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Cartagena v. Terris

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 31, 2015

JOSE CARTAGENA, Petitioner,
v.
J. A. TERRIS, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS [1]

LAURIE J. MICHELSON, District Judge.

Jose Ramos-Cartagena is serving a sentence of imprisonment at a federal correctional institution in Michigan for robbing an armored-car depot of $5.5 million dollars. He asks this Court, which sits in (the Eastern District of) Michigan, to grant him a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. But challenges to the legality of confinement, as opposed to the manner of confinement, should be filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2555 with the sentencing court. That would be the United States District Court for Puerto Rico. Although there is an exception to this rule where § 2555 remedies are "inadequate or ineffective, " Ramos-Cartagena has not shown that to be the case. So he cannot invoke § 2241, and this Court is not the right one to decide the merits of his habeas corpus petition. The Court will thus summarily dismiss this case under 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases.

I.

A.

In May 1997, "[t]hree armed men dressed in security guard uniforms held up the Loomis, Fargo & Co. armored car depot in Ponce, Puerto Rico, ... while a fourth robber stood watch outside. The robbers took the Loomis Fargo guards captive as they returned to the company's offices in armored vehicles from runs to area banks. All told, the robbers got away with an estimated $5.5 million." United States v. Mojica-Baez, 229 F.3d 292, 296-97 (1st Cir. 2000).

In 1998, a jury convicted Ramos-Cartagena of several charges arising out of this armed robbery, the most relevant for present purposes being a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c). See Mojica-Baez, 229 F.3d at 297. Section 2 makes one who aids in the commission of a federal offense "punishable as a principal, " while Section 924(c) prohibits the use of a firearm "during and in relation to any crime of violence or drug trafficking crime." See id. The United States District Court for Puerto Rico sentenced Ramos-Cartagena to just under 28 years of imprisonment. It appears that at least five of those were for violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 924(c)(1). See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (providing an additional five-, seven-, or ten-year sentence for possessing, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during and in relation to any crime of violence, respectively).

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed Ramos-Cartagena's convictions and sentences, United States v. Mojica-Baez, 229 F.3d 292 (1st Cir. 2000), and the Supreme Court denied his petition for a writ of certiorari, Cartagena v. United States, 532 U.S. 1066 (2001).

B.

Ramos-Cartagena then filed three motions or petitions with the trial court (the United States District Court for Puerto Rico).

First, in 2002, Cartagena filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 asking the trial court to vacate his sentence. The district court summarily dismissed his motion. See Ramos-Cartagena v. United States, No. 3:02-cv-01842 (D. Puerto Rico Dec. 9, 2003). (The First Circuit denied Cartagena a certificate of appealability, Ramos-Cartagena, No. 04-1202 (1st Cir. Dec. 17, 2004), and the Supreme Court denied cert, Cartagena v. United States, 544 U.S. 1067 (2005)).

Second, in 2013, Cartagena filed a motion with the trial court under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) seeking to modify his sentence due to an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines. The trial court denied the motion. United States v. Cartagena, No. 97-110-01, 2013 WL 3929818, *1-2 (D. Puerto Rico July 29, 2013).

Third, later in 2013, Cartagena filed another § 2255 petition asking the trial court to vacate his convictions on Count 2 and Count 5, the latter corresponding to his use-of-a-firearm-during-the-commission-of-a-felony conviction under § 924(c). The federal district court dismissed the petition without prejudice because Cartagena had not sought authorization from the First Circuit Court of Appeals to file a second § 2255 petition. See United States v. Cartagena, No. 97-110-01, 2014 WL 104952, *1-3 (D. Puerto Rico Jan. 9, 2014).[1]

C.

Ramos-Cartagena, now detained at the federal penitentiary in Milan, Michigan, petitions this Court (which, like Milan, sits in the Eastern District of Michigan) for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The basis for his petition is the United States Supreme Court's relatively recent decision in Rosemond v. United States, - U.S. -, 134 S.Ct. 1240, 188 L.Ed.2d 248 (2014). There, the Court held that when the Government charges a defendant with aiding or abetting under 18 U.S.C. § 2 for conduct that violates 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), the Government "makes its case by proving that the defendant actively participated in the underlying drug trafficking or violent crime with advance knowledge that a confederate would use or carry a gun ...


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