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Robles v. Willis

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

May 10, 2017

LUIS DANIEL ROBLES, Reg. No. 11040-028, Petitioner,
v.
J. SCOTT WILLIS, Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          KATHLEEN CARDONE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Luis Daniel Robles seeks relief from his federal sentence through a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (ECF No. 1). After reviewing the record and for the reasons discussed below, the Court will sua sponte dismiss the petition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243.[1]

         Robles, a federal prisoner at the La Tuna Federal Correctional Institution in Anthony, Texas, [2] is serving a 120-month sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana after he pleaded guilty to possessing with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine.[3] Robles claims that in light of Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), the Indiana District Court erred when it relied on his prior convictions in California for receipt of stolen property and felon in possession of a weapon to increase his criminal history category from I to II.[4] He asks the Court to resentence him without considering his prior California convictions.[5]

         “A section 2241 petition for habeas corpus on behalf of a sentenced prisoner attacks the manner in which his sentence is carried out or the prison authorities' determination of its duration.”[6] To prevail, a § 2241 petitioner must show that he is “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.”[7] A § 2241 petitioner may make this attack only in the district court with jurisdiction over his custodian.[8]

         By contrast, a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 '"provides the primary means of collateral attack on a federal sentence.'”[9] Relief under § 2255 is warranted for errors that occurred at trial or sentencing.[10] A § 2255 petitioner may only bring his motion in the district of conviction and sentence.[11]

         Section 2255(e) does contain a “savings clause” which acts as a limited exception to these general rules. It provides a court may entertain a petition for writ of habeas corpus under § 2241 challenging a federal criminal conviction if it concludes that filing a motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence pursuant to ' 2255 is inadequate to challenge a prisoner's detention.[12] A petitioner must, however, satisfy a two-prong test before he may invoke the “savings clause” to address errors occurring at trial or sentencing in a petition filed pursuant to ' 2241:

[T]he savings clause of ' 2255 applies to a claim (i) that is based on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision which establishes that the petitioner may have been convicted of a nonexistent offense and (ii) that was foreclosed by circuit law at the time when the claim should have been raised in the petitioner's trial, appeal, or first ' 2255 motion.[13]

         A petitioner must prove both prongs to successfully invoke the savings clause.[14] Thus, ' 2241 is not a mere substitute for ' 2255; a petitioner bears the burden of showing that the ' 2255 remedy is inadequate or ineffective.[15] In this case, Robles may proceed with an attack on the validity of his sentence in a ' 2241 petition only if he can meet both prongs of the stringent test in the ' 2255(e) “savings clause.”[16]

         The first prong of the test is, essentially, an “actual innocence” requirement whose “core idea is that the petitioner may be have been imprisoned for conduct which was not prohibited by law.”[17] To meet the first prong, a petitioner must rely on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision which establishes that he may have been convicted of a nonexistent offense.[18]

         Robles relies on the Supreme Court's opinion in Mathis to support his claim that he is entitled to sentencing relief. The Mathis, Court outlined the process by which a district court should determine, for the purposes of imposing an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act, if a defendant's prior state-court conviction was one of the enumerated violent felonies listed in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii).[19] Prior to Mathis, the Supreme Court required a district court to compare the elements of the state crime with the generic version of the enumerated federal offense. If the state crime was “the same as, or narrower than, the relevant generic offense, ” then the state crime qualified as an enumerated offense.[20] In Mathis, the Court reaffirmed this approach. The Court explained, however, that because the inquiry focuses on the generic offense, the court “may not ask whether the defendant's conduct-his particular means of committing the crime-falls within the generic definition.”[21] Accordingly, if the elements of the state law crime are broader than the generic version of the enumerated federal offense, then the state law conviction cannot serve as a predicate for career offender status under the Armed Career Criminal Act. But because the Mathis Court reaffirmed prior Supreme Court rulings, it has not been recognized as announcing a new substantive rule retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review.[22] Moreover, because it reaffirmed prior rulings, Robles's claim was not foreclosed by circuit law at the time he should have raised his claim at trial, on appeal, or in a ' 2255 motion.

         Furthermore, Robles does not assert his factual innocence with regard to his drug-trafficking conviction in the Indiana District Court. He challenges the calculation of his criminal history category and his sentence. Thus, Robles has not alleged or shown that he “may have been convicted of a nonexistent offense” in the Indiana District Court.[23] In other words, his claim “has no effect on whether the facts of his case would support his conviction for the substantive offense.”[24]

         Since Robles's claim does not meet either prong of the savings clause, the Court will not allow him to proceed with a claim pursuant to ' 2241.

         Additionally, the Court notes that Robles “expressly agree[ed] not to contest his conviction or sentence or seek to modify his sentence or the manner in which it was determined in any type of proceeding, including, but not limited to, an action brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.”[25] “A defendant may waive his statutory right to appeal if the waiver is knowing and voluntary.”[26] Because Robles indicated that he “read the entire Plea Agreement and discussed it with [his] attorney” and “underst[ood] all the terms of the Plea Agreement, ”[27] which included an explicit, unambiguous waiver of a collateral attack on his sentence, the waiver was knowing, voluntary, and binding.[28]

         The Court will, therefore, dismiss Robles's petition as frivolous, and to the extent that Robles's petition may be construed as a § 2255 motion, the Court will dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction.[29]Accordingly, the Court enters the following orders:

         IT IS ORDERED that Petitioner Luis Daniel Robles's pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2241 (ECF No. 1) and ...


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