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Sykes v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 14, 2014

MARCUS SYKES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

ENTRY DISCUSSING MOTION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO 28 U.S.C. § 2255 AND DENYING CERTIFICATE OF APPEALABILITY

LARRY J. McKINNEY, District Judge.

For the reasons discussed in this Entry, the motion of Marcus Sykes for relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be denied. In addition, the Court finds that a certificate of appealability should not issue.

I. Background

On June 18, 2008, the Grand Jury sitting in the Southern District of Indiana handed down an Indictment charging Sykes with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). On June 27, 2008, Sykes filed a Petition to Enter a Plea of Guilty. That petition was submitted to the Court without a plea agreement having been reached between Sykes and the United States.

Under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), any person convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm who has "three previous convictions... for a violent felony... committed on occasions different from one another" is subject to a mandatory minimum prison term of fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Because Sykes had three prior violent felony convictions, his statutory minimum sentence was fifteen years imprisonment. Sykes' three violent felony convictions include the following: one fleeing law enforcement conviction and two robbery convictions (both of which stem from a crime spree that occurred on November 27, 1995).

On October 8, 2008, this Court determined that the appropriate sentencing guideline range was 188 to 235 months imprisonment. Sykes was then sentenced to a term of 188 months imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

On direct appeal, Sykes argued that his fleeing law enforcement conviction should not count as a violent felony for purposes of the ACCA. His argument was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court. See Sykes v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2267 (2011).

II. Discussion

Sykes now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. A motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the presumptive means by which a federal prisoner challenges his conviction or sentence. See Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A court may grant relief from a federal conviction or sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 "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." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Relief pursuant to § 2255 is limited to "an error of law that is jurisdictional, constitutional, or constitutes a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice." Borre v. United States, 940 F.2d 215, 217 (7th Cir. 1991) (internal quotation omitted).

Sykes claims that he is entitled to relief under § 2255 because his counsel failed to provide effective assistance as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right... to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." U.S. Const. Amend. VI. This right to assistance of counsel encompasses the right to effective assistance of counsel. McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 771, n. 14 (1970); Watson v. Anglin, 560 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2009).

A party claiming ineffective assistance of counsel bears the burden of showing (1) that his trial counsel's performance fell below objective standards for reasonably effective representation and (2) that this deficiency prejudiced the defense. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-94 (1984); United States v. Jones, 635 F.3d 909, 915 (7th Cir. 2011). To satisfy the first prong of the Strickland test, the petitioner must direct the Court to specific acts or omissions of his counsel. Wyatt v. United States, 574 F.3d 455, 458 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court must then consider whether in light of all of the circumstances counsel's performance was outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Id.

Sykes specifies two grounds in support of his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. First, Sykes asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective at the sentencing proceeding by failing to argue that his two robbery convictions were related and count only as one offense for purposes of the ACCA. Second, Sykes alleges that his counsel failed to negotiate a plea agreement with a more favorable sentence than the sentence he received. For the reasons explained below, Sykes' specifications of ineffective assistance of counsel are without merit and his petition must be denied.

Armed Career Criminal Act

As previously mentioned, the ACCA subjects any person convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm who has "three previous convictions... for a violent felony[1]... committed on occasions different from one another" to a mandatory minimum prison term of fifteen years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). To determine whether the felonies were committed on different occasions, the operative test analyzes whether the crimes were committed sequentially or simultaneously. United States v. Hudspeth, 42 F.3d 1015, 1021 (7th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (defendant committed ...


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