Jackson v. Ormond
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER: 1) Jackson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus 1 is DENIED; 2) Action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the docket; 3) Jgm will be entered. Signed by Judge Danny C. Reeves on 11/16/17.(MRS)cc: COR, Pro Se filer
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
AARON BERNELL JACKSON,
J. RAY ORMOND, Warden,
Civil Action No. 6: 17-298-DCR
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Inmate Aaron Bernell Jackson is presently confined at the United States Penitentiary
– McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer, Jackson has filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [Record No. 1] For the
reasons set forth below, Jackson’s petition will be denied.
In 2006, a federal grand jury indicted Jackson, charging him with two counts of
knowingly and intentionally distributing five grams or more of cocaine, in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); one count of knowingly and intentionally distributing 50 grams or more
of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and one count of possession of a firearm
by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).1 Shortly thereafter, the
Government filed a notice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 851, indicating that Jackson had a prior
This procedural history comes from Jackson’s petition and the documents attached at Record No.
1, as well as his underlying criminal case, United States v. Jackson, No. 1: 06-cr-030 (W.D. Ky.
felony drug conviction. Therefore, if convicted, Jackson was subject to a mandatoryminimum sentence of 20 years in prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1).
Jackson eventually pled guilty to the charges against him. Jackson affirmed through
his plea agreement that he “understands that the charges to which he will plead guilty carry
a minimum term of imprisonment of 20 years.” While he reserved the right to directly
appeal his conviction and sentence, Jackson “knowingly and voluntarily waive[d] the right
. . . to contest or collaterally attack his conviction and the resulting sentence pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255 or otherwise.” The trial court accepted Jackson’s guilty plea and sentenced
him to the mandatory-minimum term of 20 years in prison.
Jackson filed a direct appeal, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth
Circuit affirmed his convictions and sentence. Jackson then applied for leave to file a
second or successive motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, but the Sixth
Circuit denied that application as unnecessary because Jackson never filed an initial § 2255
motion. Instead of then filing such a motion, Jackson filed his § 2241 petition with this
While Jackson’s petition is lengthy and at times difficult to understand, he appears
to be arguing that the trial court erred when it determined that he had a prior felony drug
conviction and, therefore, was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in
prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1). Jackson cites the Supreme Court’s decisions in
Descamps v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2276 (2013), and Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct.
2243 (2016), among other cases, to support his petition.
As an initial matter, Jackson knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to contest
or collaterally attack his conviction and sentence in his plea agreement. As this Court has
recognized on numerous occasions, such waivers are valid and enforceable in § 2241
proceedings. See Ewing v. Sepanek, No. 0:14-cv-111-HRW (E.D. Ky. Jan. 6, 2015); SolisCaceres v. Sepanek, No. 0:13-cv-021-HRW (E.D. Ky. Aug. 6, 2013) (collecting cases);
Combs v. Hickey, No. 5:11-cv-012-JMH (E.D. Ky. Jan. 7, 2011). Jackson is therefore
barred from challenging his sentence in his habeas petition.
That said, even if Jackson’s plea waiver was not enforceable, his § 2241 petition
would still constitute an impermissible collateral attack on his sentence. While a federal
prisoner may challenge the legality of his convictions or sentence through a direct appeal
and a § 2255 motion, he generally may not do so in a § 2241 petition. See United States v.
Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining the distinction between a § 2255
motion and a § 2241 petition). After all, a § 2241 petition is usually only a vehicle for
challenges to 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. See Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Simply put,
Jackson cannot use a § 2241 petition as a way of challenging his sentence.
Jackson nevertheless argues that he can attack his sentence in a § 2241 petition, and
he cites Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), to support his position. It is true
that, in Hill, the Sixth Circuit indicated for the first time that a prisoner may challenge his
sentence in a § 2241 petition. However, in doing so, the court expressly limited its decision
to the following, very narrow circumstances:
(1) prisoners who were sentenced under the mandatory guidelines regime
pre-United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 . . . (2005), (2) who were
foreclosed from filing a successive petition under § 2255, and (3) when a
subsequent, retroactive change in statutory interpretation by the Supreme
Court reveals that a previous conviction is not a predicate offense for a
Id. at 599-600.
Those circumstances do not apply here. As an initial matter, the trial court sentenced
Jackson in November 2007, well after the Supreme Court decided Booker. Furthermore,
Jackson has not identified a subsequent, retroactive change in statutory interpretation by
the Supreme Court that reveals that his previous conviction is not a “felony drug offense”
for purposes of the § 841(b)(1) enhancement. While Jackson has cited Descamps and
Mathis, those cases discuss the approach courts should use to determine whether a prior
conviction constitutes a violent felony for purposes of the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Here, the trial court enhanced Jackson’s sentence pursuant to § 841(b)(1), an entirely
different statute with broader language. See Hernandez v. Ormond, No. 6: 17-cv-081-DLB
(E.D. Ky. Sept. 18, 2017) (explaining that the analysis described in Mathis is not applicable
to enhancements pursuant to § 841(b)(1)’s broad language). In short, Jackson has not
explained how Descamps and Mathis represent intervening changes in the law that
establish that his sentence was improperly enhanced. Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
Jackson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241
[Record No. 1] is DENIED.
This action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from the docket.
A corresponding Judgment will be entered this date.
This 16th day of November, 2017.
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