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Wells v. Terris

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

August 31, 2017

JAMES O. WELLS, Petitioner,
v.
J.A. TERRIS, Respondent.

          ORDER SUMMARILY DISMISSING THE HABEAS PETITION

          DENISE PAGE HOOD CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner James O. Wells, an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Milan, Michigan, recently filed a pro se petition for the writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The pleading challenges Petitioner's sentence of 293 months for conspiracy, bank robbery, carrying a firearm, and money laundering. Because Petitioner has not shown that a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is an inadequate or ineffective means for challenging his sentence, the Court will summarily dismiss the petition.

         I. Background

         Petitioner alleges that, on August 26, 1997, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371, bank robbery, 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), carrying a firearm, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and money laundering, 18 U.S.C. § 1957. On April 2, 1998, United States District Judge James T. Moody of the Northern District of Indiana sentenced Petitioner to concurrent terms of 60 months in prison for the conspiracy and 233 months for the bank robbery. Petitioner received a consecutive mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months in prison for carrying a firearm, making the total sentence 293 months.[1] Petitioner states that he did not appeal his convictions and that he unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Petitioner filed his habeas petition on July 6, 2017. His sole ground for habeas relief reads:

When sentencing a defendant under 18 USC § 924(c) to consecutive mandatory minimums[, a] court can consider reducing [the] sentence for [the] underlying offense to as little as one day.

Pet. at 5.

         The basis for Petitioner's argument is the Supreme Court's recent decision in United States v. Dean, 137 S.Ct. 1170, 1176-77 (2017), which held that, “[n]othing . . . prevents a sentencing court from considering a mandatory minimum under § 924(c) when calculating an appropriate sentence for the predicate offense.” Petitioner claims that, when he was sentenced, Judge Moody could not exercise his sentencing discretion and consider Petitioner's mandatory minimum sentence for the § 924(c) conviction when determining the appropriate sentence for the underlying bank robbery. Petitioner seeks to have the Court order his release from federal custody or to transfer his case to the Northern District of Indiana for a hearing and a reduced sentence pursuant to the Supreme Court's decision in Dean.

         II. Analysis

         On receipt of a habeas petition, a federal court must “promptly examine [the] petition to determine ‘if it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief.' ” Crump v. Lafler, 657 F.3d 393, 396 n.2 (6th Cir. 2011) (quoting Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts).[2] “Federal courts are authorized to dismiss summarily any habeas petition that appears legally insufficient on its face . . . .” McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); see also Martin v. Overton, 391 F.3d 710, 714 (6th Cir. 2004) (stating that Rule 4 allows the summary dismissal of a petition if it plainly appears that the petitioner is not entitled to relief).

         The issue here is whether Petitioner may bring his sentencing claim under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The Sixth Circuit recently reaffirmed that “[a] challenge to the validity of a federal conviction or sentence is generally brought as a habeas corpus petition pursuant to § 2255, while a petition concerning the manner or execution of a sentence is appropriate under § 2241.” Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591, 594 (6th Cir. 2016) (citing United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001)); see also Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999)(noting that “courts have uniformly held that claims asserted by federal prisoners that seek to challenge their convictions or imposition of their sentence shall be filed in the sentencing court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and that claims seeking to challenge the execution or manner in which the sentence is served shall be filed in the court having jurisdiction over the prisoner's custodian under 28 U.S.C. § 2241”) (internal citations omitted).

         Petitioner is challenging the legality of his sentence, as opposed to, the execution or manner in which he is serving his sentence. As such, the proper remedy for his claim is a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under § 2255. He may bring his claim under § 2241 only if his claim falls within the “savings clause” of § 2255, which permits a prisoner to apply for the writ of habeas corpus when it “appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

The petitioner carries the burden to establish that the savings clause applies to his petition and “[t]he circumstances in which § 2255 is inadequate and ineffective are narrow.” Peterman, 249 F.3d at 461. . . . [Section] 2255 is not “inadequate or ineffective” merely because habeas relief has previously been denied, a § 2255 motion is procedurally barred, ...

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