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Caffie v. Butler

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

October 30, 2017



          David L. Bunning, United States District Judge

         Inmate Larry Caffie has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. # 1). This matter is before the Court to conduct an initial screening of Caffie's petition. 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. N. Bureau of Prisons, 419 Fed.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). Because Caffie's claims cannot be asserted in a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and they are substantively without merit, the Court will deny the petition.


         In April 2006, a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois issued a four-count Indictment charging Caffie with three counts of knowingly and intentionally distributing cocaine base (crack), a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C)(Counts 1-3) and one count of knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of a mixture and substance containing cocaine base (crack), a Schedule II controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). Shortly thereafter, the prosecution filed a notice of its intention to seek an enhancement of Caffie's sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 851 in light of three prior felony drug convictions in Winnebago County, Illinois. This notice was later amended to list only two prior felony drug convictions, one in Winnebago County and the other in Kane County, Illinois. Caffie was therefore subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

         In May 2007, after a bench trial, Caffie was found guilty of all four counts of the Indictment. In February 2008, Caffie was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 168 months on each of Counts 1-3, to be served concurrently with each other and the sentence imposed on Count 4, and a term of life imprisonment on Count 4, to be served concurrently to the terms imposed on Counts 1-3. United States v. Caffie, No. 1:06-CR-10029-JBM-JAG-1 (C.D. Ill. 2006).[1] Caffie appealed, but the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal as frivolous after his counsel filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), indicating that there were no nonfrivolous issues for appeal. United States v. Caffie, No. 08-1343 (7th Cir. 2008).

         In 2009, Caffie filed a Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct his Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In that motion, Caffie challenged the enhancement of his sentence due to his prior drug convictions and further argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel both at trial and on appeal. Caffie's § 2255 motion was denied in 2011. Caffie v. United States, No. 1:09-CV-01231-JES (C.D. Ill. 2009). Caffie was denied a certificate of appealability. Caffie v. United States, No. 11-2805 (7th Cir. 2011). Thereafter, Caffie filed two additional motions, re-raising the same arguments in various forms. Both motions were construed as unauthorized second or successive § 2255 petitions and denied. Caffie v. United States, No. 1:09-CV-01231-JES (C.D. Ill. 2009).

         In 2014, Caffie filed a § 2241 petition in this Court, arguing that his sentence was improperly enhanced for various reasons, including that his two prior convictions did not qualify as predicate offenses for the purposes of a sentence enhancement. This Court found that Caffie failed to demonstrate that he was entitled to proceed under § 2241 because he did not establish that his remedy under § 2255 was inadequate or ineffective, nor did he allege a viable claim of actual innocence. Caffie v. Holland, No. 6:14-cv-67-DCR (E.D. Ky. 2014).

         In February 2017, Caffie filed another motion that was construed as an application seeking authorization to file a successive motion to vacate his sentence under § 2255, seeking to challenge his sentence under Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). The Seventh Circuit denied authorization, in part because Mathis did not announce a constitutional rule, but also because Mathis, which defines “burglary” for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), “has no relevance to Caffie's life sentence, which was dictated by 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) and his prior convictions for felony drug offenses.” Caffie v. United States No. 17-1233 (7th Cir. Feb. 14, 2017).

         Caffie has now filed the instant § 2241 petition, arguing that he is entitled to relief from his sentence pursuant to the United States Supreme Court's decision in Mathis, which he argues is a new rule of statutory interpretation. (Doc. # 1). Specifically, Caffie argues that the enhancement of his federal sentence pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) violates his due-process and equal-protection rights because his prior convictions were not evaluated as possible predicate offenses using the same “categorical approach” described in Mathis, which is applied to evaluate prior convictions for possible sentence enhancements imposed pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(1). Id. Caffie further claims that he should be allowed to proceed under the “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) because he is “actually innocent” of the § 841 enhancement pursuant to which he was given a life sentence. Id.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A habeas corpus petition filed pursuant to § 2241 may be used to challenge 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. Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). If a federal prisoner instead wishes to challenge the legality of his federal conviction or sentence, he must do so by filing a motion for post-conviction relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the court that convicted and sentenced him. Capaldi v. Pontesso, 135 F.3d 1122, 1123 (6th Cir. 2003). A habeas corpus petition pursuant to § 2241 may not be used for this purpose because it does not function as an additional or alternative remedy to the one available under § 2255. Hernandez v. Lamanna, 16 Fed.Appx. 317, 320 (6th Cir. 2001).

         The “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) creates an extraordinarily narrow exception to this prohibition if the remedy afforded by § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective” to test the legality of the prisoner's detention. Truss v. Davis, 115 Fed.Appx. 772, 773-74 (6th Cir. 2004). A motion under § 2255 is not “inadequate or ineffective” simply because the prisoner's time to file a § 2255 motion has passed, he did not file a § 2255 motion, or he did file such a motion and was denied relief. Copeland v. Hemingway, 36 Fed.Appx. 793, 795 (6th Cir. 2002); Taylor v. Gilkey, 314 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2002) (holding that § 2241 is available “only when a structural problem in § 2255 forecloses even one round of effective collateral review ...”). In other words, prisoners cannot use a habeas petition under § 2241 as another “bite at the apple.” Hernandez, 16 Fed.Appx. at 360.

         To properly invoke the savings clause, the petitioner must be asserting a claim that he is “actually innocent” of the underlying offense by showing that after the petitioner's conviction became final, the Supreme Court re-interpreted the substantive terms of the criminal statute under which he was convicted in a manner that establishes that his conduct did not violate the statute. Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 307-08 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461-62 (6th Cir. 2001)); Hayes v. Holland, 473 Fed.Appx. 501, 501-02 (6th Cir. 2012) (“To date, the savings clause has only been applied to claims of actual innocence based upon Supreme Court decisions announcing new rules of statutory construction unavailable for attack under section 2255.”). The Supreme Court's newly announced interpretation must, of course, be retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Wooten, 677 F.3d at 308.

         Caffie's petition must be denied because his claims are not ones of actual innocence, and hence are not cognizable in a § 2241 petition. Caffie asserts that the enhancement of his sentence pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) is unconstitutional because it was not the product of the ...

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