United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
Amai Rawls is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in the Federal Medical Center, located in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without counsel, Rawls has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [R. 1], and an amended 2241 petition [R. 2], challenging his 20-year federal sentence. Rawls has paid the $5.00 filing fee. [R. 5]
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 Rawls'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).
For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Rawls's habeas petition and his amended habeas petition, because the claim which he asserts cannot be pursued under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
In March 2002, Rawls pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846. United States v. Amai Rawls, No. 3:01-CR-124-H (W.D. Ky. 2001) [R. 61, therein] In May 2002, Rawls was sentenced to a 20-year prison term and a 10-year supervised release term. [R. 66, therein] Rawls did not appeal.
On October 4, 2012, Rawls filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. [R. 76, therein] On November 2, 2012, the district court entered an Order requiring Rawls to show cause why his § 2255 motion should not be dismissed as timebarred under the one-year statute of limitations set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1). [R. 79, therein] Rawls responded that the statute of limitations should not have begun to run until August 17, 2011, the date on which the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decided United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (2011), which, Rawls argued, made the Supreme Court holding in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, 560 U.S. 563, 130 S.Ct. 2577 (2010),  retroactively applicable to his case. [R. 80, therein]
On January 3, 2013, the district court denied Rawls's § 2255 motion. [R. 82, therein; see also Rawls v. United States, No. 3:01CR-124-H, 2013 WL 56986 (W.D. Ky. Jan. 3, 2013)] First, the district court concluded that the motion was time-barred under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f)(1), noting that because Carachuri-Rosendo was rendered on June 14, 2010, Rawls was required to have asserted any challenge based on the case on or before June 14, 2011, but that he did not file his § 2255 motion until September 25, 2012. Rawls, 2013 WL 56986, at *2. Second, the district court determined that because Rawls had not diligently pursued his Carachuri-Rosendo claim, he was not entitled to equitable tolling of the one-year statute of limitation set forth in § 2255(f)(1). Id. at *3. Third and finally, the district court explained that contrary to Rawls's assertion that Carachuri-Rosendo applied retroactively, the Fourth Circuit had since held that Carachuri-Rosendo is a procedural rule that does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review. Id. at *2. The district court denied Rawls a certificate of appealability. Id. at *4.
Rawls appealed, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals denied him a certificate of appealabilty. [R. 86 therein; see also Rawls v. United States, No. 13-5084 (6th Cir. July 11, 2013)] Rawls then filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court, which petition was denied on November 18, 2013. [R. 88, therein]
CLAIMS ASSERTED IN THE § 2241 PETITION
Rawls alleges that his 1996 conviction in the Kentucky state courts for possession of cocaine in the first degree was not a qualifying predicate for enhancing his sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 851, and that accordingly, the district court improperly subjected him to an increased mandatory minimum. Rawls contends that the district court therefore imposed an excessive sentence in violation of his right to due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. [R. 1, p. 7]
Rawls bases his challenge on Lopez v. Gonzales, 547 U.S. 47, 127 S.Ct. 625 (2006),  arguing that under Lopez, the district court improperly treated his 1996 state court possession conviction as "...qualifying predicate for purposes of 21 U.S.C. 851 when it sentenced him." [R. 2, p. 7] Rawls contends that because his 1996 Kentucky state court conviction for simple possession of cocaine did not carry a one-year sentence, it did not qualify as a prior felony conviction, and that the district court improperly used that conviction as a basis for imposing the mandatory minimum 20-year sentence set forth in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). Rawls claims that absent the use of his 1996 state court conviction, he would have received a mandatory minimum sentence of only ten (10) years. [R. 3, p. 6] Rawls asserts that because Lopez was rendered four years after he was sentenced in 2002, he is entitled to invoke its holding and collaterally challenge his sentence in this § 2241 proceeding. [ Id., p. 5; see also R. 2, p. 5] Rawls asks this Court to vacate his sentence and to "resentence him without the Section 851 enhancement." [R. 1, p. 8, § 15] Rawls also seeks the appointment of counsel in this proceeding. [ Id. ]
Rawls is not challenging the execution of his sentence, such as the manner in which the BOP has computed his sentence credits or his eligibility for parole, issues which fall under the ambit of § 2241. United States v. Jalili, 925 F.2d 889, 894 (6th Cir. 1999). Instead, Rawls is challenging the manner in which the district court calculated the term of his sentence, and the fact that it enhanced his sentence. 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 ...