Caffie v. Butler
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER: 1) Petitioner Larry Caffie's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (Doc. #1) is DENIED; 2) The Court will enter a judgment contemporaneously with this order; 3) This matter is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court's active docket. Signed by Judge David L. Bunning on 10/30/2017.(RC)cc: COR, paper copy to pro se filer w/NEF via U.S. Mail
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 17-54-DLB
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
SANDRA BUTLER, Warden
Inmate Larry Caffie has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. # 1). This matter is before the Court to conduct an initial screening
of Caffie’s petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. N. Bureau of Prisons, 419 F. App’x
544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). Because Caffie’s claims cannot be asserted in a petition under
28 U.S.C. § 2241 and they are substantively without merit, the Court will deny the petition.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In April 2006, a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Central District
of Illinois issued a four-count Indictment charging Caffie with three counts of knowingly
and intentionally distributing cocaine base (crack), a Schedule II controlled substance, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C)(Counts 1-3) and one count of
knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of a
mixture and substance containing cocaine base (crack), a Schedule II controlled
substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). Shortly thereafter,
the prosecution filed a notice of its intention to seek an enhancement of Caffie’s sentence
under 21 U.S.C. § 851 in light of three prior felony drug convictions in Winnebago County,
Illinois. This notice was later amended to list only two prior felony drug convictions, one
in Winnebago County and the other in Kane County, Illinois. Caffie was therefore subject
to a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §
In May 2007, after a bench trial, Caffie was found guilty of all four counts of the
Indictment. In February 2008, Caffie was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 168
months on each of Counts 1-3, to be served concurrently with each other and the
sentence imposed on Count 4, and a term of life imprisonment on Count 4, to be served
concurrently to the terms imposed on Counts 1-3. United States v. Caffie, No. 1:06-CR10029-JBM-JAG-1 (C.D. Ill. 2006).1 Caffie appealed, but the Seventh Circuit Court of
Appeals dismissed the appeal as frivolous after his counsel filed a brief pursuant to
Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), indicating that there were no nonfrivolous
issues for appeal. United States v. Caffie, No. 08-1343 (7th Cir. 2008).
In 2009, Caffie filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In that motion, Caffie challenged the enhancement of his
sentence due to his prior drug convictions and further argued that he was denied effective
assistance of counsel both at trial and on appeal. Caffie’s § 2255 motion was denied in
2011. Caffie v. United States, No. 1:09-CV-01231-JES (C.D. Ill. 2009). Caffie was denied
a certificate of appealability.
Caffie v. United States, No. 11-2805 (7th Cir. 2011).
Thereafter, Caffie filed two additional motions, re-raising the same arguments in various
In 2012, pursuant to an Agreed Motion to Reduce Sentence in light of Amendment 750 to
the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the sentencing court reduced Caffie’s sentence on
Counts 1, 2, and 3 to a term of imprisonment of 140 months on each count. His sentence of life
imprisonment on Count 4 was unchanged. Id.
forms. Both motions were construed as unauthorized second or successive § 2255
petitions and denied. Caffie v. United States, No. 1:09-CV-01231-JES (C.D. Ill. 2009).
In 2014, Caffie filed a § 2241 petition in this Court, arguing that his sentence was
improperly enhanced for various reasons, including that his two prior convictions did not
qualify as predicate offenses for the purposes of a sentence enhancement. This Court
found that Caffie failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to proceed under § 2241
because he did not establish that his remedy under § 2255 was inadequate or ineffective,
nor did he allege a viable claim of actual innocence. Caffie v. Holland, No. 6:14-cv-67DCR (E.D. Ky. 2014).
In February 2017, Caffie filed another motion that was construed as an application
seeking authorization to file a successive motion to vacate his sentence under § 2255,
seeking to challenge his sentence under Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016).
The Seventh Circuit denied authorization, in part because Mathis did not announce a
constitutional rule, but also because Mathis, which defines “burglary” for purposes of 18
U.S.C. § 924(e), “has no relevance to Caffie’s life sentence, which was dictated by 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) and his prior convictions for felony drug offenses.” Caffie v. United
States No. 17-1233 (7th Cir. Feb. 14, 2017).
Caffie has now filed the instant § 2241 petition, arguing that he is entitled to relief
from his sentence pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Mathis,
which he argues is a new rule of statutory interpretation. (Doc. # 1). Specifically, Caffie
argues that the enhancement of his federal sentence pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)
violates his due-process and equal-protection rights because his prior convictions were
not evaluated as possible predicate offenses using the same “categorical approach”
described in Mathis, which is applied to evaluate prior convictions for possible sentence
enhancements imposed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Id. Caffie further claims that
he should be allowed to proceed under the “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)
because he is “actually innocent” of the § 841 enhancement pursuant to which he was
given a life sentence. Id.
A habeas corpus petition filed pursuant to § 2241 may be used to challenge actions
taken by prison officials that affect the manner in which the prisoner’s sentence is being
carried out, such as computing sentence credits or determining parole eligibility. Terrell
v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). If a federal prisoner instead wishes
to challenge the legality of his federal conviction or sentence, he must do so by filing a
motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the court that convicted and
sentenced him. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 2003). A habeas
corpus petition pursuant to § 2241 may not be used for this purpose because it does not
function as an additional or alternative remedy to the one available under § 2255.
Hernandez v. Lamanna, 16 F. App’x 317, 320 (6th Cir. 2001).
