Unites States of America v. Jones
MEMORANDUM Opinion and Order: The Court grants the United States' motion to dismiss 7 and directs the Clerk to enter judgment dismissing Kelsey Jones'smotion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 1 . The Court declines to issue a certificate of appealability. Civil case terminated. Signed by the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly on 7/19/2021. Mailed notice. (mma, )
Case: 1:20-cv-04098 Document #: 12 Filed: 07/19/21 Page 1 of 6 PageID #:69
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Case No. 20 C 4098
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge:
In 2016, after a jury trial held before another judge of this Court, Kelsey Jones
was convicted of narcotics offenses, conspiracy to murder a federal witness,
discharging a firearm, and other charges. The judge sentenced him to a thirty-five year
prison term. On June 30. 2020, Jones placed a pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255
into the internal prison mailing system. The Clerk received Jones's motion and some
related materials on July 10, 2020. Jones's motion asserts claims of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel. The government has moved to dismiss Jones's motion as
untimely. The Court grants the motion to dismiss for the reasons stated below.
A one-year limitations period applies to a section 2255 motion. 28 U.S.C. §
2255(f). The one-year period runs from the latest of four dates: the date when the
judgment of conviction became final; the date on which an unconstitutional governmentimposed impediment to filing a motion was removed; the date the right asserted was
initially recognized by the Supreme Court; or the date on which the facts supporting the
claims could have been discovered with due diligence. Id. § 2255(f)(1)-(4). In Jones's
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case, the only one of these dates that conceivably applies is the first.
A judgment of conviction is deemed final under section 2255(f)(1) when the
Supreme Court affirms the decision on direct appeal or denies certiorari, or when the
time for filing a petition for writ of certiorari lapses. Clay v. United States, 537 U.S. 522,
526 (2003). Jones was sentenced on January 26, 2016. He appealed to the Seventh
Circuit, which affirmed his conviction and sentence. Jones then filed a petition for
certiorari, which the Supreme Court denied on January 22, 2018. Thus, under section
2255(f)(1), Jones's section 2255 motion was due by January 22, 2019. He did not file
the motion, however, until about seventeen months after that date.
Jones's motion is therefore untimely unless equitable tolling of the limitations
period saves the motion from untimeliness. To invoke equitable tolling, Jones must
establish that he has pursued his rights diligently and that some extraordinary
circumstance occurred to prevent him from filing on time. Lombardo v. United States,
860 F.3d 547, 551 (7th Cir. 2017); Mayberry v. Dittmann, 904 F.3d 525, 529–30 (7th
Piecing together Jones's multiple submissions, he seeks equitable tolling based
on the following facts. During part of the relevant period, he was incarcerated at FCI
Pekin. Based on documentation he has provided, it appears that he was placed in a
"special housing unit" (SHU) for disciplinary reasons on July 17, 2018 and that he
remained in the SHU until February 24, 2019, after the due date for his section 2255
motion. Jones claims, or at least implicitly claims, that he lacked access to the prison
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law library or needed legal materials during that period. 1
About a month after Jones was released from the SHU, he was transferred to a
different prison, FCI Gilmer, where he arrived on March 27, 2019. He appears to
contend that his property, including his legal papers and materials, was taken from him
at FCI Pekin on February 21, 2019 and was not returned to him until April 2, 2019 at
FCI Gilmer. Jones also states that FCI Gilmer was on lockdown during unspecified
periods in the following months—March 2019, July 2019, August 2019, November
2019, and December 2019—and that it is "very difficult" to get access to the law library
or computers while the prison is on lockdown.
The government appears to argue that Jones cannot show he was diligent
because he could have prepared and filed his section 2255 motion before July 17,
2018, when he was placed in the SHU. But that would amount to shortening the
limitations period to five months.
The government contends that the limitations period should not tolled during the
time period Jones was in the SHU and when FCI Gilmer was on lockdown. United
States ex rel. Jones v. Hulick, 449 F.3d 784, 789 (7th Cir. 2006), appears to indicate
that time spent in segregation (the equivalent to the SHU) without access to the law
library is not subject to equitable tolling, and some district court cases in this circuit—
which of course are not binding authority—reach similar conclusions. See, e.g., Lee v.
United States, No. 08-10039-001, 2010 WL 971814, at *2 (C.D. Ill. Mar. 12, 2010);
Wiley v. United States, No. 2:08-CV-247-WTL-JMS, 2009 WL 10690943, at *2 (S.D.
Jones appears to claim that the disciplinary charge that led to his placement in the
SHU was unwarranted, but the Court need not adjudicate that contention to resolve the
motion to dismiss.
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Ind. Feb. 20, 2009). But cf. United States v. Flemister, No. 03-C-0349-C, 2003 WL
23220726, at *1 (W.D. Wis. July 9, 2003) (denying tolling based on placement in special
housing unit but appearing to base this on absence of allegation that movant was
actually denied access to his legal materials during that period). The Court is inclined to
believe, however, that this is not categorically so; there are certainly circumstances in
which government-imposed lack of access to a law library may entitle a habeas corpus
petitioner or a section 2255 movant to equitable tolling. See, e.g., United States ex rel.
Strong v. Hulick, 530 F. Supp. 2d 1034, 1038-40 (N.D. Ill. 2008) (Kennelly, J.). Jones,
however, has provided no information describing exactly how the lockdowns and his
placement in the SHU actually affected his ability to file his motion on time.
The Court need not, however, decide these arguably fact-bound issues. Even
were one to pause the one-year clock from the date Jones went into the SHU until the
date after he came out when he got his legal papers back, and during each of the
periods that he says FCI Gilmer was on lockdown—both of which are questionable
propositions on the present record—his section 2255 motion was still filed outside the
one year allowed under section 2255(f). Here is the calculation if one takes the
disputed periods in Jones's favor and then stops the clock in mid-March 2020 due to the
pandemic (another arguably questionable proposition):
5 months, 23 days (January 23, 2018 to July 16, 2018) – at FCI Pekin
before placement in SHU.
2 months, 28 days (April 2, 2019 to June 30, 2019) – at FCI Gilmer from
return of legal materials on April 2, 2019 and up to July 2019 lockdown.
2 months (September 1, 2019 to October 31, 2019) – at FCI Gilmer
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between August 2019 and November 2019 lockdowns.
2 months, 15 days (January 1, 2020 to March 16, 2020) – at FCI Gilmer
after December 2019 lockdown and before likely imposition date of COVID
The total of these periods is a little over thirteen months. But the law only gave
Jones twelve months. In sum, even if the Court were to deduct the entirety of each of
the periods during which Jones says he was hindered from preparing and filing his
section 2255 motion, the motion was filed too late. Nor has Jones offered anything to
support the required showing that he "acted with reasonable diligence throughout the
period he seeks to toll," Wiley, 2009 WL 10690943, at *2, a required element for
application of equitable tolling.
For these reasons, the Court concludes that Jones's section 2255 motion was
not timely filed.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2), a movant under section 2255 may obtain a
certificate of appealability only if he makes a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right. When, as in this case, a section 2255 motion is dismissed on
procedural grounds, a court should issue a certificate of appealability only if "jurists of
reason would find it debatable whether the district court was correct in its procedural
ruling." Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000). In this case the Court's
determination that Jones's motion is time-barred is not fairly debatable.
For the reasons stated above, the Court grants the United States' motion to
dismiss [dkt. no. 7] and directs the Clerk to enter judgment dismissing Kelsey Jones's
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motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 [dkt. no. 1]. The Court declines to issue a certificate of
Date: July 19, 2021
MATTHEW F. KENNELLY
United States District Judge
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