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Dillon v. Warden

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

December 20, 2019

CHRISTOPHER RYAN DILLON, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C. Reeves, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Inmate/Petitioner Christopher Dillon is currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution-Manchester (“FCI-Manchester”) located in Manchester, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Dillon has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking to challenge the validity of his conviction. [Record No. 1] This matter is pending for initial screening as required by 28 U.S.C. § 2243. Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 Fed.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011).[1] Because Dillon is not entitled to habeas relief, his petition will be denied.

         I.

         In March 2016, Dillon was charged in an indictment issued by a grand jury in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee with one count of knowingly possessing with intent to distribute a substance containing a detectable amount of a-PVP (alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone), a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C) (Count One); and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count Two). United States v. Christopher Ryan Dillon, No. 2:16-cr-035-RLJ-MCLC-1 (E.D. Tenn. 2016) at Record No. 3. Dillon entered into a plea agreement with the United States in November 2016. In relevant part, he agreed to plead guilty to Count Two of the indictment (i.e., the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm). In exchange, the United States agreed to dismiss Count One (i.e., the charge of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it). Id. at Record No. 13. Dillon also stipulated to various matters, including the fact that, after police officers arrived at a parking lot where it had been reported that drug activity was taking place,

officers located [Dillon] sitting inside one of the vehicles, a black Honda… Officers then observed a white male exit a building beside the vehicles and get into the passenger side of the black Honda. When asked if there were any firearms in their possession, both initially denied having a firearm. Officers then asked both [Dillon] and the other individual to step out of the vehicle. As [Dillon] was getting out of the vehicle, he was observed putting his hand to his right side toward the back of the seat. Once out of the vehicle, one of the officers saw, in plain view, a firearm between the seat and the console, the same area where [Dillon] was previously seen putting his hand. [Dillon] admitted to the officers that he was trying to hide the firearm from them, that he was transporting the firearm for a friend, that he was a convicted felon and knew he was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm.

Id. at Record No. 13, p. 2-3 (emphasis added). See also id. at p. 4 (stipulating that Dillon “told agents that the gun belonged to his girlfriend, but that he knew the gun was in the car, ” and further stipulating that Dillon was previously convicted of drug-related felonies in Tennessee and Virginia).

         The plea agreement also contained a waiver provision, pursuant to which Dillon agreed not to file a direct appeal of his conviction or sentence (with an exception not relevant here) and further “knowingly and voluntarily waive[d] the right to file any motions or pleadings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 or to collaterally attack [Dillon's] conviction(s) and/or resulting sentence.” Id. at p. 8.

         Dillon pled guilty to Count Two of the Indictment on December 15, 2016. On April 6, 2017, Dillon was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 110 months, to be served concurrent to sentences imposed in multiple state criminal cases. Id. at Record No. 16, 29. Dillon neither filed a direct appeal of his conviction or sentence, nor did he file a motion for vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         In his § 2241 petition filed in this Court, Dillon argues that his conviction is invalid in light of the United States Supreme Court's recent decision in Rehaif v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191 (2019). Specifically, he argues that, in light of Rehaif, he is “actually innocent” of his crime of conviction because he did not knowingly violate the “status” element of being a felon in possession of a firearm. [Record No. 1 at p. 5]

         II.

         The correct mechanism for a federal prisoner to challenge his or her conviction or sentence is through a motion to vacate filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009). See also United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining the distinction between a § 2255 motion and a § 2241 petition). A § 2241 petition 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). 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 United States Supreme Court issued a retroactively applicable decision re-interpreting 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).

         Here, Dillon relies upon the Supreme Court's decision in Rehaif which held that, “in a prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and § 924(a)(2), the Government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.” Rehaif, 139 S.Ct. at 2200. Dillon argues that, because he was not found to have “knowingly” violated the “status” element of being a felon in possession of a firearm, he is “actually innocent” of his crime of conviction. [Record No. 1-1 at p. 1] However, Dillon's § 2241 petition will be denied for several reasons.

         First, to properly invoke the savings clause, the Supreme Court's newly-announced interpretation must be retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. Wooten, 677 F.3d at 308. While the Sixth Circuit has not yet addressed this issue, the Eleventh Circuit has specifically held that the Supreme Court has not made the Rehaif decision retroactively applicable to cases on collateral review. In re Palacios, 931 F.3d 1314, 1315 (11th Cir. 2019). See also In re Wright, 942 F.3d 1063, 1065 (11th Cir. 2019).

         Second, Dillon knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to contest his conviction in a post-conviction proceeding in his plea agreement. Such waivers are enforceable and apply to proceedings under § 2241, including this one. Slusser v. United States, 895 F.3d 437, 439 (6th Cir. 2018) (“It is well-settled that a knowing and voluntary waiver of a collateral attack is enforceable.”) (citation omitted); Moser v. Quintana, No. CV 5: 17-386-DCR, 2017 WL 5194507, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Nov. 9, 2017), aff'd, No. 17-6421 (6th Cir. June 21, 2018); Rivera v. Warden, FCI, ...


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