United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. WILHOIT JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Andra Nickerson is a federal prisoner. Proceeding without a
lawyer, Nickerson filed a petition for a writ of habeas
corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [D. E. No 1].
Nickerson claims that his 2013 conviction for being a felon
in possession of a firearm is no longer valid because of the
United States Supreme Court's recent decision in
Rehaif v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191 (2019). The
Respondent, represented by the U.S. Attorney's Office,
responded to Nickerson's petition [D. E. No. 12], and
Nickerson's time to file a reply brief has now passed.
Thus, this matter is ripe for a decision from this Court.
Ultimately, Nickerson has failed to demonstrate that, in
light of Rehaif, it is more likely than not that no
reasonable juror would have convicted him of being a felon in
possession of a firearm. As a result, the Court will deny his
November 2013, Nickerson pled guilty in federal court to
conspiracy to distribute heroin, money laundering, and being
a felon in possession of a firearm. See United States v.
Daryl A. Nickerson, No. 1:13-cr-356-NCT-1 (M.D. N.C.
2013). The Government filed a factual basis in support of
Nickerson's guilty plea in which it pointed out that he
had also been convicted in 1997 of being a felon in
possession of a firearm. See Id. at D. E. No. 60.
Nickerson's Presentence Report (PSR) also noted that he
had multiple prior felony convictions, including his 1997
felon-in-possession conviction, as well as earlier felony
convictions for voluntary manslaughter and breaking and
entering a motor vehicle. See Id. at D. E. No. 96 at
¶¶ 30, 52-53, 72 (also filed in this case at D. E.
No. 14). Nickerson agreed with the PSR, except for an
unrelated objection to a leadership role enhancement. See
Id. at D. E. Nos. 97, 98 (also filed in this case at D.
E. Nos. 14-1 and 14-2). Ultimately, the district court
resolved the leadership enhancement issue and sentenced
Nickerson to a total of 188 months in prison. See
Id. at D. E. No. 129. Nickerson did not appeal, and he
did not file a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2255.
said, Nickerson now pursues relief via § 2241. Nickerson
suggests that his 2013 conviction for being a felon in
possession of a firearm is no longer valid because of the
Supreme Court's decision in Rehaif, 139 S.Ct. at
2191. Thus, Nickerson asks this Court to vacate that
conviction. [See D. E. No. 1 at 8].
petition, however, constitutes an impermissible collateral
attack on his underlying conviction. Although a federal
prisoner may challenge the legality of his conviction on
direct appeal and through a timely § 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). That is because a §
2241 petition is usually only a vehicle for challenges to
actions taken by prison officials that affect the way 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, as a general matter, Nickerson cannot
use a § 2241 petition as a way of challenging his
sure, 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 establish his actual innocence by demonstrating:
(1) the existence of a new interpretation of statutory law,
(2) which was issued after the petitioner had a meaningful
time to incorporate the new interpretation into his direct
appeals or subsequent motions, (3) is retroactive, and (4)
applies to the merits of the petition to make it more likely
than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted him.
Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 307-08 (6th Cir.
has not met all of these requirements. Even assuming, without
deciding, that the first three Wooten elements are
satisfied in this case, Nickerson still has not demonstrated
that, in light of Rehaif, it is more likely than not
that no reasonable juror would have convicted him of being a
felon in possession of a firearm. In Rehaif, the
Supreme Court held that the Government must prove that the
defendant possessed a firearm while being aware of his
relevant status- meaning that he knew that he was a felon, an
alien unlawfully in this country, or the like. See
Rehaif, 139 S.Ct. at 2194; see also United States v.
Bowens, 938 F.3d 790, 797 (6th Cir. 2019) (interpreting
the Supreme Court's holding in this manner). Here, given
Nickerson's undisputed criminal history, he has provided
no basis to conclude that a reasonable juror would infer that
he was somehow unaware that he was a felon when he possessed
the firearm in question. If anything, Nickerson's
extensive criminal history, including his multiple prior
felony convictions dating back decades, undercuts the
implication that he somehow did not know that he was a felon
at the time he possessed the firearm in question. See
also Walker v. Quintana, No. 5:19-cv-321-DCR, 2019 WL
6310722, at *2 (E.D. Ky. Nov. 25, 2019) (reaching this
conclusion in a similar § 2241 case). For this reason,
as well as the persuasive reasons put forth by the United
States in its response brief [D. E. No. 12 at 4-5], Nickerson
has not shown that he is entitled to relief under
it is ORDERED as follows:
Nickerson's petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [D. E. No. 1] is
matter is DISMISSED and