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Castro v. Holland

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

January 26, 2015

LOUIS CASTRO, Petitioner,
v.
J.C. HOLLAND, WARDEN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

Louis Castro is an inmate confined by the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") in the United Penitentiary-McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Castro has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his federal drug and firearm convictions. Because a § 2241 petition is not the proper vehicle for obtaining the relief sought, Castro's petition will be denied.

I.

Following several bungled attempts, Castro used a boat to import cocaine to the United States from a "mother ship" off the coast of Columbia in 1988. In August 1988, a federal jury in a Louisiana convicted Castro of the following drug and firearm offenses: (i) conspiring to possess with intent to distribute approximately 450 kilograms of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 846; (ii) possessing with intent to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; (iii) conspiring to import cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a), 960(a)(1), & 963; (iv) importing of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952(a) & 960(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and (v) using or carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. 924(c) (1). United States v. Castro, No. 88-CV-371-H (E. D. La. 1988); United States v. Castro, 874 F.2d 230 (5th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 110 S.Ct. 138 (1989).[1]

In October 1988, the district court sentenced Castro to four concurrent life prison terms on counts one through four to run consecutively to a sentence imposed in a prior Florida case, and to a five-year prison term on count five to run consecutively to counts one through four. The district court also imposed terms of supervised release. On May 1, 1989, Castro's conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Fifth Circuit. United States v. Castro, 874 F.2d 230 (5th Cir. 1989), cert. denied, 110 S.Ct. 138 (1989).

In October 1995, Castro filed a motion in the district court seeking to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Castro raised four issues, arguing that: (i) the district court erred when it sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole for counts one through four of the indictment; (ii) the district court committed an ex post facto violation when it applied the amended federal conspiracy statute providing for mandatory minimums in connection with his conspiracy conviction; (iii) the firearm used to support his conviction under count five was "tainted by government abuse;" and (iv) he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his criminal proceeding.

On December 11, 1995, the district court denied all of Castro's § 2255 claims, with the exception of the five-year supervised release terms imposed as to counts one and three. Based on a 1980 Supreme Court decision which held that a special parole term cannot be imposed when a statute provides for punishment only by imprisonment or fine or both, the district court amended Castro's sentence to delete the supervised release terms imposed on counts one and three. Castro appealed adding a new claim alleging that his conviction on count five, using or carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, was improper after the Supreme Court's decision in in Bailey v. United States, 516 U.S. 137 (1995).

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the denial of Castro's § 2255 motion. United States v. Castro, 1996 WL 731568, 103 F.3d 126 (5th Cir. Dec. 3, 1996) (unpublished table opinion). The appellate court determined that none of Castro's original claims had merit and that it would not address the merits of Castro's Bailey claim challenging his § 924(c)(1) firearm conviction because he had not included that claim in his § 2255 motion. Id. at *4-*7. In a footnote, however, the court questioned the validity of that claim, noting that the indictment charged Castro with knowingly and intentionally using and carrying a firearm, and that witnesses had testified at trial that Castro kept his weapon on his person for a significant portion of the voyage to and from the "mother ship, " and that Castro demanded to have his weapon back because "it was like a security blanket.'" Id., at p. *7 n.15.

Between 2001 and 2003, Castro filed a series of successive § 2255 motions in an effort to collaterally challenge his conviction and sentence. The district court promptly transferred each motion to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for filing authorization pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3). The Fifth Circuit denied Castro permission to file a successive § 2255 motion in two of these cases, see In Re Castro, No. 01-31009 (5th Cir. Nov. 16, 2001); In Re Castro, No. 03-31187 (5th Cir. Feb. 13, 2004), and dismissed the third case because Castro failed to comply with a notice entered on September 4, 2002, see In Re Castro, No. 02-30866 (5th Cir. Oct. 23, 2002).

II.

In conducting an initial review of habeas petitions under 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 Castro 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 case, Castro's factual allegations are accepted as true and his legal claims are liberally construed.

In his original § 2241 petition, Castro provided no information in support of his claims, other than to allege that he has been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 18 years. [Record No. 1] Castro's amended § 2241 petition is, in many passages, unintelligible and devoid of substance. [Record No. 9] Castro listed numerous dates, docket entries (presumably from his cases), federal civil rules of procedure, and other abstract legal terms, but failed to explain how any of that jumbled information supports or even applies to his claims under § 2241. Castro has also made disjointed statements about the circumstances under which attorneys should be allowed practice a case pro hac vice, but neglected to explain the relevancy of that issue. Castro also obliquely referred to his trial counsel but his rambling comments and incomplete sentences make no sense. [ Id. p. 8, ¶ 14] Castro indicates that some irregularity occurred during sentencing with respect to the pre-sentence investigation report, but again, his fragmented words and phrases fail to convey even basic facts that would support a claim on that issue. [ Id. at p. 8]

Castro asserted only two recognizable claims in the amended § 2241 petition. They are as follows: (i) when the district court calculated his prison term and sentenced him on October 19, 1988, it committed an ex post facto violation which resulted in an increased prison term, and (ii) the government failed to prosecute him diligently and engaged in ...


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