United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Jose L. Linares, United States District Judge
Following a jury trial, Petitioner Reinaldo Jimenez was
convicted of conspiracy to commit money laundering in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h) in February 1998.
(See Docket No. 97-156 at ECF No. 252). Following
the verdict at trial, Petitioner fled this district,
remaining at large until he was apprehended in California in
November 2014. (See Docket No. 97-156 at ECF No.
244). Following his return to this District, this Court
sentenced Petitioner to 96 months imprisonment on October 6,
2015. (Docket No. 97-156 at ECF No. 252). Petitioner does not
appear to have appealed his sentence. (ECF No. 3 at 3).
January 31, 2017, Petitioner filed in this court a purported
motion to vacate his sentence brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255. (ECF No. 1). This Court administratively
terminated that motion on February 7, 2017, because
Petitioner had used an improper form. (ECF No. 2).
March 8, 2017, Petitioner filed an amended motion to vacate
sentence on the appropriate form. (ECF No. 3). Because
Petitioner has now refiled his motion on the correct form,
this Court is required to preliminarily review
Petitioner's amended motion pursuant to Rule 4 of the
Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, and to
"dismiss the motion" if it "plainly appears
from the motion, any attached exhibits, and the record of
prior proceedings that the moving party is not entitled to
relief." Pursuant to this rule, a district court is
"authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition
that appears legally insufficient on its face."
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856(1994).
his amended motion, Petitioner presents two requests - that
this Court consider his alleged post-verdict and post-arrest
acceptance of responsibility and reduce his sentence pursuant
to U.S. Sentencing Guideline § 3E1.1, and that this
Court consider an amendment to the minor role guideline,
which Petitioner contends is retroactive, and reduce his
sentence accordingly. (ECF No. 3 at 5-15). Petitioner does
not assert, in either of his claims, that his current
sentence is unconstitutional or was legally improper at the
time it was issued, instead asserting only that he believes
that an amendment to the guidelines retroactively reduces his
sentence, and that he desires the Court to reconsider his
sentence based on his alleged post-guilty verdict and
post-flight acceptance of responsibility. (Id.).
U.S.C. § 2255 provides federal prisoners with a means
through which they may collaterally attack their convictions
and sentences. The statute, however, only provides an avenue
for relief for convicted prisoners asserting a right to
release "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 a sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the
maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to
collateral attack." Thus, a party may only seek relief
under the statute if he alleges a jurisdictional defect, a
constitutional violation, or an error of law or fact that
constitutes "a fundamental defect which inherently
results in a complete miscarriage of justice, [or] an
omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair
procedure." United States v. Horsley, 599 F.2d
1265, 1268 (3d Cir. 1979) (quoting Hill v. United
States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)), cert,
denied, 444 U.S. 865 (1979); see also Morelli v.
United States, 285 F.Supp.2d 454, 458-59 (D.N.J. 2003).
Because most claims concerning a Sentencing Guidelines error
under the advisory guidelines are not constitutional or
jurisdictional in nature, such challenges are generally not
cognizable under § 2255 absent a miscarriage of justice.
See United States v. Bell, No. 13-5809, 2016 WL
3638116, at *6 n.3 (E.D. Pa. July 6, 2016); see also
United States v. Ruddock, 82 F.App'x 752, 758 (3d
Cir. 2003); but see United States v. Doe, 810 F.3d
132, 159 (3d Cir. 2015) (permitting a Guidelines error claim
under § 2255 where the petitioner is challenging
substantive Guidelines errors imposed under the pre-2005
mandatory sentencing guidelines, but declining to address
such a claim under the current advisory Guidelines).
his current motion, Petitioner presents two claims in which
he essentially seeks to have this Court reduce his sentence
based on an amendment to the minor role Guideline, as well as
based on his opinion that, despite his having gone to trial
and thereafter fleeing, he should receive a reduction for
acceptance of responsibility under Guideline § 3E1.1.
Petitioner does not assert in either claim that this
Court's original sentence was improper, illegal,
unconstitutional, or even unjust, instead asserting only his
desire for a reduction of that sentence. Thus, Petitioner has
not stated a cognizable § 2255 claim. See Bell,
2016 WL 3638116 at *6 n.3; Ruddock, 82 F.App'x
if Petitioner's § 3E1.1 claim were cognizable under
§ 2255, that claim would fail because the Guideline
permits reductions of a sentence only where a criminal
defendant's acceptance of responsibility permitted the
Government to avoid preparing for trial, and only where the
Government files a motion with the sentencing court seeking
such a reduction, which did not occur here. See, e.g.,
United States v. Drennon, 516 F.3d 160, 161-63 (3d Cir.
2008). In light of Petitioner's having gone to trial and
fleeing the District following his conviction, Petitioner is
clearly not entitled to any credit under the acceptance of
responsibility Guideline, and his acceptance of
responsibility claim would fail even if it were available
under § 2255. Id.
Petitioner's other claim, that a retroactive amendment to
the minor role adjustment guideline should warrant a
reduction in his sentence, is also not cognizable under
§ 2255. As this Court explained in administratively
terminating Petitioner's original motion, a "motion
for resentencing based on amendments to the Guidelines is not
appropriately brought in a § 2255 motion [but instead
should be brought by filing] a motion under 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) in [the petitioner's] criminal case."
Seabrooks v. United States, No. 15-6972, 2016 WL
3409582, at *3 n.6 (D.N.J. June 15, 2016). Thus,
Petitioner's Guideline Amendment claim is also improper
under § 2255, and it must be dismissed as such.
Court is dismissing both of Petitioner's claims because
they fail to state a cognizable § 2255 claim, and
because Petitioner's acceptance of responsibility claim
is otherwise without merit, and thus this Court must also
address whether a certificate of appealability is warranted
in this matter. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2253(c), a
petitioner may not appeal from a final order in a proceeding
under § 2255 unless he "has made a substantial
showing of the denial of a constitutional right."
"A petitioner satisfies this standard by demonstrating
that jurists of reason could disagree with the district
court's resolution of his constitutional claims or that
jurists could conclude that the issues presented here are
adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further."
Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U.S. 322, 327 (2003).
"[W]hen the district court denies a habeas petition on
procedural grounds without reaching the prisoner's
underlying constitutional claim, a COA should issue... if the
prisoner shows, at least, that jurists of reason would find
it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the
denial of a constitutional right, and that jurists of reason
would find it debatable whether the district court was
correct in its procedural ruling." Slack v.
McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). Because jurists of
reason would not disagree with this Court's finding that
Petitioner's claims are not cognizable under § 2255
and that Petitioner's acceptance of responsibility claim
is otherwise without merit, Petitioner has failed to make a
substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right
and his claims do not deserve encouragement to proceed
further. Petitioner is therefore denied a certificate of
conclusion, Petitioner's amended motion to vacate
sentence (ECF No. 3) is hereby DISMISSED and Petitioner is
DENIED a certificate of appealability. An appropriate order