United States District Court, D. New Jersey
L. WOLFSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Carl Anthony Barnett (“Barnett” or
“Petitioner”), is a federal prisoner proceeding
pro se with a motion to vacate, set aside, or
correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the
following reasons, Barnett's § 2255 motion is
denied, and the Court also denies a certificate of
BACKGROUND AND PLEADINGS
The Underlying Criminal Proceeding
October 2011, Barnett and numerous others,  all allegedly
members of a gang known as the Detroit Boyz, were indicted
before this Court on various criminal charges. United
States v. Barnett, Crim. No. 11-452 (FLW) (D.N.J.),
Superseding Indict., ECF No. 150. Specifically, Barnett was
indicted for 1) conspiracy to distribute and possess with
intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine (Count
One), 2) conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine (Count Two), 3)
conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to
distribute 100 grams or more of heroin (Count Three), and 4)
distribution and possession with intent to distribute five
kilograms or more of cocaine (Count Ten), pursuant to 18
U.S.C. § 2 and 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a),
841(b)(1)(A), and 846. Id. A second superseding
indictment added additional defendants, and included a count
against Barnett for distribution and possession with intent
to distribute a quantity of cocaine. See Crim. No.
11-452, ECF No. 161. In April 2012, a grand jury returned a
third superseding indictment, which added counts against
Barnett for distribution and possession with intent to
distribute 28 grams or more of crack cocaine (Count Twelve),
distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin
(Count Thirteen), both under 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B), as well as possession of a
firearm in furtherance of drug-trafficking crimes, under 18
U.S.C. §§ 2 and 924(c)(1)(A)(i). See
Crim. No. 11-452, ECF No. 210.
4, 2012, Barnett pleaded guilty before this Court to Count
One, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and Count Nineteen,
use and carry of a firearm during and in relation to drug
crime. Crim. No. 11-452, ECF Nos. 277, 278, 327. The plea
agreement acknowledged that the conviction on Count One,
taking account of prior-crime enhancements, carried a
statutory minimum sentence of 20 years' imprisonment and
a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, while Count Two
carried a minimum sentence of five years, to run consecutive
to the other sentence. Id., ECF No. 278 at 2 &
Sched. A. On May 17, 2012, Barnett moved for the appointment
of new counsel, claiming, essentially, that his original
attorney, Edward Burch, did not adequately represent him.
Crim. No. 11-452, ECF No. 318. The Court granted that
request, and Barnett was subsequently represented by
Frederick W. Klepp (“Klepp”). Crim. No. 11-452,
ECF No. 319.
during the pendency of Barnett's first criminal matter,
referenced above, on May 17, 2012, Barnett was again indicted
by a grand jury for attempt to distribute or to possess with
the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance
containing cocaine, under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
841(b)(1)(B), and 846. United States v. Barnett,
Crim. No. 12-349 (FLW) (D.N.J.), Indict., ECF No. 10. On
August 8, 2012, Barnett pleaded guilty to the offense
indicted. Id., ECF Nos. 15-17. The plea agreement
noted that the offense carried a statutory minimum sentence
of five years' imprisonment and a maximum sentence of 40
years. Id., ECF No. 17 at 1-2.
various delays, a joint sentencing hearing occurred before
the Court on June 30, 2014. See Crim. No. 11-452,
ECF Nos. 441 & 476; Crim. No. 12-349, ECF Nos. 27 &
30. At sentencing, the Court explained that the firearm
offense carried a mandatory minimum sentence of five years,
to run consecutive to any other sentence. Crim. No. 11-452,
Tr. of Hr'g (June 30, 2014), ECF No. 476, at 4; Crim No.
