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Jones v. Warden, USP-Leavenworth

United States District Court, D. Kansas

November 15, 2019

DOMINIQUE ALEXANDER JONES, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, USP-Leavenworth, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN W. LUNGSTRUM, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is a pro se petition for habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner is in federal custody at USP-Leavenworth. Petitioner challenges his sentencing as a career offender. The Court has screened his Petition (Doc. 1) under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases, foll. 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and dismisses this action without prejudice for lack of statutory jurisdiction.

         Background

         Petitioner “pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (2006).” United States v. Jones, No. 11-4130, 2011 WL 4525964, 448 Fed.Appx. 354, 355 (4th Cir. Sept. 30, 2011). Petitioner appealed his conviction and sentence, and the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal in part, finding that the sentencing issues Petitioner sought to raise on appeal are barred by the terms of his waiver of appellate rights. Id. at 355-56. The Fourth Circuit affirmed Petitioner's conviction, finding that Petitioner's plea was knowing and voluntary. Id. at 355.

         Petitioner filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, contending that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender, in light of the Fourth Circuit's holding in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011). Jones v. United States, Nos. 5:10-CR-00074-F-1, 5:11-CR-00686-F, 2013 WL 4828558, at *1 (E.D. N.C. Sept. 10, 2013). The court found that the waiver in Petitioner's plea agreement was knowing and voluntary, and that he waived the right to pursue his claim. Id. at *2. The court denied a certificate of appealability. Id. at *4. Petitioner appealed, and the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, finding that Petitioner failed to make the requisite showing for a certificate of appealability. United States v. Jones, No. 13-7743, 565 Fed.Appx. 202 (4th Cir. April 7, 2014). On November 3, 2014, the Supreme Court denied a petition for writ of certiorari. Jones v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 462 (2014).

         The district court dismissed a subsequent § 2255 motion as successive but unauthorized and treated Petitioner's Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion as a successive § 2255 motion and dismissed it on the same basis. See United States v. Jones, 616 Fed.Appx. 98 (4th Cir. Sept. 23, 2015). Petitioner appealed, and the Fourth Circuit held that Petitioner failed to demonstrate that the district court's ruling that he lacked authorization to submit a successive § 2255 motion was debatable and dismissed this portion of the appeal and denied a certificate of appealability. Id. at 98. The Fourth Circuit also found that the district court properly construed Petitioner's postjudgment motion as a successive § 2255 motion, affirmed the district court's order dismissing his postjudgment motion for want of jurisdiction, and denied authorization to file a successive § 2255 motion. Id. at 99; see also United States v. Jones, 687 Fed.Appx. 240 (4th Cir. April 27, 2017) (finding that the district court properly dismissed Petitioner's Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion as a successive § 2255 motion in 5:10-cr-00074-F-1, and denying authorization to file a successive § 2255 motion).

         In Petitioner's current § 2241 Petition, he challenges the validity of his sentence as imposed. Petitioner alleges that his sentence enhancement is not proper and that he is not a career offender in light of the Fourth Circuit's opinion in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011). Petitioner invokes the savings clause in § 2255(e), alleging that the remedy under § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to challenge his conviction or sentence because his sentence was legal at the time he was sentenced on January 31, 2011, and current caselaw foreclosed his arguments. Petitioner argues that Simmons was decided on August 17, 2011, and it was not until August 21, 2013, that the court made Simmons retroactive in Miller v. United States, 735 F.3d 141, 147 (4th Cir. 2013).

         Analysis

         The Court must first determine whether § 2241 was the proper vehicle to bring Petitioner's claims. Because “that issue impacts the court's statutory jurisdiction, it is a threshold matter.” Sandlain v. English, 2017 WL 4479370 (10th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017) (unpublished) (finding that whether Mathis is retroactive goes to the merits and the court must first decide whether § 2241 is the proper vehicle to bring the claim) (citing Abernathy v. Wandes, 713 F.3d 538, 557 (10th Cir. 2013)).

