United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BUNNING, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
November 2017, federal inmate John Jose Watford filed a
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241. (Doc. # 1). Watford subsequently filed an
amended petition pursuant to directions from the Court. (Doc.
# 11). Watford has now filed a Motion to Amend his petition a
second time, and has tendered the proposed amended petition.
(Doc. # 13). Because the tendered second amended petition is
not materially different from the first, the Court will grant
Watford's Motion to Amend. This tendered amended petition
(Doc. # 13-1) will stand as his final petition in this
same motion, Watford requests that this Court transfer his
§ 2241 petition to the United States District Court for
the Northern District of Indiana, which is the court that
imposed his sentence. As grounds, Watford asserts that unlike
the Sixth Circuit, courts within the jurisdiction of the
Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recognize as retroactively
applicable to cases on collateral review those decisions of
the Supreme Court upon which he relies in his petition,
including Mathis v. United States, __ U.S. __, 136
S.Ct. 2243 (2016), Descamps v. United States, 570
U.S. 254 (2013); and Begay v. United States, 553
U.S. 137 (2008). While Watford relies upon Holt v. United
States, 843 F.3d 720 (7th Cir. 2016) for this
proposition, it holds just the opposite. Id. at 721.
the Court must deny this Motion because only Watford's
custodian in this district, not the sentencing court, can
grant him relief under § 2241. Rumsfeld v.
Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 435, 442-43 (2004) (“The
plain language of the habeas statute thus confirms the
general rule that for core habeas petitions challenging
present physical confinement, jurisdiction lies in only one
district: the district of confinement.”); 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241(a) (authorizing federal courts to grant habeas
relief “within their respective jurisdictions.”).
And the mere fact that the proposed transferee jurisdiction
operates under legal precedent that the movant perceives to
be more amenable to his claims provides no legitimate basis
for transfer in any event. Yoder v. Ryan, 318
F.Supp.2d 601, 606 (N.D. Ill. 2004) (“...
plaintiffs' belief that this venue is more favorable to
their claim is not a justification for denial of a motion to
matter is before the Court to conduct an initial screening of
Watford's second amended petition (Doc. # 13-1). 28
U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of
Prisons, 419 F. App'x 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011).
September 1997, a jury in South Bend, Indiana found Watford
and his cohort guilty of three armed bank robberies,
resulting in six convictions: three for assault with a deadly
weapon during the commission of a bank robbery in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), and three more for using and
carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime of
violence in violation of 18 U.S.C.§ 924(c). There was
also evidence of uncharged bank robberies in Indianapolis and
Anderson, Indiana, but it did not inform either his
convictions or sentences.
presentence report indicated that Watford had prior
convictions in 1990 in Florida for burglary of a dwelling and
in 1994 in Pennsylvania for aggravated assault. The trial
court concluded that both convictions were for “crimes
of violence, ” the former under U.S.S.G. §
4B1.2(a)(2), and the latter as one involving the use of force
under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(1). Because Watford had two or
more prior convictions for crimes of violence, he was subject
to the career offender enhancement found in § 4B1.1(a)
of the Sentencing Guidelines. This increased his offense
level from 25 to 34. It also established a criminal history
category of VI, although this would have been true even
without the enhancement in light of his 13 criminal history
was thus subject to a sentencing range under the guidelines
of 262 to 327 months imprisonment for the three §
2113(d) convictions. By statute, Watford also faced a
mandatory 60-month prison term for his first § 924(c)
conviction and mandatory 240-month prison terms for each of
his second and third § 924(c) convictions, each of which
must be served consecutively to any other prison term. As a
result, Watford's sentencing range was 802 to 867 months
imprisonment. The trial court considered at length the
factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), and in
February 1998 sentenced Watford to 802 months imprisonment,
at the very bottom of the permissible sentencing range.
United States v. Watford, No. 3: 97-CR-26(2)-RLM
(N.D. Ind. 1997) (Doc. #27, 61, 99, 101 therein). The Seventh
Circuit affirmed on direct appeal in all respects. United
States v. Watford, 165 F.3d 34, 1998 WL 743924 (7th Cir.
Oct. 22, 1998).
that time, Watford has filed several dozen motions,
petitions, or requests for various forms of relief from his
convictions, sentences, fines and restitution, all without
success. So extensive and repetitive were Watford's
filings that in 2016 the Seventh Circuit imposed a $500.00
sanction and conditional filing restrictions upon him.
Watford v. United States, No. 16-1404 (7th Cir. Mar.
present § 2241 petition, Watford contends that his prior
offenses did not properly constitute “crimes of
violence” within the meaning of U.S.S.G. §
4B1.2(a) in light of Mathis, Descamps, and
Begay, and thus his sentence was improperly enhanced
as a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a).
(Doc. # 13-1 at 5).
§ 2241 petition as a vehicle to challenge the validity
of a sentence is only permissible where (1) the
petitioner's sentence was imposed when the Sentencing
Guidelines were mandatory before the Supreme Court's
decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220
(2005); (2) the petitioner was foreclosed from asserting the
claim in a successive petition under § 2255; and (3)
after the petitioner's sentence became final, the Supreme
Court issued a retroactively applicable decision establishing
that-as a matter of statutory interpretation-a prior
conviction used to enhance his federal sentence no longer
qualified as a valid predicate offense. Hill v.
Masters, 836 F.3d 591, 599-600 (6th Cir. 2016).
claims clearly satisfy the first criteria and likely the
second, but not the third, and hence are not cognizable in
this § 2241 proceeding. First, his claim under
Begay necessarily fails because that decision's
analysis of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B)(ii)'s residual
clause-a provision not even at issue in Watford's
case-was abrogated by the Supreme Court's invalidation of
that provision on constitutional grounds in Johnson v.
United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015).
reliance upon Descamps and Mathis is
likewise misplaced. First, neither decision even discussed
the substantive reach or meaning of either the phrase
“crime of violence” as used in § 4B1.2(a) or
whether the prior state offenses from Florida and
Pennsylvania used to enhance Watford's sentence qualified
as such. Instead, both decisions were merely procedural,
discussing the analytical framework established in Taylor
v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990), a decision issued
well before Watford's sentence
was imposed. In Descamps, the Supreme Court only
clarified that under Taylor, resort to the modified
categorical approach is not appropriate where the underlying
state conviction was pursuant to an indivisible statute.
Descamps, 570 U.S. at 261-62 (citing
Taylor, 495 U.S. at 602). For its part,
Mathis merely reiterated that a statute is
divisible, hence permitting resort to the modified
categorical approach, only when it sets forth alternative
elements, hence defining multiple crimes in a single statute,
but not when it merely sets forth alternative factual means
to commit a single offense. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at
2249, 2251-52 (citing Taylor, 495 U.S. at 602).
does not allege the trial court impermissibly used the
modified categorical approach to analyze his prior offenses,
and hence makes no claim actually grounded in Mathis
or Descamps at all. Instead, he merely argues a
claim predicated upon Taylor: that the Florida and
Pennsylvania statutes under which he was convicted are
broader than their “generic” counterparts. (Doc.
# 13-1 at 5). Because that decision was issued nearly a
decade before his sentence was imposed, Watford was obligated
to pursue any claim under on it direct appeal, and resort ...