United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
K. CALDWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ramos-Romero is an inmate at the United States Penitentiary -
McCreary in Pine Knot, Kentucky. Proceeding without a lawyer,
Ramos-Romero filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [R. 1]. This matter is now
before the Court on initial screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 2243. See Alexander v. Northern Bureau of
Prisons, 419 Fed.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011). For the
reasons set forth below, the Court will deny
2004, a jury convicted Ramos-Romero of conspiracy to
distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of
21 U.S.C. § 846, and possession of firearms in
furtherance of a drug trafficking offense, in violation of 18
U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1) and (2). See United States
v. Ramos-Romero, No. 3:03-cr-055 at R. 497 (D.P.R.
2004). The trial court then sentenced Ramos-Romero to a total
of 425 months in prison. See Id. Ramos-Romero filed
a direct appeal, but the United States Court of Appeals for
the First Circuit affirmed the trial court's judgment.
See United States v. Gonzalez-Velez, 466 F.3d 27
(1st Cir. 2006). Ramos-Romero's subsequent efforts to
vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 were
unsuccessful. See Ramos-Romero v. United States, No.
3:08-cv-1231 (D.P.R. 2008).
has now filed a § 2241 petition with this Court. [R. 1].
As an initial matter, Ramos-Romero's petition is
extremely difficult to follow. That said, as best as the
Court can tell, Ramos-Romero is primarily trying to
collaterally attack his underlying convictions and sentence.
Indeed, Ramos-Romero repeatedly claims that he is
“actually innocent” of the crimes for which he
was convicted in light of a number of United States Supreme
Court decisions, including but not limited to United
States v. Davis, 139 S.Ct. 2319 (2019), Sessions v.
Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018), and Johnson v. United
States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015). Ramos-Romero also
suggests that the trial court improperly sentenced him as a
career offender under § 4B1.1 of the United States
Sentencing Guidelines in light of multiple Supreme Court
decisions, including but not limited to Mathis v. United
States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). Ultimately, Ramos-Romero
asks this Court to grant him relief.
§ 2241 petition, however, constitutes an impermissible
collateral attack on his underlying convictions and sentence.
While a federal prisoner may challenge the legality of his
convictions and 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). 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, Ramos-Romero cannot use a § 2241
petition as a way of challenging his convictions and
true that there is a limited exception under which federal
prisoners have been permitted to challenge the validity of
their convictions in a § 2241 petition. However, the
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has
explained that a prisoner can only proceed in this manner 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).
Ramos-Romero has not made such a showing. In fact, his
petition is quite confusing and, thus, he has not
demonstrated in any clear way that a new rule of statutory
law renders him actually innocent of one or both of his
convictions. And while Ramos-Romero relies on the Supreme
Court's decisions in Davis, Dimaya, and
Johnson, all three of those cases involved
constitutional questions, not issues of statutory
interpretation. Thus, Ramos-Romero's challenge to his
underlying convictions is without merit.
attack on his underlying sentence in also misplaced. To be
sure, there is a narrow exception under which federal
prisoners have been permitted to challenge their sentences in
a § 2241 petition. However, the Sixth Circuit has
explained that a prisoner can only proceed in this manner if
he can show: “(1) a case of statutory interpretation,
(2) that is retroactive and could not have been invoked in
the initial § 2255 motion, and (3) that the misapplied
sentence presents an error sufficiently grave to be deemed a
miscarriage of justice or a fundamental defect.”
Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591, 595 (6th Cir. 2016).
The Sixth Circuit also expressly limited its decision to
“prisoners who were sentenced under the mandatory
guidelines regime pre-United States v. Booker, 543
U.S. 220 . . . (2005).” Id. at 599. More
recently, in Wright v. Spaulding, --- F.3d ---, No.
17-4257, 2019 WL 4493487, at *9 (6th Cir. Sept. 19, 2019)
(publication pending), the Sixth Circuit clarified
Hill and held that a federal prisoner cannot bring
this kind of claim in a § 2241 petition “without
showing that he had no prior reasonable opportunity to bring
his argument for relief.”
does not meet the Hill/Wright criteria. For
starters, the trial court sentenced Ramos-Romero under the
guidelines in April 2005, after the Supreme Court's
January 2005 decision in Booker made the sentencing
guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. On this basis
alone, Ramos-Romero's challenge to his sentence does not
fall within Hill's narrow framework. See
Loza-Gracia v. Streeval, No. 18-5923 (6th Cir. March 12,
2019) (“Loza-Gracia cannot proceed under Hill
because he was sentenced in 2011, long after the Supreme
Court's January 2005 Booker decision made the
guidelines advisory rather than mandatory.”);
Contreras v. Ormond, No. 18-5020 (6th Cir. Sept. 10,
2018) (“[The petitioner's] case does not fall
within the narrow exception recognized by Hill
because he was sentenced post Booker in 2009, under
the advisory sentencing guidelines.”); Arroyo v.
Ormond, No. 17-5837 (6th Cir. April 6, 2018) (holding
that since the petitioner was sentenced after
Booker, his “claim does not fall within
Hill's limited exception for bringing a §
2241 habeas petition to challenge a federal sentence”).
Therefore, Ramos-Romero's attack on his sentence does not
even get off the ground.
even if Ramos-Romero could challenge his sentence in these
proceedings, he has not established that a retroactive rule
of statutory interpretation causes his sentence to be a
miscarriage of justice or fundamental defect. Ramos-Romero
does cite Mathis, the 2016 case in which the Supreme
Court clarified the so-called “categorical
approach.” However, as the Sixth Circuit recently
explained, “Mathis did not invent the
categorical approach, ” and, “[i]n fact, it did
not even break new ground.” Wright, 2019 WL
4493487, at *9. Instead, “[t]he Court's holding in
Mathis was dictated by prior precedent (indeed two
decades worth).” Id. (quoting In re
Conzelmann, 872 F.3d 375, 376 (6th Cir. 2017)). Thus,
Ramos-Romero did not need Mathis to assert his
argument that his sentence was improperly enhanced. In other
words, Ramos-Romero cannot show “he had no prior
reasonable opportunity to bring his argument for
relief.” Wright, 2019 WL 4493487, at *9. Thus,
Ramos-Romero's reliance on Mathis is unavailing.
And while Ramos-Romero cites several other cases to support
his claim, he has not adequately explained how any of these
cases establish that he is entitled to relief from his
the Court recognizes that, at the end of Ramos-Romero's
petition, he attempts to raise a claim related to either 18
U.S.C. § 3585 or the Bureau of Prisons' power to
have a state facility designated nunc pro tunc as a
place of federal confinement. [See R. 1 at 12-13].
However, this claim is difficult to follow, and, in any
event, it is wholly separate from all of Ramos-Romero's
other claims, which attack the validity of his underlying
convictions and sentence. Thus, to the extent that
Ramos-Romero wants to pursue this § 3585/nunc pro
tunc claim, the Court will require him to file a
separate § 2241 petition in which he more clearly
articulates the facts of his case and the basis for this
it is ORDERED as follows:
Ramos-Romero's claims collaterally attacking his
underlying convictions and sentence are DENIED WITH
PREJUDICE 2. That said, Ramos-Romero's unrelated
§ 3585/nunc pro tunc claim is DENIED
WITHOUT PREJUDICE. This means that Ramos-Romero may
still pursue this claim via a separate § 2241 petition.
pending motions in this action are DENIED as
action is DISMISSED and