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Wilson v. Holland

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

February 10, 2014

J.C. HOLLAND, Warden of USP-McCreary, Respondent.


DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

Marquan L. Wilson, a/k/a Marquawn L. Wilson, [1] is presently confined at the United States Penitentiary-McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky ("USP-McCreary"). Proceeding without an attorney, Wilson has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging the imposition of an enhanced sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C.A. § 924(c)(1)(A). Because a § 2241 petition is not the proper vehicle for obtaining the relief sought, the petition will be denied.


On August 8, 2007, Wilson was charged in a one-count indictment with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). [ See United States v. Marquan L. Wilson, a/k/a Marquawn L. Wilson, Criminal Action No. 4: 07-287-ODS-1 (W.D. Mo. Jul. 31, 2007), Record Nos. 12, 13.] Although he initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, Wilson ultimately entered a guilty plea. [ Id. at Record No. 28] At sentencing, the court determined that, because Wilson had three prior violent felony convictions, he was subject to the terms of the ACCA. He was subsequently sentenced to an enhanced penalty of a 180-month term of imprisonment (the mandatory minimum sentence under the ACCA), followed by a four-year term of supervised release. [ Id. at Record No. 43] The Eighth Circuit affirmed Wilson's sentence on direct appeal, finding that the district court did not err in applying a sentence enhancement under the ACCA.[2] [ See United States v. Marquan L. Wilson, No. 08-3514 (8th Cir. June 17, 2009); see also Wilson, Criminal Action No. 4: 07-287-ODS-1, Record Nos 52.]

On May 14, 2010, Wilson filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [ Wilson, Criminal Action No. 4: 07-287-ODS-1, Record No. 56] Specifically, he argued that: (i) he did not have the required number of prior convictions to trigger an enhanced sentence under § 924(e); (ii) there was insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt; and (iii) he received ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. [ Id. ] On September 7, 2010, Wilson's § 2255 motion was denied and the district court declined to issue a certificate of appealability. [ Id. at Record No. 57, 58] On August 29, 2013, Wilson filed his petition for habeas relief under § 2241. [Record No. 1]


In conducting an initial review of habeas petitions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243, the Court must deny the relief sought "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 pursuant to Rule 1(b)). Because Wilson is not represented by an attorney, the Court evaluates his petition under a more lenient standard. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Burton v. Jones, 321 F.3d 569, 573 (6th Cir. 2003). Thus, at this stage of the proceedings, Wilson's factual allegations are accepted as true and his legal claims are liberally construed in his favor.

In his current petition, Wilson reasserts his claim that the district court erred by determining that he had three predicate convictions necessary to increase his sentence under § 924(e). More specifically, he again argues that his Missouri conviction for child abuse does not qualify as a violent felony for the purposes of the ACCA. As a result, he contends that his mandatory minimum fifteen-year sentence is erroneous. Wilson maintains that two recent cases - Alleyne v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), and Descamps v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013) - establish that his sentence is inappropriate. Thus, he claims that he is entitled to be re-sentenced.

In Alleyne, the Supreme Court overruled Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), which held that Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), did not apply to findings of fact necessary for the imposition of statutory mandatory minimum sentences. Alleyne, 133 S.Ct. at 2163. Instead, the Court concluded that "[a]ny fact that, by law, increases the penalty for a crime is an element' that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. at 2155.

In Descamps, the Supreme Court examined whether a state-law burglary conviction was a "violent felony" within the meaning of the ACCA. Descamps, 133 S.Ct. at 2282. The Court held that when determining whether a prior conviction qualifies as a predicate offense under the ACCA, sentencing courts may not apply the "modified categorical approach"[3] when the crime of which the defendant was convicted has a single, indivisible set of elements. Id. at 2282-83 (describing the differences of the "categorical approach" and the "modified categorical approach"). The Decamps Court clarified that a sentencing court "may use the modified approach only to determine which alternative element in a divisible statute formed the basis of the defendant's conviction." 133 S.Ct. at 2293.

As noted above, Wilson contends that based on the holdings in Alleyne and Decamps, his ACCA-enhanced sentence violates his constitutional rights and that, because he does not qualify as an Armed Career Criminal, his fifteen year sentence is in error. He seeks to be resentenced without the ACCA enhancement. [Record No. 1, pp. 4-5] However, § 2241 is not the proper mechanism for making this claim.

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 credits or other issues affecting the length of his sentence). See United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Charles Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999). The Sixth Circuit has explained the difference between the two statutes as follows:

[C]ourts have uniformly held that claims asserted by federal prisoners that seek to challenge their convictions or imposition of their sentence shall be filed in the [jurisdiction of the] sentencing court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and that claims seeking to challenge the execution or manner in which the sentence is served shall be filed in the court having jurisdiction over the prisoner's custodian under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). In short, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides the primary avenue for federal prisoners seeking relief from an unlawful conviction or sentence, not § 2241. ...

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