         A federal prisoner seeking release from allegedly illegal confinement may file a motion to “vacate, set aside or correct the sentence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). A motion under § 2255 must be filed in the district where the petitioner was convicted and sentence imposed. Sines v. Wilner, 609 F.3d 1070, 1073 (10th Cir. 2010). Generally, the motion remedy under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides “the only means to challenge the validity of a federal conviction following the conclusion of direct appeal.” Hale v. Fox, 829 F.3d 1162, 1165 (10th Cir. 2016), cert. denied sub nom. Hale v. Julian, 137 S.Ct. 641 (2017). However, under the “savings clause” in § 2255(e), a federal prisoner may file an application for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in the district of confinement if the petitioner demonstrates that the remedy provided by § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

         Petitioner seeks to rely on the decision in Simmons, which is an intervening judicial interpretation of a statute, and not a new rule of constitutional law. When a petitioner is denied relief on his first motion under § 2255, he cannot file a second § 2255 motion unless he can point to either “newly discovered evidence” or “a new rule of constitutional law, ” as those terms are defined in § 2255(h). Haskell v. Daniels, 510 Fed.Appx. 742, 744 (10th Cir. 2013) (unpublished) (citing Prost v. Anderson, 636 F.3d 578, 581 (10th Cir. 2011)). Preclusion from bringing a second motion under § 2255(h) does not establish that the remedy in § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective. Changes in relevant law were anticipated by Congress and are grounds for successive collateral review only under the carefully-circumscribed conditions set forth in § 2255(h).

         The Tenth Circuit has rejected an argument that the “current inability to assert the claims in a successive § 2255 motion-due to the one-year time-bar and the restrictions identified in § 2255(h)-demonstrates that the § 2255 remedial regime is inadequate and ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” Jones v. Goetz, No. 17-1256, 2017 WL 4534760, at *5 (10th Cir. 2017) (unpublished) (citations omitted); see also Brown v. Berkebile, 572 Fed.Appx. 605, 608 (10th Cir. 2014) (unpublished) (finding that petitioner has not attempted to bring a second § 2255 motion, and even if he were precluded from doing so under § 2255(h), that “does not establish the remedy in § 2255 is inadequate”) (citing Caravalho v. Pugh, 177 F.3d 1177, 1179 (10th Cir. 1999) and Prost, 636 F.3d at 586). If § 2255 could be deemed “inadequate or ineffective” “any time a petitioner is barred from raising a meritorious second or successive challenge to his conviction-subsection (h) would become a nullity, a ‘meaningless gesture.'” Prost, 636 F.3d at 586; see also Hale, 829 F.3d at 1174 (“Because Mr. Hale cannot satisfy § 2255(h), he cannot, under Prost, satisfy § 2255(e), and § 2241 review must be denied.”).

         The AEDPA “did not provide a remedy for second or successive § 2255 motions based on intervening judicial interpretations of statutes.” Abernathy v. Wandes, 713 F.3d 538, 547 (10th Cir. 2013), cert. denied 134 S.Ct. 1874 (2014). However, prisoners who are barred from bringing second or successive § 2255 motions may still be able to petition for habeas relief under the savings clause in § 2255(e). Id.

         However, § 2255 has been found to be “inadequate or ineffective” only in “extremely limited circumstances.” Id. (citations omitted). “Only in rare instances will § 2255 fail as an adequate or effective remedy to challenge a conviction or the sentence imposed.” Sines, 609 F.3d at 1073. A petitioner does not present one of these rare instances “simply by asserting his ability to file a § 2255 motion is barred by timing or filing restrictions.” Crawford v. United States, 650 Fed.Appx. 573, 575 (10th Cir. 2016) (unpublished) (citing Sines, 609 F.3d at 1073; Haynes v. Maye, 529 Fed.Appx. 907, 910 (10th Cir. 2013) (unpublished) (noting fact that § 2255 motion is time-barred doesn't render § 2255 remedy inadequate or ineffective); Garris v. Lindsay, 794 F.2d 722, 727 (D.C. Cir. 1986) ...


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