United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, CHIEF JUDGE
Richard Conley, Jr. is an inmate at the Federal Medical
Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer,
Conley filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [R. 1]. For the reasons set forth
below, the Court will deny Conley's petition.
2011, a federal grand jury indicted Conley, charging him with
multiple crimes, including conspiracy to possess with the
intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 846.
See United States v. Conley, No. 1:11-cr-037, at R.
10 (W.D. Va. 2011). Shortly thereafter, the Government filed
a notice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 851, indicating that
Conley had two prior felony drug convictions. See
Id. at R. 82. Therefore, Conley was subject to an
enhanced prison sentence under § 841(b)(1).
eventually pled guilty to the conspiracy charge. In
Conley's plea agreement, he acknowledged that he had two
prior felony drug convictions and, thus, was subject to an
enhanced prison sentence. See Id. at R. 118 at 3.
That said, the Government agreed to pursue a sentence
enhancement based on only one of Conley's prior felony
drug convictions, not both. See Id. at R. 118 at 3.
Therefore, Conley was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence
of 20 years in prison, rather than the mandatory minimum of
life in prison that would have otherwise been applicable to
him under § 841(b)(1). See Id. at R. 118 at 1,
3. In Conley's plea agreement, he also waived his right
to collaterally attack any order issued in his case. See
Id. at R. 118 at 8-9. The trial court ultimately
accepted Conley's plea and sentenced him to 262 months in
prison. Conley did not file a direct appeal, and while he
filed motions to vacate and reduce his sentence, the district
court denied those motions. See Id. at R. 254, 261,
has now filed his § 2241 petition with this Court.
Despite his plea agreement, Conley argues that the trial
court erred when it determined that he had a prior felony
drug conviction and thus was subject to a mandatory minimum
sentence of 20 years in prison. Conley cites multiple cases
to support his petition, including Hill v. Masters,
836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), and Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016).
initial matter, Conley waived his right to collaterally
attack his sentence. Indeed, Conley specifically said in his
plea agreement, “I waive any right I may have to
collaterally attack, in any future proceeding, any
order issued in this matter, unless such attack is based on
ineffective assistance of counsel, and agree I will not file
any document which seeks to disturb any such order,
unless such filing is based on ineffective assistance of
counsel.” United States v. Conley, No.
1:11-cr-037, at R. 118 at 8-9 (W.D. Va. 2011) (emphasis
added). This broad waiver precludes the arguments that Conley
makes in this case. As this Court has recognized on numerous
occasions, such waivers are valid and enforceable in §
2241 proceedings. See Ewing v. Sepanek, No.
0:14-cv-111-HRW (E.D. Ky. Jan. 6, 2015); Solis-Caceres v.
Sepanek, No. 0:13-cv-021-HRW (E.D. Ky. Aug. 6, 2013)
(collecting cases); Combs v. Hickey, No.
5:11-cv-012-JMH (E.D. Ky. Jan. 7, 2011). In short, Conley is
barred from challenging his sentence in his habeas petition.
said, even if Conley's collateral attack waiver was not
enforceable, his § 2241 petition would still constitute
an impermissible collateral attack on his sentence. Although
a federal prisoner may challenge the legality of his sentence
on direct appeal and through 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). After all, a § 2241
petition 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, Conley cannot use a § 2241
petition as a way of challenging his sentence.
nevertheless argues that he can attack his sentence in a
§ 2241 petition, and he cites Hill v. Masters,
836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), to support his position.
See R. 1-2 at 2-5. It is true that, in
Hill, the Sixth Circuit indicated for the first time
that a prisoner may challenge his sentence in a § 2241
petition. However, in doing so, the court expressly limited
its decision to the following, very narrow circumstances:
(1) prisoners who were sentenced under the mandatory
guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker, 543
U.S. 220 . . . (2005), (2) who were foreclosed from filing a
successive petition under § 2255, and (3) when a
subsequent, retroactive change in statutory interpretation by
the Supreme Court reveals that a previous conviction is not a
predicate offense for a career-offender enhancement.
Id. at 599-600.
circumstances do not apply in this case. That is because the
trial court sentenced Conley in 2011, well after the Supreme
Court decided Booker. Plus, Conley has failed to
identify a subsequent, retroactive change in statutory
interpretation by the Supreme Court that reveals that his
previous conviction is not a “felony drug
offense” for purposes of the § 841(b)(1)
Conley cites Mathis, that case discusses the
approach courts should use to determine whether a prior
conviction constitutes a violent felony for purposes of the
Armed Career Criminal Act. Here, the trial court enhanced
Conley's sentence pursuant to § 841(b)(1), an
entirely different statute with broader language. See
Hernandez v. Ormond, No. 6:17-cv-081-DLB (E.D. Ky. Sept.
18, 2017) (explaining that the analysis described in
Mathis is not applicable to enhancements pursuant to
§ 841(b)(1)'s broad language). And, in any event,
the Sixth Circuit recently explained in a published decision
that “Mathis was dictated by prior precedent
(indeed two decades worth), ” and, thus, it did not
announce a new rule, let alone a retroactive one. In re
Conzelmann, No. 17-3270, 2017 WL 4159184, *1 (6th Cir.
September 20, 2017). Therefore, Conley's reliance on
Mathis is unavailing.
light of the foregoing analysis, it is hereby
ORDERED as follows:
Conley's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to