United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
JOHN M. HALL, a/k/a
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
HENRY R. WILHIOT, District Judge.
John M. Hall, a/k/a "Johnny Boy" Hall is an inmate confined in the Federal Correctional Institution-Ashland located in Ashland, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Hall has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his federal conviction. [D. E. No. 1] Hall has paid the $5.00 filing fee. [D. E. No. 3]
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 Hall's § 2241 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 Hall's habeas petition, the Court must deny it because a § 2241 petition is not the proper vehicle for obtaining the relief which Hall seeks.
On April 18, 2012, Hall pleaded guilty in this Court to Conspiracy to Distribute 100 Kilograms or More of Marijuana in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 851, and to Attempt to Possess with Intent to Distribute 50 Kilograms or More of Marijuana, also in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 851. United States v. Hall, No. 7:11-CR-3-ART-01 (E.D. Ky. 2011) [R. 316, therein] On that same date, the Court approved a Plea Agreement, which both Hall and the United States had previously executed in January 2012. [R. 317, therein]
Pursuant to the Plea Agreement, Hall: (1) acknowledged the essential element of both offenses to which he was pleading guilty; (2) admitted that the United States could prove the essential elements of both offenses beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) acknowledged that the statutory maximum punishment for the Conspiracy offense was imprisonment for not less than 10 years nor more than Life imprisonment, no more than an $8 million fine, and a supervised release term of at least 8 years; (4) acknowledged that the statutory maximum punishment for the Attempt offense violation was imprisonment for not more than 30 years, not more than $2 million fine, and a supervised release term of at least 6 years; (5) admitted that because he had a prior drug felony of which the United States gave official notice, he was subjected to these enhanced statutory punishments; (6) waived his right to appeal or collaterally attack his guilty plea, conviction, and sentence; and (7) agreed to make certain financial disclosures and to forfeit specified assets. [ Id., pp. 1-7, therein]
On April 24, 2014, the Court sentenced Hall to a 120-month prison term, followed by an 8-year term of supervised release. [R. 319, therein] The docket sheet from Hall's criminal proceeding does not reflect that Hall either appealed his sentence or filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Hall filed this § 2241 proceeding on February 21, 2014.
CLAIMS ASSERTED IN § 2241 PETITION
In his § 2241 petition, Hall alleges that the United States concealed material information from him during the plea negotiations, in violation of his right to due process of law. Hall described the allegedly withheld information as "... certain evidence against him which had been sealed by the Court before the negotiations for the plea began." [D. E. No. 1, p. 6] Hall states that he unsuccessfully sought information regarding statements from co-defendant Rodney Mullins, and that he was "... entitled to any testimony or statements from any Co-defendant or any witness upon which the government may depend upon at trial." [ Id., p. 7] Hall claims that based on the United States' failure and/or refusal to disclose the material information about Mullins's statements, his guilty plea was coerced, unintelligent, and involuntary.
Hall further alleges that his trial counsel "failed in his professional responsibility by allowing Petitioner [Hall] to enter into the reckless and ill-advised Plea Agreement." [ Id. ] This allegation falls under the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees effective assistance of counsel during criminal proceedings. Hall seeks an order invalidating his plea agreement, granting him a new trial, and directing the respondent to show "cause" why he should continue to be held in federal custody.
Hall 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, Hall challenges the constitutionality of his underlying federal convictions and resulting sentence on Fifth and Sixth Amendment grounds. But § 2241 is not the mechanism for asserting such challenges: 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. The only circumstance in which a petitioner may use this provision is 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); Lott v. Davis, 105 F.Appx. 13, 14-15 (6th Cir. 2004). This exception does not apply where the prisoner failed to seize an earlier opportunity to correct a fundamental defect in his conviction under pre-existing law, or where he did ...