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Williams v. Coakley

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Wheeling

October 10, 2019

JOE COAKLEY, Warden, Respondent.

          STAMP, JUDGE




         On March 26, 2018, the pro se Petitioner filed an Application for Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. At the time, Petitioner was a federal inmate housed at USP Hazelton and is challenging the validity of his sentence imposed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. This matter is pending before the undersigned for an initial review and Report and Recommendation pursuant to LR PL P 2 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.


         Petitioner was charged with conspiracy to distribute in excess of 500 grams of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(a)(1), and knowingly escaping from a facility to which he was lawfully committed, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 751(a). On December 1, 2000, a jury found Petitioner guilty on both counts of the indictment. On March 2, 2001, Petitioner was sentenced as a career offender under Title 21, United States Code, Section 841 and United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) Section 4B1.1 to 310 months imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and 60 months imprisonment for escape from custody, to be served concurrently. On appeal, his conviction and sentence were affirmed on July 9, 2002. United States v. Williams, 295 F.3d 817 (8th Cir. 2002).

         On December 31, 2003, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate pursuant to Title 28, United States Code, Section 2255. In that petition, he challenged his sentence arguing that he was denied his constitutional right to counsel under the Sixth Amendment due to ineffective assistance of counsel. In addition, he alleged that the Government failed to comply with the Speedy Trial Act and the statute under which he was sentenced, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)(ii), had been deemed unconstitutional. Finally, he alleged that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for career offenders, U.S.S.G. Section 4B1.1 was incorrectly applied. On March 29, 2017, his Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was denied. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit declined to grant Petitioner's application for a certificate of appealability.

         Following the decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015), Petitioner filed an Application for Leave to File a Successive Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Petitioner argued that Johnson's holding that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Statute was unconstitutionally vague was applicable to his career offender sentence, and he no longer qualified as a career offender because his conviction for assault in the second degree under Missouri law no longer qualified as a predicate offense. The application was stayed pending the decision in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 2886 (2017). Following the decision in that case, which held that Johnson did not apply to the advisory guidelines, Petitioner's application to file a second or successive §2255 motion was denied.


         In support of his petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, Petitioner argues at great length that the Eighth Circuit's approach to the established gatekeeping measures restricting the ability to bring new and repetitive claims in second or successive habeas corpus actions is a “crap shot.” ECF No. 1 at p. 12. Petitioner goes on to argue that as applied by the Eighth Circuit, Sections 2255(h)(2) and 2244(b)(2)(A) constitute a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and he maintains he has established that the remedy has been rendered ineffective and unavailable to provide the habeas corpus remedy Congress intended those statutes to preserve. In addition, Petitioner argues that Johnson is retroactively applicable to the mandatory guidelines, and because he was sentenced under the identical residual clause found in the career offender guidelines, his sentence is no longer valid. For relief, he asks this court to vacate his judgment and resentence him with the career offender sentencing enhancement.


         A. Reviews of Petitions for Relief

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and the Court's Local Rules of Prisoner Litigation Procedure, this Court is authorized to review such petitions for relief and submit findings and recommendations to the District Court. This Court is charged with screening Petitioner's case to determine if “it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court.” Rule 4, Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the U.S. District Courts; see also Rule 1(b) Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the U.S. District Courts (a district court may apply these rules to a habeas corpus petition not filed pursuant to § 2254).

         B. Pro Se Litigants

         As a pro se litigant, Petitioner's pleadings are accorded liberal construction and held to “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, even under this less stringent standard, the petition in this case is subject to summary dismissal. The requirements of liberal construction do not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Social Servs., 901 F.2d 387 ...

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