12-349, ECF No. 30. While the Court found that the Sentencing
Guidelines would result in an adjusted offense level on the
conspiracy charge of 31, as Barnett conceded that he was a
career offender due to predicate felony drug offenses, the
Court applied an offense level of 34, with a criminal-history
level of 6. Id. at 5-7. On the drug distribution
charge from the 2012 indictment, the Court found that, as a
career offender, Barnett's adjusted offense level was a
31, with a criminal history level of 6. Id. at
due to Barnett's substantial cooperation, the government
moved for a 15-level downward departure and waiver of
statutory minimum sentences, requesting that Barnett be
sentenced under an offense level of 19 on the 2011 drug
charges and an offense level of 16 on the 2012 drug charge,
but a consecutive five-year sentence for the firearm offense
remained. Id. at 14-16. The Court granted this
application and sentenced to Barnett to 72 months on the 2011
drug charge, with 60 months to run consecutively for the
firearms offense, and to 46 months, to run concurrently, on
the 2012 drug charge, resulting in an aggregate sentence of
132 months. Id. at 16-19, 41-43; see also
Crim. No. 11-452, J. (July 2, 2014), ECF No. 443; Crim. No.
12-349, J. (July 2, 2014), ECF No. 30. On March 13, 2015,
Petitioner also received a further reduction from 132 months
to 111 months pursuant to USSG § 1B1.10. See
Crim No. 11-452 at ECF No. 454.
Petitioner's § 2255 Motion
did not file a direct appeal. On October 23, 2016, he filed
the instant § 2255 petition, raising a single ground for
relief based on the Supreme Court's decision in
Mathis v. United States, 579 U.S. --, 136 S.Ct.
2243, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016). Civil No. 16-7940, ECF No. 1.
Petitioner subsequently filed two “motions” to
amend his petition. Id. at ECF Nos. 2, 4. The first
motion to amend provides additional arguments in support of
Petitioner's Mathis claim. Id. at ECF
No. 2. The second motion to amend appears to raise a new
claim arguing that Petitioner's guilty plea on the
weapons charge was involuntary. Id. at ECF No. 4. On
June 29, 2017, the Court directed the government to answer
the petition, Id. at ECF No. 9, and the answer was
filed on August 14, 2017. Id. at ECF No. 11. In its
answer, the government argues, in relevant part, that the
motion is untimely and without merit. Petitioner filed his
traverse on September 1, 2017. Id. at ECF No. 12.
The matter is now fully briefed and ready for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
may afford relief under Section 2255 on a number of grounds
including, “that the sentence was imposed in violation
of the Constitution or the laws of the United States.”
Id. § 2255(a); see also 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 Rule 1(a). The statute provides that, as a remedy
for an unlawfully-imposed sentence, “the court shall
vacate and set the judgment aside and shall discharge the
prisoner or resentence him or grant a new trial or correct
the sentence as may appear appropriate.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(b). The court accepts the truth of the
defendant's allegations when reviewing a Section 2255
motion unless those allegations are “clearly frivolous
based on the existing record.” United States v.
Booth, 432 F.3d 542, 545 (3d Cir. 2005). Additionally,
“[i]t is the policy of the courts to give a liberal
construction to pro se habeas petitions.” Rainey v.
Varner, 603 F.3d 189, 198 (3d Cir. 2010). A criminal
defendant nevertheless bears the burden of establishing his
entitlement to § 2255 relief. See United States v.
Davies, 394 F.3d 182, 189 (3d Cir. 2005). A court is
required to hold an evidentiary hearing when the motion
“allege[s] any facts warranting § 2255 relief that
are not clearly resolved by the record.” United
States v. Tolliver, 800 F.3d 138, 141 (3d Cir. 2015)
(quoting Booth, 432 F.3d at 546).
one-year limitations period applies under the Anti-Terrorism
and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(“AEDPA”). See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)
(“[a] 1-year period of limitation shall apply to a
motion under this section.”) This is Petitioner's
first § 2255 motion; however, he filed it over a year
after his convictions became final. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255(f)(1). The motion is thus untimely unless he can
prove that each of his claims fall within an exception to the
general one-year limitation period for habeas petitions.
See Id. Timeliness of habeas claims is determined on
a claim by claim basis. See Fielder v. Varner, 379
F.3d 113, ...