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United States v. Contreras

United States District Court, D. Alaska

May 5, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEX CONTRERAS, Defendant.

ORDER AND OPINION [RE: Motion at doc. 745]

JOHN W. SEDWICK, District Judge.

I. MOTION PRESENTED

At docket 745, defendant Alex Contreras moved for reduction in his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). The Government responded at docket 750 and filed a notice of new authority at docket 752. Contreras replied at docket 753. Oral argument was not requested and would not assist the court.

II. BACKGROUND

Alex Contreras was indicted along with seven other defendants. In the first superseding indictment, Contreras was charged as follows: Count 1 charged a conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; Count 2 charged a conspiracy to violate 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A); Count 5 charged distribution of controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C); Counts 13-17, 19, 21, and 27 charged possession with intent to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C); and Counts 38-41 charged using and carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(I). Six of the defendants pled guilty, but Contreras and co-defendant Frank Moniz exercised their right to a jury trial.

The court granted the Government's motion to dismiss Count 2. Trial commenced on May 13, 2002. On May 17, 2002, the jury returned their verdicts. Contreras was found guilty on Count 1, the conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, all eight counts of possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), and Counts 38, 40, and 41 charging using and carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). The jury returned not guilty verdicts on Counts 5 and 39.

Based on the amount of controlled substances involved in the conspiracy, Contreras was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months on the charge of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. Contreras was also subject to mandatory minimum sentences on the weapons charges. The first firearms offense carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months consecutive to the sentence for the drug crimes. The second firearms offense carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 300 months consecutive to the sentence for the drugs and the first firearms offense. The third firearms offense carried another consecutive mandatory sentence of 300 months.

Contreras was sentenced on July 11, 2002. The court sentenced him to a term of 121 months (the bottom of his guideline range) for all the drug crimes by ordering the sentences on each to run concurrently. On the firearms charges, the court merged the two counts carrying a 300 month mandatory minimum and added 300 months to the 60 months required on the first firearms conviction. Thus, Contreras was sentenced to an additional 360 months to be served consecutively to the 121 month sentence. Contreras appealed his sentence. This court's decision was affirmed.[1] The appellate court's mandate was received on September 18, 2003.

On August 20, 2004, Contreras filed a motion collaterally attacking his conviction and sentence pursuant 28 U.S.C. § 2255. That motion was denied. At that time no further relief was available to Contreras. However, after the United States Sentencing Commission amended the Sentencing Guidelines applicable to drug offenses involving crack cocaine, Contreras moved for a reduction in his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The amendment to the Guidelines had the effect of reducing Contreras' guideline sentencing range to 97-121 months from 121-151 months. However, the amendment did not reduce the statutory mandatory minimum of 120 months. The court granted Contreras' motion to the maximum extent consistent with the law by lowering his sentence on the drug charges from 121 to 120 months. Contreras appealed, and the court's decision was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit.[2]

III. DISCUSSION

A. Relief not available under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

In his motion, Contreras asserts that the court's jury instructions relating to the § 924© charges were erroneous.[3] He also asserts that the drug quantity used in calculating his sentence was incorrectly determined.[4] These assertion constitute a collateral attack on Contreras' sentence and therefore must be considered as a motion made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

Contreras' § 2255 motion is not timely. In the circumstances here, the applicable statutory provision requires that a motion made pursuant to § 2255 be brought within one year after Contreras' judgment became final.[5] This court received the mandate affirming his conviction in September of 2003, and Contreras did not file a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court. The one-year period ran when the time for filing such a petition expired.[6] Thus, the one-year period began running in 2004, and expired in 2005, many years before the motion at hand was filed. The time for filing a § 2255 motion may be tolled, but only if the petitioner demonstrates diligent pursuit of his rights and extraordinary circumstances.[7] Contreras has not made the required showing. His assertions respecting the § 924(c) convictions and the quantity of drugs are therefore not properly before the court.

There is a second reason why Contreras' assertions regarding the § 924(c) convictions and the drug quantity may not be considered by this court. Contreras previously filed a § 2255 motion. Therefore, the pending motion cannot be considered under § 2255, because Contreras has not obtained ...


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