United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves JR. United States District Judge
Thomas Harry Finley is currently confined at the Federal
Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without an
attorney, Finley has filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [Record No. 1] For
the reasons set forth below, the petition will be denied and
this action dismissed from the Court's docket.
2011, a federal grand jury indicted Finley, charging him with
conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846. Finley pled
guilty to the charge pursuant to a written plea agreement,
and the trial court ultimately sentenced him to 262 months in
prison. See United States v. Finley, No. 1:
11-cr-00111-LRR-1 (N.D. Iowa 2011). Finley filed a direct
appeal, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth
Circuit dismissed the appeal because Finley's plea
agreement contained a valid appellate waiver. See United
States v. Finley, No. 12-2396 (8th Cir. 2013). Finley
then filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his
sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The United States
District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, denied that
motion. The court emphasized that Finley had waived all
post-conviction claims except those based on ineffective
assistance of counsel or an alleged unconstitutional
sentence. It further determined that Finley's trial
attorney did not provide ineffective assistance and that
Finley's sentence was constitutional. See Finley v.
United States, No. 1:14-cv-047-LRR (N.D. Iowa 2015). The
Eighth Circuit then denied Finley a Certificate of
Appealability. See Finley v. United States, No.
15-2362 (8th Cir. 2016).
has now filed a § 2241 petition with this Court. While
Finley's petition is difficult to understand, he appears
to be challenging the validity of his underlying conviction
and sentence, and he is relying principally on the Supreme
Court's decision in McFadden v. United States,
135 S.Ct. 2298 (2015). Finley suggests that, in light of
McFadden, his guilty plea was not voluntary and his
sentence was improper.
initial matter, it appears that the waiver provisions in
Finley's plea agreement bar him from collaterally
attacking his conviction or sentence. While this Court does
not have access to Finley's plea agreement because it was
filed under seal, the Northern District of Iowa has said that
Finley “waived all post-conviction claims except those
based on ineffective assistance of counsel or an
unconstitutional sentence.” See Finley v. United
States, No. 1:14-cv-047-LRR (N.D. Iowa 2015) at Record
No. 13 at 3. This waiver would preclude the assertion of the
arguments that Finley seeks to pursue in this case. After
all, such waivers are generally enforceable in habeas
proceedings under § 2241. See, e.g., Solis-Caceres
v. Sepanek, No. 13-021-HRW, 2013 WL 4017119, at *3 (E.D.
Ky. 2013) (discussing how a plea waiver can preclude a
defendant from collaterally attacking his sentence through a
§ 2241 petition and then citing various cases to support
that issue aside, Finley's § 2241 petition is also
an impermissible collateral attack on his conviction and
sentence. That is because while a federal prisoner may
challenge the legality of his conviction or sentence in a
§ 2255 motion, he generally may not do so in a §
2241 petition. See United States v. Peterman, 249
F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining the distinction
between a § 2255 motion and a § 2241 petition). A
§ 2241 petition does not function as an additional or
alternative remedy to the one available under § 2255.
Hernandez v. Lamanna, 16 F. App'x 317, 360 (6th
Cir. 2001). Instead, it is usually only a vehicle for
challenges to actions taken by prison officials that affect
the manner in which the prisoner's sentence is being
carried out, such as computing sentence credits or
determining parole eligibility. See Terrell v. United
States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). Simply put,
Finley cannot use his § 2241 petition as a way of
collaterally challenging his conviction and sentence.
nevertheless argues that he can attack his
conviction and sentence in his § 2241 petition by citing
and discussing § 2255(e)'s savings clause. [Record
No. 1-1 at 3-4]. That argument, however, is off base.
Although the Sixth Circuit has recognized that “the
so-called ‘savings clause provides that if section 2255
is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his
detention, . . . then a federal prisoner may also challenge
the validity of his conviction or sentence under §
2241.” Bess v. Walton, 468 F. App'x 588,
589 (6th Cir. 2012) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
However, the Sixth Circuit has further explained that
“[i]nvocation of the savings clause is restricted to
cases where prisoners can show ‘an intervening change
in the law that establishes their actual
innocence.'” Id. (quoting
Peterman, 249 F.3d at 462). In subsequent cases, the
Sixth Circuit has explained how a prisoner can rely on an
intervening change in the law to establish his actual
innocence, see Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303,
307-08 (6th Cir. 2012), or even challenge a sentence
enhancement. See Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591,
599-600 (6th Cir. 2016).
argues that the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in
McFadden is the “intervening change in the law
[that] establishes his actual innocence” and also
proves that his sentence was “illegal.” [Record
No. 1 at 10-11]. But it is not clear from Finley's
petition how McFadden is even relevant to his case,
let alone prove that he is innocent or was somehow sentenced
improperly. After all, McFadden “concern[ed]
the knowledge necessary for conviction under [21 U.S.C.]
§ 841(a)(1) when the controlled substance at issue is in
fact an analogue”-a substance that is not listed on the
federal drug schedules, like the bath salts at issue in that
case. McFadden, 135 S.Ct. at 2302.
on the other hand, pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute
100 grams or more of heroin, which is specifically listed on
the federal drug schedules. See 21 C.F.R. §
1308.11(c)(11). Plus, when the trial court denied
Finley's § 2255 motion, it noted that when he pled
guilty, he specifically acknowledged that he understood all
of the elements of the charge against him and that he
possessed with the intent to distribute 100 grams or more of
heroin. See Finley v. United States, No.
1:14-cv-047-LRR (N.D. Iowa 2015) at Record No. 13 at 5. Thus,
Finley's case is clearly distinguishable from
McFadden and, as a result, there is no merit to his
argument regarding § 2255(e)'s savings clause.
Accordingly, it is hereby
Finley's petition for a writ of habeas corpus [Record No.
1] is DENIED.
action is DISMISSED and STRICKEN from ...