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Mathis v. Sepanek

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

January 27, 2015

MICHAEL SEPANEK, Warden, Respondent.


HENRY R. WILHOIT, Jr., District Judge.

Melson Raheen Mathis is a federal inmate confined in the Federal Correctional Institution at Ashland, Kentucky. Proceeding pro se, Mathis has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking relief from a prison sentence he alleges was erroneously imposed. [D. E. No. 1] Mathis requests that his 10-year sentence on Count 2 of the indictment be vacated and that he be resentenced to a 5-year sentence. [D. E. No. 1, page 6] Mathis has paid the $5.00 filing fee. [D. E. No. 3]

The Court reviews the § 2241 petition to determine whether, based on the face of the petition and any exhibits attached thereto, Mathis is entitled to relief. See Rule 4, Rules Governing 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Cases; (applicable to § 2241 petitions under Rule 1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491 F.Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979); see also 28 U.S.C. § 2243. A district court may summarily dismiss a petition if it appears from its face that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Blevins v. Lamanna, 23 F.Appx. 216, 218 (6th Cir. 2001); Allen v. Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).

The Court has reviewed the petition, but determines that Mathis has not alleged facts as to any of his claims that would entitle him to relief under § 2241.


On December 7, 2004, Mathis and co-defendant James Lynch were charged a three-count superseding indictment. United States v. Melson Raheen Mathis, No. 1:02-CR-00891-ARR (E.D.N.Y. 2002) [D. E. No. 290, therein] Mathis was charged in Counts 1 and 2. Count 1 charged that he did knowingly and intentionally conspire to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance containing heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) 841(b)(1)(A)(I), and 846. Count 2 charged him with knowingly and intentionally using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Mathis proceeded to trial. On February 18, 2005, a jury found him guilty on both counts of the indictment. [D. E. No. 320 therein]

On November 29, 2005, the district court imposed a 162-month prison sentence on Count 1, and a consecutive, 120-month sentence on Count 2, for a total sentence of 282 months. [D. E. No. 367 therein]

Mathis appealed his conviction and sentence to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. On November 29, 2007, the Second Circuit affirmed his conviction and sentence. [D. E. No. 412 therein] Thereafter, on March 9, 2009, Mathis moved to vacate, set aside or correct sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Melson Raheem Mathis v. United States, No. 1:09-cv-01101-ARR (E.D.N.Y. 2009) [D. E. No. 1 therein]. On June 23, 2009, the trial court denied his § 2255 motion and denied him a certificate of appealability. [ Id. at D. E. No. 5 therein] Mathis then moved the Second Circuit for a certificate of appealability. On May 6, 2010, the Second Circuit denied the motion and dismissed his appeal. [ Id. at D. E. No. 10 therein] Subsequently, in April of 2011, Mathis moved for, but was denied, relief from judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b). [ Id. at D. E. Nos. 11 and 12 therein]


Mathis challenges the 120-month sentence he received on Count 2 of the indictment. He claims that since he was only charged for using or carrying a firearm, and was not charged either with "brandishing" or firing a firearm, during and in relation to this drug trafficking offense, the district court improperly imposed a 120-month sentence, as there was no jury finding made that would warrant the imposition of a 120-month sentence. Mathis claims that this sentence violates his right to due process of law, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and his right to have a jury determine any facts that increase the term of his sentence, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In support of this argument, Mathis cites Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). In Alleyne, the U.S. 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. Mathis contends that because Alleyne applies retroactively and affords him relief from his sentence, this Court should vacate that portion of his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, and resentence him to a 60-month sentence on Count 2.


As a general rule, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provides the correct avenue to challenge a federal conviction or sentence, whereas a federal prisoner may file a § 2241 petition if he is challenging the execution of his sentence ( i.e., the BOP's calculation of sentence credits or other issues affecting the length of his sentence). See United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Charles v. Chandler, 180 F.3d 753, 755-56 (6th Cir. 1999). The Sixth Circuit has explained the difference between the two statutes as follows:

[C]ourts have uniformly held that claims asserted by federal prisoners that seek to challenge their convictions or imposition of their sentence shall be filed in the [jurisdiction of the] sentencing court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and that claims seeking to challenge the execution or manner in which the sentence is served shall be filed ...

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