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United States v. Castaneda

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

April 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOANNA CASTANEDA

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          NELVA GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant/Movant Joanna Castaneda's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and memorandum of law in support. D.E. 53, 54. Movant seeks a sentence reduction under Amendment 794 to the Sentencing Guidelines based on her allegedly minor role. The United States has moved to dismiss this action on the grounds that the issue she raises is not cognizable under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. D.E. 65. For the reasons stated below, Movant's motion is

         DENIED.

         I. Background

         On May 8, 2013, Movant was charged with conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A). On June 28, 2013, Movant pled guilty to the conspiracy charge pursuant to a written plea agreement with the Government in which she waived her right to appeal or collaterally attack her conviction or sentence.

         The Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) calculated Movant's base offense level, based on 15.572 kilograms of methamphetamine, at 38. She received a two-level enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(5) because the offense involved the importation of methamphetamine and she was not subject to an adjustment for mitigating role. After credits for safety valve and acceptance of responsibility, her total offense level was 35. Movant's criminal history category was I, resulting in a guideline range of 168- 210 months' imprisonment. At sentencing, the Court adopted the PSR without change and sentenced Movant to 120 months, to be followed by five years' supervised release.

         Judgment was entered September 13, 2013. Movant filed an appeal, which was dismissed for want of prosecution on March 5, 2015. Movant filed the present motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on October 26, 2016. It is timely. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(3).

         II. Movant's Allegations

         On November 1, 2015, the United States Sentencing Commission issued Amendment 794, which amended the commentary to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2 to clarify the factors a district court should consider in making a determination of minor or mitigating role. Movant claims that she is entitled to a sentence reduction under Amendment 794 and that her current sentence violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment because she has not been treated equally with those whose sentences were based upon the proper minor role adjustment as the Sentencing Commission intended.

         III. Analysis

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         There are four cognizable grounds upon which a federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence: (1) constitutional issues, (2) challenges to the district court's jurisdiction to impose the sentence, (3) challenges to the length of a sentence in excess of the statutory maximum, and (4) claims that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; United States v. Placente, 81 F.3d 555, 558 (5th Cir. 1996). Section 2255 relief “is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have been raised on direct appeal and would, if condoned, result in a complete miscarriage of justice.” United States v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992).

         Movant claims her sentence is unconstitutional because she did not receive a downward adjustment for minor role under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2. “A district court's technical application of the Guidelines does not give rise to a constitutional issue cognizable under § 2255.” United States v. Segler, 37 F.3d 1131, 1134 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing United States v. Vaughn, 955 F.2d 367, 368 (5th Cir. 1992)). Thus, she is not entitled to relief under § 2255 on this claim.

         B. 18 ...


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