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William v. Sepanek

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

February 21, 2014



HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Calvin William is an inmate confined in the Federal Correctional Institution located in Ashland, Kentucky. William has filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his federal firearm conviction. [D. E. No. 1] William has paid the $5.00 filing fee. [D. E. No. 2]

The Court conducts an initial review of habeas corpus petitions. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau o/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 William'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 William can not pursue his claims under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.


On June 7, 2004, a federal jury in Pennsylvania convicted William of one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and § 924(e). United States v. William, No. 2:03-CR-315-TON-1(E. D. Pa. 2003) On January 24, 2005, the district court determined that William was an armed career criminal as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), [1] and sentenced him to a 15-year prison term, followed by 5 years of supervised release. [D. E. No. 75, therein] On direct appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction. United States v. William, 203 F.Appx. 410 (3d Cir. 2006).

On January 24, 2008, William filed a motion to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 raising several claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. United States v. William, 2:03-CR-315-TON-1 (E. D. Pa. 2003) [D. E. No. 85, therein] On November 29, 2010, the Magistrate Judge issued a lengthy Report and Recommendati on ("R & R") concluding that all of William's ineffective assistance of counsel claims lacked merit and that his § 2255 motion should be denied. [D. E.. No. 115, therein] On February 9, 2011, the district court overruled William's objections to the R & R, adopted the R & R, and denied William's § 2255 motion. [D. E. No. 119] William appealed, but the Third Circuit denied his request for the issuance of a certificate of appealability. [D. E. No. 122, therein]; United States v. William, No. 11-1397 (3d Cir. May 31, 2011). On October 11, 2011, the United States Supreme Court denied William's petition for a writ of certiorari. William v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 428, 181 L.Ed.2d 278 (2011).


In the instant § 2241 petition, William argues that his sentence is unconstitutional because the district court, rather than the jury, determined that he had been convicted of the prior offenses which formed the basis of his enhanced sentence under the ACCA. William further alleges that his prior state court Robbery conviction does not qualify as violent felony under § 924(e) because the conviction was for conspiracy to commit robbery, not for the substantive crime of robbery. Accordingly, William asserts that the district court should have excluded his prior Robbery conviction from consideration under § 924(e), and should not have sentenced him beyond the 10-year maximum term of imprisonment established for violating 19 U.S.C. § 921(g)(1).

William contends that he is thus actually innocent of being an armed career criminal, and that his enhanced 15-year sentence violates both his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law, and his Sixth Amendment right to have a jury determine all of the factual predicates of the charged offense, including any facts which pertain to an increased sentence. In support of this argument, William relies on a June 2013 decision of the United States Supreme Court: Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), which held 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. William seeks relief from his sentence.


William 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). Instead, William challenges the constitutionality of his underlying federal conviction and sentence on Fifth and Sixth Amendment grounds. But § 2241 is not the mechanism for asserting such a challenge: 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) provides the primary avenue of relief for federal prisoners seeking relief from an unlawful conviction or sentence, Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009), and is the mechanism for collaterally challenging errors that occurred "at or prior to sentencing." Eaves v. United States, 4:10-CV-36, 2010 WL 3283018, at *6 (E.D. Tenn. Aug. 17, 2010).

Section 2255(e) provides a narrow exception to this rule, and permits a prisoner to challenge the legality of his conviction through a § 2241 petition, where his remedy under Section 2255 "is inadequate or ineffective" to test the legality of his detention. A petitioner may use this provision only where, after his conviction has become final, the Supreme Court re-interprets the terms of the statute the petitioner was convicted of violating in such a way that his actions did not violate the statute. Martin v. Perez, 319 F.3d 799, 804 (6th Cir. 2003). See Barnes v. United States, 102 F.Appx. 441, 443 (6th Cir. 2004) ("A prisoner who can show that an intervening change in the law establishes his actual innocence can invoke the savings clause of § 2255 and proceed under § 2241."); Lott v. Davis, 105 F.Appx. 13, 14-15 (6th Cir. 2004). This exception does not apply where the petitioner failed to seize an earlier opportunity to correct a fundamental defect in his conviction under pre-existing law, or where he did assert his claim in a prior post-conviction motion under § 2255, but was denied relief. Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 756 (6th Cir. 1999); United States v. Prevatte, 300 F.3d 792, 800 (7th Cir. 2002).

A fair reading of the Third Circuit's October 24, 2006, opinion affirming William's conviction suggests that on direct appeal, William did not raise a claim challenging the validity of his ACCA-enhanced sentence.[2]At sentencing, William either knew, or should have known, of the facts supporting his contention that his prior Robbery conviction did not qualify as a "violent" offense under the ACCA. William could and should have challenged his ACCA-enhanced sentence on direct appeal, or, at the very latest, in his § 2255 motion.[3] The failure to raise ...

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