SANCHEZ-HERNANDEZ v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
OPINION FILED. Signed by Chief Judge Jerome B. Simandle on 4/13/17. (js)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE
No. 16-9025 (JBS)
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Arnulfo Sanchez-Hernandez, Petitioner Pro Se
FCI Fort Dix
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
EAST: P.O. BOX 2000
Fort Dix, NJ 08640
SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:
This matter comes before the Court on Arnulfo SanchezHernandez’s Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2241. Petition, Docket Entry 1.
Petitioner is serving a sentence out of the Middle
District of North Carolina after pleading guilty to conspiring
to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, 21 U.S.C. § 826, and to
possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime,
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). Id. ¶ 4; Brief in Support at 23.
See Judgment of Conviction, United States v. Sanchez-Hernandez,
No. 1:08-0412-2 (M.D.N.C. June 18, 2009). 1
2. Petitioner challenged his conviction and sentence in
two unsuccessful motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, one of which
included a claim raised under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.
Ct. 2551 (2015). Petition ¶¶ 7-8.
3. Petitioner now appears to challenge the validity of
his guilty plea, arguing he is actually innocent of the charges
due to the Supreme Court’s decisions in Watson v. United States,
552 U.S. 74 (2007) (holding “a person does not ‘use’ a firearm
under § 924(c)(1)(A) when he receives it in trade for drugs”)
and McFadden v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2298 (2015) (holding
government must prove defendant knew substance was a controlled
substance under federal law in order to convict of distributing
controlled substance). He also requests a writ of error coram
Petitioner brings this Petition for a Writ of Habeas
Corpus as a pro se litigant. The Court has an obligation to
liberally construe pro se pleadings and to hold them to less
stringent standards than more formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Higgs v.
Attorney Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011), as
The Court takes judicial notice of this public record.
amended (Sept. 19, 2011) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
Nevertheless, a federal district court must dismiss a
habeas corpus petition if it appears from the face of the
petition that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. §
2254 Rule 4 (made applicable through Rule 1(b)); see also
McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Siers v. Ryan, 773
F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989).
“A § 2255 motion is the presumptive means by which a
federal prisoner can collaterally attack the validity of his
conviction or sentence.” Upshaw v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 634 F.
App’x 357, 358 (3d Cir.) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)), cert.
denied sub nom Upshaw v. Ebbert, No. 15-9375, 2016 WL 2928201
(U.S. June 27, 2016). See also Okereke v. United States, 307
F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002). “A court may not entertain a
habeas petition under § 2241 made by a federal prisoner ‘in
custody under sentence of a [federal] court . . . unless it also
appears that the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is inadequate
or ineffective to test the legality of [the prisoner's]
detention.’” Gardner v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 845 F.3d 99, 102
(3d Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255) (alterations and
omission in original).
To date, the Third Circuit has only applied the §
2255(e) exception “where the conduct that forms the basis for
the conviction has since been deemed non-criminal by an
intervening Supreme Court decision that was unavailable on
appeal or during § 2255 proceedings.” Upshaw, 634 F. App’x at
358 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251–52 (3d Cir.
Although somewhat unclear, Petitioner appears to argue
that he falls within the Dorsainvil exception because his
actions do not satisfy § 924(c)’s use element after the Supreme
Court’s Watson decision:
Petitioner arrest did not have him in POSSESS a Firearm
or “USE” a Firearm during him Arrest or Trafficking Drug,
[sic] the Government only argues Standard evidence in
his Sentencing hearing, Petitioner asserts that, the
Government did not has [sic] Sufficient Proof to he has
in Possession [sic] a Firearm during and trafficking
drug crime. Petitioner said the Government Obtaining all
Firearms into of Brother house and not into of his house
room, Petitioner during the arrest the Agents did not
obtaining nothing of a Firearm in other house Owner’s
diferents [sic], Petitioner to Participate a minor role
into the Conspiracy, the brother is who is the owner of
all firearms and who manager and supervizer [sic] the
drug and firearms.
Brief in Support at 7. He further cites Bailey v. United States,
which held that “§ 924(c)(1) requires evidence sufficient to show
an active employment of the firearm by the defendant[.]” 516 U.S.
137, 143 (1995) (emphasis in original). See Brief in Support at 89.
Petitioner’s argument that his actions do not satisfy
the “use” element of § 924(c) is one that could have been raised
in a challenge to the validity of his guilty plea on direct
appeal or in his § 2255 motions. Petitioner pled guilty in 2009,
after the Bailey and Watson cases had been decided by the
Supreme Court in 1995 and 2007, respectively. Therefore, there
is no intervening Supreme Court case rendering his conduct noncriminal. See Upshaw, 634 F. App’x at 358; Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d
at 251–52. Section 2255 is not ineffective or inadequate to
raise this claim, and the Court therefore lacks jurisdiction
under § 2241.
10. Petitioner also briefly asserts that the “Government
failed to prove he knew that he Possessed element of Controlled
Substance listed on the sch[e]dules, even if he did not know
w[h]ich Substance it was or by establishing that the defendant’s
knew the identity of Substance he Possessed, the For that the
[sic] Petitioner is actually innocent of conviction for quantity
5 kilograms of Cocaine . . . because drug substance type anf
[sic] quantity were not part of the charge of the offense.”
Brief in Support at 13.
11. The indictment charged Petitioner with “knowingly,
intentionally and unlawfully distribut[ing] 5 kilograms or more
of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of
cocaine hydrochloride, a Schedule II, controlled substance . . .
.” Indictment, United States v. Sanchez-Hernandez, No. 1:08-
0412-2 (M.D.N.C. Oct. 28, 2008). 2 The indictment stated on its
face that Petitioner knowingly participated in the distribution
of mixture containing a Schedule II substance, and Petitioner
pled guilty to this charge. Assuming arguendo Petitioner may
bring a McFadden claim under § 2241, he would not be entitled to
relief because the charge to which he pled guilty clearly set
forth the required state of mind as well as the quantity and
kind of controlled substance. A challenge to the validity of the
guilty plea must be raised in the district of conviction.
12. Finally, Petitioner is not entitled to a writ of error
coram nobis. “The writ of error coram nobis is a limited remedy:
‘[c]ontinuation of litigation after final judgment and
exhaustion or waiver of any statutory right of review should be
allowed through this extraordinary remedy only under
circumstances compelling such action to achieve justice.’”
United States v. Contant, No. 16-3665, 2017 WL 527897, at *2 (3d
Cir. Feb. 9, 2017) (quoting United States v. Morgan, 346 U.S.
502, 511 (1954)) (alteration in original).
13. “[C]oram nobis may be used to attack allegedly invalid
convictions which have continuing consequences, when the
petitioner has served his sentence and is no longer ‘in custody’
for purposes of 28 U.S.C. § 2255.” Id. (internal citation
The Court takes judicial notice of this public record.
omitted). Petitioner is still in the custody of the Federal
Bureau of Prisons and does not satisfy this “threshold
eligibility requirement.” Id. Therefore there are no exceptional
circumstances warranting coram nobis relief.
14. Whenever a civil action is filed in a court that lacks
jurisdiction, “the court shall, if it is in the interests of
justice, transfer such action ... to any other such court in
which the action ... could have been brought at the time it was
filed.” 28 U.S.C. § 1631.
15. In this case, the Court does not find it in the
interests of justice to transfer this habeas petition to the
Fourth Circuit as it does not appear Petitioner can meet the
requirements for filing a second or successive § 2255 motion as
set forth in § 2255(h). However, this Court's decision to not
transfer this case does not prevent Petitioner from seeking
leave from the Fourth Circuit, see 28 U.S.C. § 2244(a), should
he elect to do so.
16. To the extent a certificate of appealability is
required, the Court declines to issue one as reasonable jurists
would agree that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Petitioner’s
Watson claim, that he has not established a denial of a
constitutional right, and that he is not entitled to a writ of
error coram nobis.
17. An appropriate order follows.
April 13, 2017
s/ Jerome B. Simandle
JEROME B. SIMANDLE
Chief U.S. District Judge
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