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Wilkerson v. Sepanek

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

July 21, 2014

MICHAEL SEPANEK, Warden, Respondent.


HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Rahnaun Andre Wilkerson is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in the Federal Correctional Institution-Ashland located in Ashland, Kentucky. Proceeding without counsel, Wilkerson has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [D. E. No.1], challenging his 322-month federal sentence which he is currently serving. Wilkerson has paid the $5.00 filing fee. [D. No.2]

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 l(b)). The Court evaluates Wilkerson'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). The Court also 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).

As explained below, the Court will deny Wilkerson's petition because the claims which he asserts in it cannot be pursued under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.


On December 2, 1999, Wilkerson pleaded guilty in a Virginia federal court to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). See United States v. Rahnaun A. Wilkerson, No. 1:99-CR-385-LMB-l (E.D. Va. 1999). On February 11, 2000, Wilkerson received a 360-month prison sentence on the drug charge, and a consecutive 60 month prison sentence on the firearm charge, for a total sentence of 420 months. Wilkerson did not file a direct appeal of either his conviction or his sentence.

Wilkerson's 1999 criminal proceeding predated the advent of the federal judiciary's electronic database, which means that this Court cannot electronically access and view pleadings and orders in that criminal action which were filed prior to February 22, 2008. This Court can, however, electronically access and view the entire docket sheet of Wilkerson's criminal proceeding. That docket sheet reveals that on April 5, 2001, Wilkerson filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255;[1] that on the July 3, 2001, the district court entered an Order denying that motion, see D. E. No. 75, therein; and that on July 30, 2001, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals entered an order denying Wilkerson permission to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, see D. E. No. 76, therein. On December 21, 2001, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of both Wilkerson's § 2255 motion and another motion he had filed requesting a sentence reduction under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b). United States v. Wilkerson, 22 F.Appx. 301 (4th Cir. 2001).

Between February 2002 and July 2012, Wilkerson either filed or attempted to file in the district court a series of second or successive § 2255 motions challenging his conviction/and or his sentence. See motions, D. E. Nos. 80, 91, and 124, therein. The district court denied all of Wilkerson's motions, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly denied Wilkerson permission to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. See orders, D. Nos. 82, 90, 94, 96, 101, 102, and 126, therein.

In July 2003, while he was confined in a BOP facility located in Minersville, Pennsylvania, Wilkerson filed a prior § 2241 petition in a Pennsylvania federal court, in which he collaterally challenged his conviction and sentence based on the Supreme Court's holding in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348 (2000).[2] See Wilkerson v. Warden John Nash, No. 3:03-CV-01195 (E.D. Pa. 2003) [D. E. No.1, therein] On September 17, 2013, the Pennsylvania district court entered a Memorandum and Order [D. E. No. 10, therein], adopting the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") to deny Wilkerson's § 2241 petition. In the R & R, the Magistrate Judge had concluded that: (1) Apprendi did not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review and therefore was of no assistance to Wilkerson, and (2) Wilkerson could not assert his claims under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, because his remedy under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (in the district court where was sentenced) had been in fact an adequate and ineffective means of challenging both his conviction and his sentence. See D. E. No.6, therein.

On September 2, 2008, the district court in Virginia reduced Wilkerson's sentence to 253 months pursuant to the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3582. See United States v. Rahnaun A. Wilkerson, No. 1:99-CR-385-LMB-1 [D. E. No. 114, therein]. On July 3, 2012, that court further reduced Wilkerson's sentence to 322 months pursuant to § 3582. See D. E. No. 123, therein.


Wilkerson alleges that the district court improperly enhanced his sentence based on its conclusion that he had obstructed justice by fleeing the scene of a drug transaction. Wilkerson alleges that in calculating his sentence, the district court improperly deviated from the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("USSG") and imposed a higher sentence than what was warranted under the USSG. Wilkerson further alleges, "... there is no crime for obstruction of justice per se, " see R.l-l, therein (underlining in original). Wilkerson contends that his sentence violates his right to due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it was enhanced based on conduct that was not charged in the indictment and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Wilkerson asserts that the "obstruction of justice" factor should not have impacted or increased his sentence imposed on the drug and firearm offenses.

Wilkerson does not cite the case, but his claim that his sentence was increased because of conduct not charged in the indictment necessarily implicates the June 2013 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). In Alleyne, the Supreme Court 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. Wilkerson asks this Court to ...

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