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Dodard v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 4, 2018




         Presently before the Court is the amended motion of Freddie Dodard (“Petitioner”) to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 1, 3). Following this Court's Order to Answer (ECF No. 4), the Government filed a response to the motion (ECF No. 15), to which Petitioner has replied. (ECF No. 16). For the reasons set forth in this Opinion, this Court will deny Petitioner's motion and deny him a certificate of appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In affirming Petitioner's sentence, the Third Circuit provided the following summary of the background of this matter:

In two separate instances, in December 2012 and February 2013, [Petitioner] sold a combined total of 61.3 grams of crack cocaine to a cooperating witness. A grand jury issued a two-count indictment against [Petitioner] for (1) possession with intent to distribute twenty-eight grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii); and (2) possession with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). On November 18, 2014, [Petitioner] entered into an agreement with the government whereby he pleaded guilty to Count Two of the indictment.
In anticipation of sentencing, the United States Probation Office prepared a presentence report. That report recommended that [Petitioner], by virtue of his prior convictions, qualified as a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, resulting in his being within criminal history category VI. That status, taken together with the offense conduct and a deduction for acceptance of responsibility, yielded an advisory guidelines range of 151 to 188 months. [Petitioner] did not . . . challenge the guidelines calculation.
Prior to the sentencing hearing, both [Petitioner] and the government submitted sentencing memoranda to the District Court. At that hearing, [Petitioner] sought leniency from the Court on several grounds, placing significant emphasis on [Petitioner's] history of mental health issues. He also questioned the seriousness of the offenses on his record, as well as the current offense, nearly all of which consist[ed] of non-violent drug offenses. He then read from an article by a former judge discussing the disproportionate and often discriminatory nature of drug sentences. Finally, [Petitioner] took on the career offender guidelines more directly, first by suggesting that he was “really on the very border” of qualifying[1] [as a career offender], but also by directing the Court to a report by the United States Sentencing Commission that called into question the efficacy of the career offender provision in protecting the public, at least with respect to drug traffickers. [Petitioner] also spoke on his own behalf, expressing contrition and explaining the personal circumstances that led him to commit the crime.
The government, for its part, endorsed a within-guidelines sentence. It disputed the notion that [Petitioner]'s mental illness should factor into sentencing and asserted that [Petitioner's] bipolar disorder was well-managed when [Petitioner] took his medication and only adversely affected him when he opted not to. It also reiterated [Petitioner]'s long criminal record and frequent recidivism, principally for drug distribution, noting that the offense conduct underlying the instant sentencing occurred while [Petitioner] was still on supervised release following a 75 month incarceration.
The Court, in explaining the sentence, addressed all of the issues raised by [Petitioner] and the government, and noted several times that its decision was made after considering the sentencing memoranda, the arguments made during the hearing, and the statement of [Petitioner] himself. It acknowledged that the notion that [Petitioner] was not in control of his decision to deal drugs was not credible in light of his other actions. Finally, it expounded on its concerns about [Petitioner]'s history and his recidivism, the need to protect the community from his behavior, the deterrent function of the sentence, and the need for rehabilitation.
Ultimately, after reiterating the calculated offense level and criminal history were correct, the Court sentenced [Petitioner] ¶ 151 months' imprisonment, the bottom of his guidelines range, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Immediately following the imposition of sentence, [Petitioner] objected for the record that the Court did not address the disproportionate effect of the career offender guidelines for non-violent offenders. The Court disagreed, saying that the career offender enhancement was appropriately applied to [Petitioner] for the reasons discussed earlier.

United States v. Dodard, 663 Fed.Appx. 199, 200-201 (3d Cir. 2016).

         Petitioner appealed to the Third Circuit, arguing that his sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. Id. at 201-203. In his procedural argument, Petitioner asserted that this Court failed to consider and address his argument that the career offender guideline was flawed as applied to drug offenders, and should not be applied to him. Id. at 202. The Third Circuit rejected that argument, however, finding that this Court had appropriately classified Petitioner as a career offender, had considered his policy argument, and had reasonably rejected that argument having considered Petitioner's criminal history and requests for leniency. Id. The Third Circuit also rejected Petitioner's argument that his sentence was substantively unreasonable as “[t]here was ample justification for the sentence [Petitioner] received . . . [i]n light of his significant recidivism, and especially the fact that his most recent crime occurred while on supervised release, ” and affirmed Petitioner's sentence in full. Id. at 202-03.


         A. ...

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