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United States v. Wesley.

No. 22-3066. 2/28/2023. D.Kan. Judge Tymkovich. Drug Trafficking—US Sentencing Guidelines—Motions Under 28 USC § 2255—Motions Under 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i)—Lack of Jurisdiction.

February 28, 2023

Wesley was convicted of multiple drug trafficking counts. The district court sentenced him to 30 years’ imprisonment in accordance with the US Sentencing Guidelines-recommended range based on the more than 150 kilograms of cocaine attributed to him. Wesley unsuccessfully requested relief on direct appeal under 28 USC § 2255 and through a motion for compassionate release under 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Wesley filed a second postconviction compassionate release motion requesting a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). He alleged various grounds for relief, including that his sentencing exposure was increased because the prosecutor suborned perjury about the drug quantities attributable to him. The district court concluded that the prosecutorial misconduct claim must be interpreted as a challenge to the constitutionality of Wesley’s conviction and sentence, which could only be brought under § 2255. The court held that the allegations regarding prosecutorial misconduct amounted to an unauthorized successive § 2255 motion, and it dismissed that portion of Wesley’s motion for lack of jurisdiction. The district court also found that the remaining grounds for relief did not justify a sentence reduction.

On appeal, Wesley argued that the district court erred in dismissing his motion for lack of jurisdiction because the evidence of prosecutorial misconduct supports a sentence reduction under the compassionate release statute, without regard to whether the alleged misconduct is also a constitutional violation that could justify § 2255 relief. Section 2255 is presumptively the vehicle by which federal prisoners must challenge their convictions or sentences. The Tenth Circuit has held that in other contexts where defendants have attempted to raise § 2255-like claims outside of § 2255 following direct appeal, such motions—regardless of how they are captioned or argued—must be treated as § 2255 motions. Accordingly, an 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) motion may not be based on claims specifically governed by 28 USC § 2255. Here, Wesley’s motion included an unauthorized successive § 2255 claim because it attacked the validity of his sentence. Therefore, the district court correctly refused to exercise jurisdiction as to the portion of Wesley’s motion arguing a defect in his sentence based on prosecutorial misconduct.

The jurisdictional dismissal was affirmed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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