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Templeton v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

November 9, 2017




         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner James Joseph Templeton's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct a Sentence By a Person in Federal Custody. Dkt. #1. The Government filed a response to the Motion. Dkt. #6. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Petitioner's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 10, 2005, Mr. Templeton entered into a plea agreement with the Government pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) (“Agreement”). Crim. Dkt. #190. Mr. Templeton pled guilty to Conspiracy to Manufacture Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. Crim. Dkt. #90. The parties agreed to a non-guideline sentencing range of 180 to 300 months imprisonment. Crim. Dkt. #190.

         Prior to sentencing, the Government conceded that “Mr. Templeton met the requirements for application of the safety valve provision which provides for a two-point downward adjustment.” Crim. Dkt. #97. At sentencing, neither Mr. Templeton nor the Government argued in favor or against a safety valve reduction. Crim. Dkt. #129. The Sentencing Court found that Mr. Templeton qualified for a base level offense of 38, added 6 points for the risk of harm to the life of a minor, and subtracted 3 points for acceptance of responsibility, ending up with an offense level of 41 with a criminal history level of 1. Id. The guidelines sentencing range for this offense and criminal history level was 324-405 months. Because this was outside the agreed range of 180-300 months, the Sentencing Court then deliberated about a non-guideline based sentence. Id. Considering the amount of methamphetamine that Mr. Templeton produced, combined with his manufacturing in the presence of children and toxic dumping of residual chemicals, the Sentencing Court found that a sentence equal to double the statutory minimum of 10 years was appropriate. Id.

         On August 9, 2016, Mr. Templeton filed a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines' (“USSG”) Drug Quantity Table. Crim. Dkt. #148. The Government opposed the motion. Crim. Dkt. #148. After reviewing the motion, response, and hearing oral arguments, the Court denied Mr. Templeton's motion. Crim. Dkt. #162. Mr. Templeton appealed the Order denying his motion to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Crim. Dkt. #163. The appeal is pending.

         On June 12, 2016, Mr. Templeton filed a § 2255 motion claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Dkt. # 1.


         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a), a federal prisoner may file a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his or her sentence “upon the ground that the sentence 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 collateral attack . . . .” Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c), there is no right to appeal from a final order in a proceeding under section 2255 unless a circuit judge issues a certificate of appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(B).


         Mr. Templeton argues that his trial counsel's failure to ask the Court to reduce his total offense level by two levels under USSG § 2D1.1(b)(7) at his sentencing constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. A claim for ineffective assistance of counsel requires a showing that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) the claimant was prejudiced by the inadequate performance. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). The first step requires showing “that counsel made errors so serious that counsel was not functioning as the ‘counsel' guaranteed the defendant by the Sixth Amendment.” Id. In applying this first step, courts “must apply a strong presumption that counsel's representation was within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 104 (2011) (quotation marks and citation omitted). The second step requires showing “that counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive the defendant of a fair trial, a trial whose result is reliable.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.

         A. Timeliness

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f), there is a one-year statute of limitations period for filing a motion to vacate a sentence. While Mr. Templeton's conviction became final on April 18, 2007, he argues that a new one-year statute of limitations period applies to his claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(4). Under § 2255(f)(4), the one-year period for filing a motion to vacate begins to run on “the date on which facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(4). Mr. Templeton's argues that a new statute of limitations period for filing a motion to vacate began when two events occurred: 1) this Court denied his 28 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) motion and commented that there were “several appealing arguments” presented to reduce Mr. Templeton's sentence (Crim. Dkt. # 162); and 2) the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in United States v. Davis, 825 F.3d 1014 (9th Cir. 2016), finding that defendants who entered into Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreements may benefit from section 3582(c)(2) if “the judge's decision to accept the plea and impose the recommended sentence” was based on the USSG. Id. at 1026.

         Mr. Templeton argues that, had his trial counsel argued properly for a two-level safety valve reduction at his sentencing in 2005, his new guidelines sentencing range would have made him eligible for a sentence reduction. Absent the two-level safety valve reduction at the time of sentencing, Mr. Templeton's sentencing guidelines range was 324 - 405 months. Under the current applicable sentencing guidelines, Mr. Templeton's sentencing range would be 262 - 327 months imprisonment. Mr. Templeton's current sentence, 240 months, falls below the sentencing range, which made him ineligible for a sentence reduction under Amendment 782. Mr. Templeton contends that had he received the two-level safety valve reduction, the new applicable guidelines sentencing range would have been 210 - 267 months imprisonment, which would have allowed him to qualify for a reduction in sentence under Amendment 782. Amendment 782 did not become applicable to Mr. Templeton until the decision in Davis, thus, Mr. Templeton argues that he would not have been able to show that he was prejudiced by the ...

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