The “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) creates an extraordinarily narrow
exception to this prohibition if the remedy afforded by § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective”
to test the legality of the prisoner’s detention. Truss v. Davis, 115 F. App’x 772, 773-74
(6th Cir. 2004). A motion under § 2255 is not “inadequate or ineffective” simply because
the prisoner’s time to file a § 2255 motion has passed, he did not file a § 2255 motion, or
he did file such a motion and was denied relief. Copeland v. Hemingway, 36 F. App’x
793, 795 (6th Cir. 2002); Taylor v. Gilkey, 314 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding that
§ 2241 is available “only when a structural problem in § 2255 forecloses even one round
of effective collateral review ...”). In other words, prisoners cannot use a habeas petition
under § 2241 as another “bite at the apple.” Hernandez, 16 F. App’x at 360.
To properly invoke the savings clause, the petitioner must be asserting a claim that
he is “actually innocent” of the underlying offense by showing that after the petitioner’s
conviction became final, the Supreme Court re-interpreted the substantive terms of the
criminal statute under which he was convicted in a manner that establishes that his
conduct did not violate the statute. Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 307-08 (6th Cir.
2012) (citing United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461-62 (6th Cir. 2001)); Hayes v.
Holland, 473 F. App’x 501, 501-02 (6th Cir. 2012) (“To date, the savings clause has only
been applied to claims of actual innocence based upon Supreme Court decisions
announcing new rules of statutory construction unavailable for attack under section
The Supreme Court’s newly announced interpretation must, of course, be
retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Wooten, 677 F.3d at 308.
Caffie’s petition must be denied because his claims are not ones of actual
innocence, and hence are not cognizable in a § 2241 petition. Caffie asserts that the
enhancement of his sentence pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) is unconstitutional
because it was not the product of the categorical approach applicable to enhancements
under 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1).
This argument fails for several reasons. First, this is not a claim based upon
statutory interpretation, but a constitutional claim, and hence falls outside the purview of
§ 2241. Second, it is not a claim based upon Mathis at all; rather, it is predicated upon
the categorical approach, a doctrine established more than a decade before Caffie’s
sentence was imposed. See Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575, 600-601 (1990); see
also Shepard v. United States, 544 U.S. 13, 26 (2005). It is therefore a claim he could
and must have asserted before the trial court, upon direct appeal, or in a motion pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For these reasons, his claims may not be pursued under 28 U.S.C.
Moreover, Caffie also challenges his sentence. The decidedly narrow scope of
relief under § 2241 applies with particular force to sentencing challenges. Peterman, 249
F.3d at 462; Hayes, 473 F. App’x at 502 (“The savings clause of section 2255(e) does not
apply to sentencing claims.”). In Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), the Sixth
Circuit articulated a very narrow exception to this general rule, permitting a challenge to
a sentence to be asserted in a § 2241 petition, but only where (1) the petitioner’s sentence
was imposed when the Sentencing Guidelines were mandatory before the Supreme
Court’s decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005); (2) the petitioner was
foreclosed from asserting the claim in a successive petition under § 2255; and (3) after
the petitioner’s sentence became final, the Supreme Court issued a retroactively
applicable decision establishing that—as a matter of statutory interpretation—a prior
conviction used to enhance his federal sentence no longer qualified as a valid predicate
offense. Hill, 836 F.3d at 599-600.
Caffie’s claim fails to satisfy these requirements. First, Caffie was sentenced in
February 2008, more than three years after Booker was decided and under a
discretionary guidelines regime. And as noted above, Caffie’s claims are not based upon
any recent Supreme Court decision, but instead challenge the limited applicability of the
categorical approach on constitutional grounds, a doctrine in effect for more than a
decade before his sentence was imposed.
In addition, while Caffie claims to rely upon the Supreme Court’s recent decision
in Mathis, in order for a claim based upon a recently issued Supreme Court decision
interpreting a statute to be cognizable in a § 2241 petition, the holding must be
retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Wooten, 677 F.3d at 307-08. The
Supreme Court in Mathis itself made abundantly clear that its holding was required by
decades-old precedent and hence, did not announce any new rule. Mathis, 136 S. Ct. at
2257. The Sixth Circuit has held so explicitly. In re: Conzelmann, 2017 WL 4159184 (6th
Cir. 2017). Therefore, because Mathis is not retroactive, Caffie may not rely upon it to
satisfy the third requirement of Hill. For these reasons, Caffie’s challenge to his sentence
falls outside the limited exception articulated in Hill.
Finally, Caffie’s claim is wholly without substantive merit. Determining whether a
prior conviction was for a “serious drug offense” within the meaning of 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(e)(2)(A) may involve a complex assessment of whether the prior offense involved
the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to do one of these things within
the meaning of the statute. Cf. Hinkle v. United States, 832 F. 3d 569, 572-73 (5th Cir.
2016). When making that assessment, the categorical approach guides the district court
when comparing each of the numerous elements which collectively constitute the
underlying offense against the elements of its generic counterpart. See, e.g., Taylor, 495
U.S. at 591. But Caffie’s sentence was not enhanced under this statute. Instead, his
sentence was enhanced under the far simpler provision found in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)
because he had previously committed numerous “felony drug offenses.”
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
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 described in Taylor and Mathis, which Caffie challenges, is
irrelevant to his circumstances.
Therefore, Caffie’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 raised here and correctly noting that “[t]he categorical
approach in Moncrieffe and Taylor has never been applied to the enhanced penalty
provisions of § 841(b)(1)(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. Ky. 2016)).
Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein,
IT IS ORDERED as follows:
Petitioner Larry Caffie’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241 (Doc. # 1) is DENIED;
The Court will enter a judgment contemporaneously with this order; and
This matter is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the Court’s active docket.
This 30th day of October, 2017.
K:\DATA\ORDERS\ProSe\Caffie 17-54-DLB Dismissal Order (2241) WHM.docx
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