Hidalgo v. Castaneda
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: 1. Hidalgo's petition for writ of habeas corpus R. 1 is DENIED 2. The Court will enter a judgment contemporaneously with this order. 3. This matter is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the docket. Signed by Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr on 1/8/18.(KSS)cc: COR, Hidalgo (via US mail)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
NORTHERN DIVISION at ASHLAND
JUAN JOSE HIDALGO,
JORGE CASTANEDA, Warden,
JAN ·• B 2018
R05ERT R. CARR
1 ~l_ER~Z U.S. DlSTRiCT COURT
Civil No. 17-133-HRW
*** *** *** ***
Federal inmate Juan Jose Hidalgo has filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [D. E. No. 1] This matter is before the Court
to conduct an initial screening ofHidalgo's petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander
v. Northern Bureau ofPrisons, 419 F. App'x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011).
In July 2008, a jury in El Paso, Texas found Hidalgo guilty of various drug
and money laundering charges for his role in a large drug trafficking ring. Prior to
trial, the government filed a notice pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 which indicated that
Hidalgo had one prior conviction for drug possession. Because Hidalgo' s federal
conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) came "after a prior conviction for a felony drug
offense has become final," his mandatory minimum sentence increased from ten to
twenty years imprisonment. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(l)(A). However, even without the
application of that provision, Hidalgo had an Offense Level of 38 and a Criminal
History Category of II, resulting in a discretionary guidelines range of 262 to 327
months imprisonment [D. E. No. 1 at 17-19], more than the 20-year minimum.
During the sentencing hearing held in October 2008, a two-level adjustment
to the guidelines range was made for use of a special skill, but no career offender
enhancement was applied underU.S.S.G. § 4Bl.l(a). The resulting guidelines range
was 324 to 405 months imprisonment. The trial court then departed from the
guidelines and imposed a 288-month sentence, well below the applicable guidelines
range. United States v. Hidalgo, No. 3: 07-CR-1624-PRM-l 7 (W.D. Tex. 2007).
The Fifth Circuit rejected Hidalgo' s challenges to both his convictions and
sentence on direct appeal. US. v. Hidalgo, 385 F. App'x 372 (5th Cir. 2010). In
2012, the trial court denied Hidalgo's motion for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 as
untimely. In March 2016, the trial court reduced Hidalgo's sentence to 262 months
imprisonment pursuant to Amendment 782 of the sentencing guidelines.
In his§ 2241 petition, Hidalgo contends that the enhancement of his sentence
based upon his prior drug conviction was improper in light of Descamps v. United
States, _U.S._, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013) and Mathis v. United States,_ U.S._,
136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016). [D. E. No. 1 at 23-28]
As a preliminary matter, Hidalgo may not challenge his sentence in a§ 2241
petition because it was imposed in 2008 after the Supreme Court's decision in United
States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005) rendered the sentencing guidelines advisory
rather than mandatory. Hill v. Masters, 836 F. 3d 591, 599-600 (6th Cir. 2016).
Hidalgo's claim is also substantively without merit. Descamps held that when
a federal trial court determines whether to apply the career offender enhancement
found in 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(l), it may only consult Shepard materials when the prior
conviction sought to be used as a predicate offense was committed under a divisible
statute, meaning one that defines multiple offenses. Descamps, 133 S. Ct. at 228385. For its part, Mathis reminded courts that a statute is not divisible merely because
it describes alternative factual means to commit a single offense. Mathis, 136 S. Ct.
Both Descamps and Mathis involved enhancements under § 924(e), and their
holdings are applicable to enhancements under the functionally-identical guidelines
counterpart found in U.S. S. G. § 4B1.1 (a). But Hidalgo' s sentence was not enhanced
under either of these provisions. Instead, his sentence was enhanced under the far
simpler provision found in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(l)(A) because he had previously
committed a "felony drug offense." To qualify as a "felony drug offense," no
detailed comparison of elements is required. Rather, 21 U.S.C. § 802(44) merely
requires that the prior state or federal offense (1) be punishable by more than one
year in prison, and (2) that it "prohibits or restricts conduct relating to narcotic drugs,
marihuana, anabolic steroids, or depressant or stimulant substances."
By its terms, § 802(44) does not require that the prior offense constitute any
particular species of crime, but only that it "relat[e] to" conduct involving drugs.
Given the breadth of this definition the use of the categorical approach is neither
necessary nor appropriate. See United States v. Graham, 622 F. 3d 445, 456-57 (6th
Cir. 2010); United States v. Spikes, 158 F.3d 913, 932 (6th Cir. 1998) ("[Section]
802(44) only requires that the state statute criminalize conduct 'relating' to drugs.
The use of the expansive term 'relating' as the only substantive limitation on the
reach of the statutory phrase 'felony drug offense' clearly indicates that the statute
encompasses drug offenses that involve the simple possession of drugs."), cert.
denied, 525 U.S. 1086 (1999).
The more complex analysis involved in cases
governed by Descamps and Mathis is simply not relevant to Hidalgo's
For each of these reasons, Hidalgo's petition fails to establish any basis for
habeas relief. Cf. United States v. Smith, No. 1:12-CR-88-1, 2017 WL 3528954, at
*5-6 (W.D. La. July 11, 2017) (rejecting the exact argument pressed here and
correctly noting that "[t]he categorical approach in Moncrieffe and Taylor has never
been applied to the enhanced penalty provisions of§ 84l(b)(l)(A) and has never
been used to interpret the phrase 'felony drug offense' in 21 U.S.C. § 802(44).")
(citing United States v. Wing, No. 5:13-CR-87-JMH, 2016 WL 3676333, at *2 (E.D.
Accordingly, it is ORDERED as follows:
Hidalgo's petition for a writ of habeas corpus [R. l] is DENIED.
The Court will enter a judgment contemporaneously with this order.
This matter is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the docket.
This 'bifcr;y of January, 2018.
Heriry_ Ro WilhoitJr.
United Stales District Judge
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