United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
McNeil is an inmate at the Federal Correctional
Institution-Manchester in Manchester, Kentucky. Proceeding
without an attorney, McNeil has filed a petition for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in this
Court. [R. 1.] For the reasons that follow, McNeil's
petition will be DENIED.
2008, a jury found McNeil guilty of participating in multiple
armed robberies of Memphis, Tennessee area hotels. See
United States v. McNeil, No. 2:02-cr-20041 (W.D. Tenn.
2002). The Western District of Tennessee subsequently
sentenced McNeil to 135 years and 10 months of imprisonment
for his twelve counts of criminal conduct. Id. at R.
517 therein. 130 years of McNeil's total sentence stem
from his six weapons offenses and the penalties assigned to
him by the court under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Id.
habeas petition, McNeil claims that his defense counsel
erroneously failed to object to the trial court's
misapplication of section 924(c)(1)(C). [R. 1 at 4.] McNeil
references the recently-enacted FIRST STEP Act and,
specifically, the Act's clarification of section 924(c);
in light of the Act, he asks this Court to vacate all of his
section 924(c) counts of conviction. [Id. at 5.]
McNeil's petition is now before the Court for a
preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2243.
the Court's initial screening, a section 2241 petition
will be denied “if it plainly appears from the petition
and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled
to relief.” Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254
Cases in the United States District Courts (applicable to
section 2241 petitions pursuant to Rule 1(b)). The Court
evaluates McNeil's petition under a more lenient standard
because he is proceeding without an attorney, and the Court,
at this stage of the proceedings, accepts his factual
allegations as true and construes all legal claims in his
favor. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555-56 (2007).
the lenient construction afforded to McNeil's petition,
McNeil is not entitled to the relief he seeks. As an initial
matter, McNeil challenges the legality of his conviction and
sentence in his habeas petition. While a federal prisoner may
challenge the legality of his convictions and sentence in a
28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion before the sentencing court, he
generally may not do so in a section 2241 petition. See
United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir.
2001). A section 2241 petition is typically 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). But
McNeil's petition challenges the underlying sentence he
actually received, not the manner in which his sentence is
exceptions do exist under which a federal prisoner may
challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence in a
section 2241 proceeding. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
has explained that a prisoner can only challenge the validity
of his sentence by way of section 2241 if he can demonstrate
that an intervening change in statutory law establishes his
actual innocence, see Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d
303, 307-08 (6th Cir. 2012), or that his sentence was
improperly enhanced, see Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d
591, 599-600 (6th Cir. 2016). However, McNeil has not
demonstrated that either of those circumstances exist in his
extent McNeil relies on the recently enacted criminal justice
reform law (“the FIRST STEP Act of 2018”), that
law does not provide McNeil with the relief he seeks. The
FIRST STEP Act does eliminate the practice of
“stacking” gun sentences from the same incident
on top of a sentence for a crime of violence, such as what
happened in McNeil's case. But unfortunately for McNeil,
that provision of the Act does not apply retroactively to
provide him with any relief. See Public Law 115-015,
__, 2018, 132 Stat. 015, § 403 (explaining that the
Act's clarification of section 924(c) applies only where
a sentence has not already been imposed). Thus, the FIRST
STEP Act does not provide an intervening change in statutory
law that is applicable to McNeil, such that he may proceed
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Because the relevant provision
of the Act-at least at this point in time-is not retroactive
to McNeil's sentence, the Act does not prove his actual
innocence as is required under Wooten v. Cauley.
See 677 F.3d at 307-08.
the Court hereby ORDERS as follows:
1. McNeil's petition for a writ of habeas corpus brought
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [R. 1] is
2. This action is DISMISSED and
STRICKEN from the Court's active ...