), (CV Doc. 14), on February 13, 2017; and Petitioner filed Defendant-Petitioner's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Proposed Findings and Recommended Disposition (“Petitioner's Objections”), (CV Doc. 13), filed February 10, 2017. Respondent also responded to Petitioner's Objections. (CV Doc. 15). After a de novo review of the record and the PFRD, the Court adopts Judge Garza's PFRD in full, denies Petitioner's Motion, and denies the parties' objections.

         I. Background

         This proceeding arises from Petitioner's agreement to plead guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2). Pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, Petitioner stipulated that a 180 month sentence was appropriate for his crimes. (CR Doc. 67 at 5). Petitioner also stipulated he “may be an armed career criminal, ” which, if true, meant Petitioner's minimum sentence was 180 months. § 924(e)(1). If Petitioner were not an armed career criminal, his maximum sentence would have been 120 months. § 924(a)(2). Petitioner's presentence investigation report (“PSR”) determined Petitioner was an armed career criminal based on prior convictions for residential burglary in New Mexico. (CR Doc. 96-1 at 1; 7).

         An “armed career criminal” is a person with three prior convictions for a “violent felony.” § 924(e)(1). When Petitioner was convicted, “violent felony” was defined in part as any crime that “is burglary, arson, or extortion . . . or otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” § 924(e)(2)(A)(2). The italicized part of the definition is called the “residual clause.” Johnson, 135 S.Ct. at 2556. In Johnson, the Supreme Court of the United States struck the residual clause as unconstitutionally vague and held it may not be used to increase a person's sentence. Id. at 2557.

         On May 9, 2016, Petitioner filed his Motion arguing his sentence was unconstitutional following the holding in Johnson. (CV Doc. 1; 6). Petitioner argued that “residential burglary” as defined by New Mexico law does not match the definition of “burglary” under § 924(e)(2)(A)(2); therefore, he argues, “residential burglary” in New Mexico only qualifies as a violent felony under the residual clause and he was sentenced in reliance on the residual clause. (CV Doc. 6 at 4).

         Respondent countered with three procedural arguments and one substantive argument. (CV Doc. 11 at 5-6; 14-15). First, Respondent argued (1) Petitioner waived his right to collaterally attack his sentence in his plea agreement; (2) Petitioner's Motion is untimely because Johnson does not apply to his case; and (3) Petitioner forfeited his right to challenge his sentence by pleading guilty and stipulating to the 180 month sentence. (CV Doc. 11 at 5-10). Substantively, Respondent argued Petitioner is ineligible for relief under Johnson because “residential burglary” in New Mexico meets the definition of “burglary” in § 924(e). (CV Doc. 11 at 10-16).

         In her PFRD, Judge Garza found that Petitioner did not waive his right to collaterally attack his sentence. (CV Doc. 12 at 3-6). According to Judge Garza, the plea agreement is at the very least ambiguous, and ambiguity must be resolved in Petitioner's favor. (CV Doc. 12 at 5). Next, applying the categorical approach, Judge Garza found “residential burglary” in New Mexico matches “burglary” as defined by federal law. (CV Doc. 12 at 6-9). Accordingly, procedural issues aside, Judge Garza found Petitioner's convictions were correctly determined to be crimes of violence. (CV Doc. 12 at 9). Judge Garza declined to reach Respondent's arguments regarding timeliness or forfeiture.

         Petitioner timely objected to the PFRD. (CV Doc. 13). Petitioner now argues that the New Mexico statute defining burglary does not match the federal definition of burglary. (CV Doc. 13 at 3). Specifically, Petitioner argues that “burglary” under federal law requires entry into or remaining in a building or other structure, while burglary in New Mexico includes burglary of a garage attached to a home. (CV Doc. 13 at 4). Petitioner asserts that these definitions do not match, therefore his convictions are not for “violent felonies” and he is serving an unconstitutional sentence. (CV Doc. 13 at 5-6). Petitioner also cursorily argues the government has not proved he was convicted of a violent felony under the modified categorical approach. (CV Doc. 13 at 4).

         Respondent both objected to the PFRD and responded to Petitioner's Objections. (CV Docs. 14, 15). Respondent does not object to Judge Garza's analysis; rather, Respondent requests the Court decide the procedural issues Judge Garza declined to reach. (CV Doc. 14 at 1-2). Petitioner did not respond to Respondent's Objections, and the time for doing so has passed. D.N.M.LR-Civ. 7.4(a). Respondent objected to Petitioner's mention of the modified categorical approach as an impermissible new argument. (CV Doc. 15 at 2).

         II. Analysis

         Pursuant to Rule 8 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts, a district judge may, under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), refer a pretrial dispositive motion to a magistrate judge for proposed findings of fact and recommendations for disposition. Within fourteen days of being served, a party may file objections to this recommendation. Rule 8(b) of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings for the United States District Courts. A party may respond to another party's objections within fourteen days of being served with a copy; the rule does not provide for a reply. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).[2]

         When resolving objections to a magistrate judge's recommendation, the district judge must make a de novo determination regarding any part of the recommendation to which a party has properly objected. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). Filing objections that address the primary issues in the case “advances the interests that underlie the Magistrate's Act, including judicial efficiency.” U.S. v. One Parcel of Real Prop., With Bldgs., Appurtenances, Improvements, & Contents, 73 F.3d 1057, 1059 (10th Cir. 1996). Objections must be timely and specific to preserve an issue for de novo review by the district court or for appellate review. Id. at 1060. Additionally, issues “raised for the first time in objections to the magistrate judge's recommendation are deemed waived.” Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426 ...

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