United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ARTHUR J. TARNOW
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE PETITION FOR WRIT OF
HABEAS CORPUS AND DENYING LEAVE TO PROCEED IN FORMA PAUPERIS
J. TARNOW, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Randy Chris Garza, an inmate at the Danbury Federal
Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, filed a
pro se application for the writ of habeas corpus
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. The petition challenges
Petitioner's sentence for a federal drug offense on the
basis that he was improperly sentenced as a career offender.
For the reasons given below, the Court will deny the
April 5, 2011, Petitioner pleaded guilty in the United States
District Court for the Southern District of Texas to
possession with intent to distribute 82.48 grams of cocaine.
See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). As part of the plea
agreement, Petitioner waived his right to appeal his
conviction and sentence and the right to contest his
conviction or sentence in any post-conviction proceeding.
See Mem. of Plea Agreement, ¶ 7, United
States v. Garza, No. 2:11-cr-117-1 (S.D. Tex. April 5,
2011) (Document 27).
the sentencing phase, Petitioner was designated a career
offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines,
because he was at least eighteen years old when he committed
the current offense, his current offense was a felony
involving a controlled substance, and he had two prior felony
convictions for either a crime of violence or a crime
involving a controlled substance. See Mem. Op. and
Order Denying Mot. to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence
and Denying a Certificate of Appealability, pp. 3-4,
Garza, No. 2:11-cr-117-1 (Document 84), 2017 WL
932933, at *2. Petitioner's prior convictions included a
federal conviction for use of a firearm during and in
relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924(c) and a state conviction for possession of
a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Id.,
Mem. Op. and Order, p. 4, 2017 WL 932933, at *2.
sentencing guidelines were scored at 151 to 188 months. The
trial court, however, sentenced Petitioner to a term of 120
months (ten years) in prison. See Judgment in a
Criminal Case, p. 2, Garza, No. 2:11-cr-117-1
(Document 40); see also 6/23/11
Sentencing/Revocation Hr'g Tr., pp. 4, 9-10,
Garza, No. 2:11-cr-117-1 (Document 76).
did not appeal his conviction and sentence, but on June 21,
2016, he challenged his sentence in a motion filed under 28
U.S.C. § 2255. See Mot. for Relief under §
2255, Garza, No. 11-cr-117-1 (Document 72). He
argued that the residual clause of the career-offender
provision in the Sentencing Guidelines was unconstitutionally
vague under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct.
2551, 2563 (2015), and therefore, he was entitled to a new
sentence. The sentencing court denied Petitioner's motion
because the motion was time-barred and the underlying claim
lacked substantive merit. See Mem. Op. and Order,
pp. 2-5, Garza, No. 2:11-cr-117-1 (Document 84),
2017 WL 932933, at *1-*2.
did not appeal the trial court's decision. Instead, on
June 29, 2017, he filed his habeas corpus petition in this
District. He contends that he is entitled to habeas corpus
relief under the Fifth Circuit's decision in United
States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016). In
Hinkle, the Fifth Circuit determined that a federal
inmate's prior conviction for the delivery of heroin
could not serve as a predicate offense for the
career-offender provision of the United States Sentencing
Guidelines because the prior conviction was not a
“controlled substance offense” under the
Guidelines. Accordingly, the Fifth Circuit vacated the
petitioner's sentence and remanded his case for
argues that the Texas statute which he violated mimics the
Texas statute at issue in Hinkle and, therefore, his
Texas conviction should not have been used to classify him as
a career offender and enhance his federal sentence. The
Government maintains that Petitioner waived the right to
collaterally attack his sentence, that his claim is
procedurally defaulted because he could have raised it in his
§ 2255 motion, and that Petitioner may not challenge his
federal sentence in a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
noted above, Petitioner waived his “right to contest
his . . . conviction or sentence by means of any
post-conviction proceeding.” Mem. of Plea Agreement,
¶ 7, Garza, No. 2:11-cr-00117-1 (Document 27).
“It is well-settled that a knowing and voluntary waiver
of a collateral attack is enforceable.” Slusser v.
United States, 895 F.3d 437, 439 (6th Cir. 2018) (citing
Watson v. United States, 165 F.3d 486, 489 (6th Cir.
1999)), cert. denied, 139 S.Ct. 1291 (2019).
Moreover, the transcript of Petitioner's plea proceeding
indicates that his plea was informed and voluntary. His
waiver of the right to contest his sentence, therefore, bars
relief in this collateral proceeding. Subsequent developments
in the law did “not suddenly make [his] plea
involuntary or unknowing or otherwise undo its binding
nature.” Id. at 440 (quoting United States
v. Bradley, 400 F.3d 459, 463 (6th Cir. 2005)). For this
reason alone, the Court need not address the merits of
Using Section 2241 to ...