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United States v. Hoskins

United States District Court, D. Vermont

August 5, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
BRIAN HOSKINS, Defendant.

          ORDER (DOC. 83)

          Hon. J. Garvan Murtha United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Defendant Brian Hoskins filed a motion to correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. 62.) The government opposed the motion. (Doc. 64.) The motion was referred to Magistrate Judge Conroy, who, following an evidentiary hearing, issued a Report and Recommendation on April 28, 2016. (Doc. 83.) The government timely filed an objection to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 84.) In response, Hoskins filed motions to strike the objection, to disqualify government counsel, and for an extension of time to file a response regarding the Report and Recommendation. (Docs. 86, 87.) The government replied to the motions to strike and to disqualify, and moved for leave to file an oversize memorandum. (Doc. 88.) The Court granted in part and denied in part the motion to strike and to disqualify counsel, granted in part and denied in part the government’s motion for leave to file an oversize memorandum, and granted Hoskins’ motion for an extension. (Doc. 89.) The government’s objection was refiled (Doc. 90) and Hoskins responded (Doc. 93). For the reasons discussed below, after de novo review, the Report and Recommendation is AFFIRMED, APPROVED and ADOPTED. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Defendant Hoskins’ motion to correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. 62) is GRANTED in part.

         II. Background

         On January 11, 2012, Hoskins pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine base, a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). (Dkt. Entry No. 42 (minute entry for change of plea hearing); see also Doc. 41 (Plea Agreement). On May 22, 2012, Hoskins was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 112 months, followed by a five-year term of supervised release, under a binding plea agreement under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). (Doc. 56 (Judgment); Dkt. Entry No. 55 (minute entry for sentencing hearing).) Hoskins did not appeal. Instead, on May 12, 2013, Hoskins challenged his 2002 Vermont state drug conviction. (Doc. 62-2.) On March 31, 2015, his petition was granted and his conviction vacated. (Doc. 62-1.) The State later dropped the charges. See Doc. 62 at 3.

         Here, in a § 2255 motion filed on December 14, 2015, Hoskins challenges his sentence because, based on a 2003 federal conviction and the 2002 Vermont state conviction, he qualified as a career offender and, since he was sentenced, his Vermont conviction was vacated. (Doc. 62 at 1.) Accordingly, he asserts he no longer qualifies as a career offender and allowing his 112-month sentence to stand violates the laws of the United States, violates due process of law and results in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Id. He asserts without the career offender status, his guideline range was 37-46 months’ imprisonment, more than 100 months less than the enhanced guideline range of 151-188 months. Id. at 1-2.

         On April 28, 2016, following a contentious April 7 hearing, the Honorable John M. Conroy, United States Magistrate Judge, issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) responding to Hoskins’ § 2255 motion. (Doc. 83.) The R&R recommends this Court find the motion timely under § 2255(f)(4), id. at 8-12, and cognizable under § 2255 even though he was sentenced under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, id. at 12-18. Judge Conroy concluded denial of collateral relief would result in a miscarriage of justice and, accordingly, this Court should grant Hoskins’ 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to correct his sentence. Id. at 18-19.

         The government filed a timely objection (“Objection”) to the R&R’s recommended grant of the § 2255 motion, raising the following issues: (1) the magistrate judge erred as a matter of law in recommending the claim be found cognizable under § 2255; (2) the magistrate judge erred as a matter of fact in recommending the claim be found cognizable under § 2255; and (3) the magistrate judge erred in recommending the § 2255 motion be found timely. (Doc. 90.)

         When a party objects to a magistrate judge’s Report and Recommendation, the Court reviews the record de novo. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). After review, the Court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” Id. Having reviewed the record de novo, and considered the government’s objections, the Court affirms, approves, and adopts the R&R’s recommendations that this Court find the § 2255 motion timely and cognizable.

         III. Discussion

         Hoskins bears the burden of demonstrating he is entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides a federal prisoner “may move the court which imposed the sentence to vacate, set aside or correct the sentence” on one of the following four grounds: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). As applicable here, a one-year statute of limitation applies, running from “the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(4).

         A. Timeliness

         The government objects to the magistrate judge’s conclusion Hoskins’ § 2255 motion was timely. See Doc. 90 at 23-24. The Supreme Court has addressed the issue of “when the 1-year statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. § 2255 . . . begins to run in a case of a prisoner’s collateral attack on his federal sentence on the ground that a state conviction used to enhance that sentence has since been vacated.” Johnson v. United States, 544 U.S. 295, 298 (2005). The Court held the vacatur of the state conviction was a “fact” triggering a new 1-year limitations period under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(4), but a petitioner may only take ...


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