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Napier v. Quintana

United States District Court, Sixth Circuit

December 27, 2013

LESTER NAPIER, Petitioner,
v.
FRANCISCO J. QUINTANA, Warden, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOSEPH M. HOOD, Senior District Judge.

Lester Napier ("Napier") is an inmate confined in the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding pro se, Napier has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging the legality of his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and his enhanced sentence due to a prior drug conviction. Napier has paid the $5.00 filing fee.

The Court conducts an initial review of habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 F.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). The Court must deny the petition "if it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief." Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (applicable to § 2241 petitions under Rule 1(b)). The Court evaluates Napier's petition under a more lenient standard because he is not represented by an attorney, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003), accepts his factual allegations as true, and construes his legal claims in his favor. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).

Having reviewed the petition, the Court must deny it because Napier's claims are not properly raised in a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

BACKGROUND

On July 23, 2008, Napier and co-defendant James D. Morgan were charged in a six-count indictment. [ See United States v. Lester Napier, et al., Criminal No. 6:08-068-GFVT (E.D. Ky. 2008)]. Napier was charged in Counts 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. Count 1 charged both defendants with conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; Count 2 charged them with manufacturing 100 or more marijuana plants, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); Count 3 charged Napier with possession with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and Count 5 charged Napier with being a felon in possession of a firearm in and affecting commerce, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). In Count 6, the United States charged that this firearm was subject to forfeiture under 18 U.S.C. § 924(d)(1) and 28 U.S.C. § 2461.

Initially, Napier pled not guilty to the foregoing charges, but he later entered into a plea agreement with the United States and pled guilty to Counts 1, 2, 5, and 6 of the indictment, while the United States agreed to dismiss Count 3. On September 11, 2008, the United States filed a Notice of Prior Convictions, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, stating that Napier had a prior drug conviction, which increased the penalty range for his sentence on Counts 1 and 2 from not less than 5 years nor more than 40 years imprisonment to not less than 10 years nor more than life imprisonment. [ Id., at R. 20]. Napier was sentenced on February 26, 2009, and received 96-month, concurrent sentences of imprisonment on each of Counts 1, 2, and 5, to be followed by an 8-year term of supervised release. [ Id., at R. 41].

Napier did not appeal his conviction or sentence, and he did not collaterally attack his conviction or sentence by filing a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. On August 21, 2013, Napier filed the present habeas petition.

CLAIMS ASSERTED IN § 2241 PETITION

Napier's petition is a mixed bag. First, he appears to claim that his counsel was ineffective for advising him to plead guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm in and affecting commerce (Count 5 of the indictment), when his counsel "knew or should have known" that he was "actually innocent" of that offense as he "did not reside at the location and that he was not in possession of the firearm in question." [R. 1, p. 4]. Napier contends that had his counsel investigated this issue and advised him correctly, the outcome would have been different, and he would have been exonerated on Count 5. [ Id. ]. Based on his statement that he is "actually innocent" of being a felon in possession of the firearm charged in Count 5 of the indictment, Napier may also be challenging the validity of his conviction on that charge, impliedly arguing that, by reason of his counsel's ineffectiveness, his guilty plea thereto was not a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary plea. If he is, in fact, challenging the validity of that conviction, he is requesting that such conviction be vacated and set aside.

Second, he also appears to challenge the sentence imposed on his convictions on Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment, claiming that he is entitled to resentencing and a reduced sentence on those convictions. As grounds for this claim, Napier relies primarily on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), which post-dates the finality of his conviction in the underlying criminal case. Napier asserts that he is entitled to proceed with these claims in a habeas petition filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 because 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is "inadequate and ineffective to test the fundamental legality of the petitioner's detention..." [R. 1, p. 1].

ANALYSIS

Napier is not challenging the execution of his sentence, such as the computation of sentence credits or parole eligibility, issues which fall under the ambit of § 2241. United States v. Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 894 (6th Cir. 1999). Napier appears to challenge the validity of his conviction on Count 5, contending that his guilty plea to Count 5 was not made knowingly and voluntarily, and his enhanced sentence on Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment. Having considered the matter carefully, as more fully set out below, the Court concludes that relief is unavailable to Napier under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 for making the claims raised by Napier's petition.

28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides the primary avenue for federal prisoners seeking relief from an unlawful conviction or sentence, not § 2241. Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009) ("As a general rule, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides the correct avenue to challenge a federal conviction or sentence, whereas a federal prisoner may file a § 2241 petition if he is challenging the execution of his sentence, i.e., the Bureau of Prisons' calculation of sentence; United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999); credits or ...


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