United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER
Y. PEARSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se Petitioner Walter Lewis, Jr, an inmate in the Federal
Correctional Institution in Elkton, Ohio filed the
above-captioned Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner was convicted in 2007 in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
West Virginia, pursuant to a guilty plea, of possession with
intent to distribute and distribution of more than 5 grams of
cocaine base. He was sentenced to 262 months in prison, and
four years of supervised release. Petitioner has now seeks
relief under § 2241 from his Sentencing Guideline
classification as a career offender based on the Supreme
Court's recent decisions in Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2245-46 (2016) and
Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. 254 (2013).
was named in a thirteen-count indictment filed on February 6,
2007 in the United States District Court for the Northern
District of West Virginia. See United States v.
Lewis, No. 5:07-cr-00005 (N.D. W.Va. indict filed Feb.
6, 2007). He pled guilty on April 2, 2007 to Count Ten of the
indictment charging him with possession with intent to
distribute and distribution of more than 5 grams of cocaine
base. He appeared for sentencing on December 6, 2007. His
offense level was determined to be 34, which was a base
offense level of 32 plus two levels for obstruction of
justice. His criminal history category was IV, based on seven
criminal history points, but his prior Pennsylvania felony
convictions in 1999 for robbery and in 2005 for a controlled
substance offense qualified him as a career offender under
the United States Sentencing Guidelines
(“U.S.S.G.”) § 4B1.1, placing him in a
criminal history category of VI. Petitioner's Guideline
range was 262 to 327 months in prison. Petitioner received a
sentence at the lowest end of that range, 262 months,
followed by four years of supervised release. His conviction
and sentence were upheld on appeal.
filed two Motions to Vacate Sentence under 28 U.S.C. §
2255. His first motion asserted ineffective assistance of
trial counsel and was denied on the merits on February 9,
2011. See Lewis v. United States, No. 5:09 CV 104
(N.D. WV Feb. 9, 2011). He attempted to file a second or
successive petition on June 22, 2016, but the Fourth Circuit
Court of Appeals denied his application for authorization to
has now filed this Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241
challenging his sentence in light of Johnson,
Mathis, and Descamps. He contends he is
actually innocent of the U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 enhancement as
a career criminal because his state law convictions for
robbery and the controlled substance offense are broader than
the generic offenses defined in U.S.S.G. §§
4B1.2(a)(1) (force clause) and 4B1.2(b) (controlled substance
offense). He contends he is entitled to resentencing without
the career offender enhancement.
Standard of Review
of habeas corpus “may be granted by the Supreme Court,
any justice thereof, the district courts and any circuit
judge within their respective jurisdictions.” 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241(a). Section 2241 “is an affirmative grant
of power to federal courts to issue writs of habeas corpus to
prisoners being held ‘in violation of the Constitution
or laws or treaties of the United States.'”
Rice v. White, 660 F.3d 242, 249 (6th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Section 2241(c)). Because Petitioner is appearing
pro se, the allegations in his Petition must be
construed in his favor, and his pleadings are held to a less
stringent standard than those prepared by counsel. Urbina
v. Thoms, 270 F.3d 292, 295 (6th Cir. 2001). However,
the Court may dismiss the Petition at any time, or make any
such disposition as law and justice require, if it determines
the Petition fails to establish adequate grounds for relief.
Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 775 (1987);
see also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th
Cir. 1970) (holding district courts have a duty to
“screen out” Petitions lacking merit on their
face under 28 U.S.C. § 2243).
Law and Analysis
general matter, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and 28 U.S.C. §
2241 provide the statutory scheme for federal prisoners to
obtain habeas relief. See Terrell v. United States,
564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Section 2255 provides the
primary avenue of relief for federal prisoners claiming the
right to release as a result of an unlawful sentence, while
§ 2241 “is appropriate for claims challenging the
execution or manner in which the sentence is served.”
United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th
Cir. 2001). Therefore, claims asserted by federal prisoners
seeking to challenge their sentences must be filed in the
sentencing court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See
Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 756 (6th Cir. 1999).
is a “savings clause” in 28 U.S.C. §
2255(e), which provides a narrow exception to the statutory
scheme and allows a federal prisoner to challenge his
conviction or sentence under § 2241 if § 2255
“is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of
the detention.” Terrell, 564 F.3d at 447.
Section 2255 relief is not inadequate or ineffective,
however, merely because § 2255 relief has been denied,
the Petitioner is procedurally barred from pursuing §
2255 relief, or the Petitioner has been denied permission to
file a second or successive § 2255 motion. Barnes v.
United States, 102 F. App'x. 441, 443 (6th Cir.
2004). Rather, the Sixth Circuit has held the savings clause
applies to allow a § 2241 petition only in the narrow
circumstance where a petitioner demonstrates “actual
innocence based upon Supreme Court decisions announcing new
rules of statutory construction unavailable for attack under
[S]ection 2255.” Hayes v. Holland, 473 F.
App'x. 501, 502 (6th Cir. 2012). Actual innocence means
“factual innocence.” The petitioner must
demonstrate “it is more likely than not that no
reasonable juror would have convicted him.”
Barnes, 102 F. App'x. at 443.
is challenging his sentence. Therefore, he must demonstrate
that his claim fits within the narrow exception of the
savings clause. Claims alleging actual innocence of a
sentencing enhancement generally cannot be raised under
§2241. Jones v. Castillo, 489 F. App'x.
864, 866 (6th Cir. 2012). In 2016, the Sixth Circuit, in
Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591, 599-600 (6th Cir.
2016), provided an exception to that rule for a narrow subset
of § 2241 petitions for: (1) prisoners who were
sentenced under the mandatory guidelines regime
pre-United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005),
(2) who are foreclosed from filing a successive petition
under § 2255, and (3) when a subsequent, retroactive
change in statutory interpretation by the Supreme Court
reveals that a previous conviction is not a predicate offense
for a career-offender enhancement. Hill, 836 F.3d at
599-600. In 2017, the Supreme Court held that vagueness
challenges under Johnson do not apply to the
Guidelines' because the Guidelines “merely guide
the exercise of court's discretion in choosing an
appropriate sentence within the statutory range.”
Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 894 (2017).
In this case, Petitioner was sentenced under the advisory
guidelines, not the pre-Booker mandatory guidelines.
Neither Hill nor Johnson apply, and
Petitioner has not demonstrated he can proceed under the
savings clause. Therefore, he may not file this claim under
this Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241 is denied and this action is dismissed
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243. Further, the Court
certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ...