Hamilton v. Merlak
Opinion and Order. Petition is denied and this action is dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases. The Court further certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken in good faith. Judge Christopher A. Boyko on 11/14/2017. (H,CM)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
WARDEN S. MERLAK,
CASE NO. 1: 17 CV 1901
JUDGE CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
OPINION AND ORDER
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO, J.:
Pro se Petitioner Gregory Hamilton, a federal prisoner who was sentenced in this Court, has
filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. No. 1.) The matter
is before the Court for initial screening. See 28 U.S.C. §2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of
Prisons, 419 F. App’x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). Pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section
2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (made applicable to Section 2241 petitions under
Rule 1(b)), the Court must dismiss the Petition “if it plainly appears from the petition and any
attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief.” See also Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134,
141 (6th Cir. 1970) (the district court has “a duty to screen out a habeas corpus petition which
should be dismissed for lack of merit on its face.”).
For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that this Petition must be summarily dismissed.
On September 11, 2013, Petitioner was charged with one count of Conspiracy to Distribute
and Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, §§ 846
and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), and five counts of Use of a Telephone to Facilitate Drug Trafficking,
in violation of Title 21, United States Code, § 843(b). He executed a written plea agreement, in
which he pleaded guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment (Conspiracy to Distribute and
Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin). Among other things, the plea agreement expressly stated
that Petitioner may qualify for a career offender enhancement. On October 14, 2015, this Court
sentenced him to 120 months imprisonment, to be followed by six years of supervised release, a
sentence that included a career offender enhancement. See United States v. Hamilton, Case No. 1:
13 CR 345-29 (N.D. Ohio).
Petitioner did not file a notice of appeal. On March 14, 2016, he filed a Motion to Vacate,
Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, asserting that his counsel was
ineffective. This Court denied the motion on May 18, 2016, and declined to issue a certificate of
appealability. Petitioner filed a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, again asserting ineffective
assistance of his counsel, including in connection with the appropriateness of the career offender
enhancement. The Court transferred the Motion to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals as a Second
or Successive § 2255 Motion. The Sixth Circuit dismissed the Motion for want of prosecution.
Now, in this case, Petitioner seeks relief from his enhanced sentence under § 2241, citing
Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016).
If a federal prisoner wishes to challenge the legality of his conviction or sentence, he must
do so by filing a motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Capaldi v. Pontesso,
135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 2003). A habeas corpus petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is only
“appropriate for claims challenging the execution or manner in which the sentence is served,” such
as claims challenging computation of sentence credits or determining terms of parole. United States
v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001); Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir.
2009). Section 2255 contains a limited “savings clause,” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e), that allows a prisoner
to bring a § 2241 claim challenging the legality of his conviction or sentence in the extraordinarily
narrow circumstances where a prisoner can show that the remedy afforded under § 2255 is
“inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” In re Hanserd, 123 F.3d 922, 929
(6th Cir. 1997). The Sixth Circuit has regularly indicated that the narrow scope of relief under the
savings clause does not apply to sentencing claims. See Jones v. Castillo, 489 F. App’x 864, 866,
2012 WL 2947933, at *1 (6th Cir. 2012) ( “[c]laims alleging “actual innocence” of a sentencing
enhancement cannot be raised under § 2241”); see also Reminsky v. U.S., 523 F. App’x 327, 329
(6th Cir. 2013) (“The savings clause of § 2255(e) does not apply to sentencing claims.”).
Recently, the Sixth Circuit held that a prisoner may raise a sentence-enhancement claim in
a § 2241 petition in very limited circumstances. See Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016).
The Hill Court expressly defined those circumstances as
a narrow subset of § 2241 petitions: (1) prisoners who were sentenced under the
mandatory guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 125 S. Ct.
738, 160 L.Ed. 621 (2005), (2) who are 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 career-offender enhancement.
Id. at 599-600.
The circumstances articulated in Hill do not apply here. Petitioner was not sentenced under
the mandatory guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker. Rather, he was sentenced in 2016,
well after Booker was decided. Further, Petitioner bases his § 2241 Petition on the Supreme Court’s
decision in Mathis, 136 S. Ct. 2243. The Supreme Court has not declared Mathis to apply
retroactively on collateral review. See In re Conzelmann, 872 F.3d 375 (6th Cir. 2017).
Accordingly, Petitioner is not entitled to relief under § 2241.
For the reasons stated above, the Petition is denied and this action is dismissed pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2243 and Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Habeas Corpus Cases. The Court further
certifies, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(3), that an appeal from this decision could not be taken
in good faith.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
s/ Christopher A. Boyko
CHRISTOPHER A. BOYKO
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
DATED: November 14, 2017
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