Williams v. Ebbert
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry)Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 8/10/17. (dw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
WARDEN DAVID J. EBBERT,
CIVIL NO. 3:CV-15-1609
Albert Williams, an inmate formerly housed at the Federal Prison Camp in Lewisburg,
Pennsylvania, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.1 The
petition asserts that his sentence was improperly enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal
Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), relying on Johnson v. United States,
, 135 S.Ct.
2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015). Johnson was made retroactive to cases on collateral review
by Welch v. United States,
, 136 S.Ct. 1257, 194 L.Ed.2d 387 (2016). Also
pending before the Court is Mr. Williams’ motions to transfer this matter to the sentencing court
and motion to amend. (ECF Nos. 11, 13 - 14, and 19.)
For the reasons set forth below, the Petition will be dismissed without prejudice for lack
of jurisdiction. Mr. Williams’ motions for transfer and motion to amend will be denied.
Mr. Williams is presently housed at USP-Coleman I, in Coleman, Florida.
Background and Procedural History2
The sentencing court has summarized Mr. Williams’ conviction and sentence as follows:
[Williams] was charged in a one count indictment with possession
of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
922(g)(1). See Case No. 97-009460Civ-Moore; (DE#1). The
government filed a notice of intent to invoke the Armed Career
Criminal Act, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), in seeking an
enhanced sentence. (Id.:DE#16). A jury found [Williams] guilty as
charged. (Id.:DE#27). He was sentenced under the Armed
Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1), to 293 months in
prison. (Id.:DE#35). The judgment was entered on the docket on
June 22, 1998. (Id.) Thereafter, [Williams] prosecuted a direct
appeal. (Id.:DE#36). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed his conviction
on June 4, 1999, and issued its mandate on July 8, 1999.
[Williams] returned to the district court less than one year later,
filing his first § 2255 motion to vacate, assigned case no. 0002452-Civ-Moore. (Cv-DE#1). A Report recommending that the
motion be denied was adopted by district court
In June 2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2255(h) and 2244(b)(3)(A), Mr. Williams filed
an application with the United States Court of Appeals the Eleventh Circuit seeking leave to
file a second or successive motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his final sentence under 28
U.S.C. § 2255 based on the Supreme Court’s decisions in Welch and Johnson. On July 1,
2015, the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeals granted Mr. William's motion.
On July 19, 2016, Mr. Williams filed a second motion in the Southern District of Florida
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking relief under Johnson, supra, and United States v.
, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 195 L.Ed.2d 604 (2016). See Williams v. United
The Court takes judicial notice of the docket in Mr. Williams’ criminal proceedings.
See United States v. Williams, 97-0946-CR (S.D. Fl.) which is viewable via the federal judiciary’s
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) Service at https://www.pacer.gov/.
States, 1:16-cv-22914 (S.D. Fl.). On September 2, 2016, the Government filed a response to
Mr. Williams' motion. (Id., ECF No. 13.) Mr. Williams filed a reply on September 12, 2016.
(Id., ECF No. 14.) The motion is pending in the Southern District of Florida.
As a general rule, a federal prisoner may challenge his conviction or sentence only by
means of a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 brought before the sentencing court, and this
remedy typically supersedes the writ of habeas corpus. See Okereke v. United States, 307
F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002) (a motion filed pursuant to § 2255 is the presumptive means for
challenging a federal conviction); In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997). Prisoners
who have already filed a § 2255 motion, may file a “second or successive motion” provided that
“a panel of the appropriate court of appeals” has certified that the motion contains “newly
discovered evidence that, if proven and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole, would be
sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would
have found the movant guilty of the offense” or “a new rule of constitutional law, made
retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously
unavailable.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h).
Thus, with limited exceptions, a habeas petition challenging a federal prisoner’s
conviction or sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 may not be entertained unless a § 2255
motion would be “inadequate or ineffective” to test the legality of the petitioner’s detention. See
28 U.S.C. § 2255(e); Gardner v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 845 F.3d 99, 102 (3d Cir. 2017). In
considering what it means to be “inadequate or ineffective,” the Third Circuit has stated that
a federal prisoner should be permitted to seek relief under § 2241 “only where the petitioner
demonstrates that some limitation or procedure would prevent a § 2255 proceeding from
affording him a full hearing and adjudication of his wrongful detention claim.” Cradle v. United
States, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). Such situations are rare. The
Third Circuit has applied this “safety valve” only where a prisoner is in the unusual position of
having no earlier opportunity to challenge his conviction or “is being detained on conduct that
has subsequently been rendered non-criminal by an intervening Supreme Court decision.”
See Okereke, 307 F.3d at 120 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251-52 (3d Cir. 1997)).
“Section 2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the sentencing court does
not grant relief, the one-year statute of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to
meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of . . . § 2255.” Cradle, 290 F.3d at 539 (citations
omitted). “It is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability to use it, that is
determinative.” Id. at 538 (citation omitted). Section 2255(e), the safety-valve clause, “exists
to ensure that petitioners have a fair opportunity to seek collateral relief, not to enable them
to evade procedural requirements.” Id. at 539.
It is clear from the Petition that Mr. Williams is challenging the validity of his sentence
imposed by the Southern District of Florida. Thus, he must raise such a challenge in the
sentencing court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 unless he demonstrates that the remedy under §
2255 is “inadequate or ineffective.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).
Petitioner does not allege facts to bring him within the Dorsainvil exception. He does
not allege that he had no earlier opportunity to challenge his conviction for a crime that an
intervening change in substantive law may negate. Rather, Mr. Williams' claim is focused on
the alleged impropriety of his sentence, not the offense for which he was convicted. The Court
therefore lacks jurisdiction to consider his Petition. See Scott v. Shartle, 574 F. App'x 152, 155
(3d Cir. 2014) (nonprecedential) (“Because [petitioner] is challenging his career offender
designation and is not claiming that he is now innocent of the predicate offense, he does not
fall within the 'safety valve' exception created in In re Dorsainvil and cannot proceed under §
2241.”). Welch made Johnson retroactive to cases on collateral review, but as noted by the
Third Circuit Court of Appeals, “§ 2241 is not available for an intervening change in the
sentencing laws.” Pearson v. Warden Canaan USP, No. 15-1488, 2017 WL 1363873 (3d Cir.
2017) (nonprecedential) (citing Okereke, 307 F.3d at 120 - 21).
As Mr. Williams has successfully obtained permission to file a second or successive §
2255 motion raising a Johnson claim, which is currently before the sentencing court, the Court
need not consider transferring the petition to the Eleventh Circuit Court of appeals to be treated
as an application to file a second or successive 2255 motion. The Court will instead simply
dismiss the petition.
An appropriate order follows.
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. RICHARD CAPUTO
United States District Judge
Date: August 10, 2017
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?