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United States v. Torres

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 20, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MIGUEL TORRES, Defendant.

          PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          WILLIAM P. LYNCH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Miguel Torres, through appointed counsel, filed a Motion to Correct Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (CV Doc. 1; CR Doc. 44.)[1] He argues that Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), disqualifies the two prior felony convictions used to enhance his sentence under the residual clause of the Career Offender Guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2 (2002), and entitles him to resentencing. (See Doc. 1 at 9-16.) The United States filed a response. (Doc. 9.)

         Torres also filed two other motions: a Motion for Release on Conditions (Doc. 11), to which the United States filed a response (Doc. 14), and he filed a reply (Doc. 15), and a pro se Motion for Judgment by Default (Doc. 16), to which the United States did not respond.

         While these three motions were pending, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017). I issued an Order Directing the Parties to Confer and File a Joint Statement in Light of Beckles. (Doc. 18.) The parties filed the joint statement: the United States argued that Beckles “is dispositive of the issues in Mr. Torres' 2255 motion” (Doc. 19 at 1), while Torres argued that Beckles “applies only to sentences imposed pursuant to the advisory guidelines, post-Booker” (id. at 2).

         The joint statement also asked for “a briefing schedule on the effect of Beckles on Mr. Torres' § 2255 motion.” (Id. at 2.) I issued an order setting a briefing schedule. (Doc. 21.) The United States filed an amended response (Doc. 23), and Torres filed an amended reply (Doc. 24).

         Because his claims may be resolved on the record alone, I have not conducted an evidentiary hearing. I recommend the Court deny all three pending motions.

         Background

         Torres pled guilty to a two-count information charging him with one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams and more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A), and one count of distribution of less than 50 grams of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). (Presentence Report (“PSR”) at 1; CR Docs. 13 at 2; 14 at 1.)

         At sentencing, the Court adopted the PSR (CR Doc. 20 at 1), which classified Torres as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) (2002) based on prior convictions for New Mexico Voluntary Manslaughter, in 1998, and New Mexico Accessory to Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon, in 1999. (PSR at 6, 9-10.) Because of the career offense designation, his offense level was increased to 37. (Id. at 6.) After a three level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, his offense level was 34, and his criminal history category was VI. (Id.) His guideline imprisonment range was 262-327 months as to count one, and 240 months as to count two, with the terms to run concurrently. (Id. at 16; CR Doc. 20 at 1.) He was sentenced to 262 months of imprisonment on December 17, 2002 (CR Doc. 20 at 1), and Judgment was entered the same day (CR Doc. 19 at 1). He did not appeal his conviction.

         The parties agree that, without the career offender designation, Torres's sentencing range would be 110-137 months. (See Doc. 9 at 2; Doc. 11 at 3.) They offer slightly different calculations to reach this sentencing range: the United States says his offense level would be 25 with a criminal history category of VI, while Torres says 28 and VI, respectively. (Id.)

         On November 28, 2003, Torres filed a pro se Motion to Vacate Illegal Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. (CR Doc. 21 at 1.) The Court dismissed the motion. (CR Doc. 26 at 1.)

         On May 25, 2016, Torres, through counsel, sought permission to file a successive § 2255 motion, seeking to argue that his career offender enhancement was unconstitutional after Johnson. (CR Doc. 41-1 at 1-2.) The Tenth Circuit granted the authorization. (CR Doc. 42 at 1.) Torres filed his motion on June 23, 2016. (Doc. 1.)

         Discussion

         Torres argues that his sentence violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment because it was imposed under the residual clause of the then-mandatory career offender guideline, which contains the same language the Supreme Court found unconstitutionally vague in Johnson. (See Doc. 24 at 1, 17-18.) Torres notes that the sentencing guidelines were mandatory in 2002 when he was sentenced because the Supreme Court had not yet ...


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