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Maxie v. Warden

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

January 7, 2020

DEMARIO CENTEL MAXIE, Petitioner,
v.
Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Joseph M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.

         Demario Maxie is an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Manchester, Kentucky. Proceeding without an attorney, Maxie filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 seeking to challenge the validity of his conviction. [DE 1]. Because Maxie failed to sign his original petition, the Court issued a deficiency order. [DE 5]. Maxie has now complied with the Court's deficiency order and provided a habeas petition that satisfies Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11. [DE 6]. Accordingly, the matter is now before the Court for an initial screening. See 28 U.S.C. § 2243; Alexander v. Northern Bureau of Prisons, 419 Fed.Appx. 544, 545 (6th Cir. 2011).

         In 2014, a jury convicted Maxie of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(a), 924(a)(2), and 924(e), as well as aiding and abetting his co-defendant's possession of a firearm. See United States v. Maxie, et al., Case No. 5:14-cr-00004-TBR (W.D. Ky. 2004), DE 61 therein. At trial, Maxie stipulated that prior to December 1, 2010, he had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. Id. at DE 70 therein. Following the jury verdict, the Court sentenced Maxie to 180 months on each count of conviction, to be served concurrently for a total term of 180 months of federal imprisonment. Id. at DE 87 therein.

         Maxie appealed his sentence, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. See United States v. Maxie, 647 Fed.Appx. 551 (6th Cir. 2016). Maxie then filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel and that his predicate offense no longer counted for purposes of a § 924(e) enhancement under Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016), and Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015). The trial court denied his § 2255 motion and denied a certificate of appealability as to each claim asserted. See Maxie, 5:14-cr-00004-TBR, DE 137 therein. Maxie then petitioned the Sixth Circuit for permission to file a second or successive § 2255 motion based on Sessions v. Dimaya, 138 S.Ct. 1204 (2018), but the Sixth Circuit denied his r equest. Id. at DE 149 therein. Maxie now seeks relief in this Court by way of his pending 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition.

         In his § 2241 petition, Maxie 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 claims that Rehaif renders him “actually innocent” because at trial, he was not found to have knowingly violated the “status” element of being a felon in possession of a firearm. [See DE 6-1]. Upon the Court's preliminary screening, a habeas petition will be denied “if it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief.” See Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts (applicable to § 2241 petitions pursuant to Rule 1(b)).

         Maxie's petition must be denied upon screening because the petition states no viable claim for habeas relief. The correct mechanism for a federal prisoner to challenge his or her conviction is sentence is through a 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) motion to vacate, not a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition. See Terrell v. United States, 564 F.3d 442, 447 (6th Cir. 2009); United States v. Peterman, 249 F.3d 458, 461 (6th Cir. 2001) (explaining the distinction between a § 2255 motion and a § 2241 petition). The Sixth Circuit has made clear that a § 2241 petition 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). Instead, the “savings clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) allows a petitioner to proceed via § 2241 only under extraordinarily narrow circumstances, 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 assert a claim that he is “actually innocent” of the underlying offense by showing that after his conviction became final, the United States Supreme Court issued a retroactively applicable decision reinterpreting 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 after all. Wooten v. Cauley, 677 F.3d 303, 307-08 (6th Cir. 2012).

         Here, Maxie relies on 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. Maxie 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. [DE 6-1 at 1]. This argument fails for a number of 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. See In re Palacios, 931 F.3d 1314, 1315 (11th Cir. 2019); In re Wright, 942 F.3d 1063, 1065 (11th Cir. 2019).

         Second, Maxie stipulated during trial that he had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. See Maxie, 5:14-cr-00004-TBR, DE 60 therein. Maxie now suggests that this stipulation does not prove that he had knowledge of his status as a person forbidden from possessing a firearm. But Maxie's reasoning is based on an overly-broad interpretation of Rehaif. Contrary to his assumption, Rehaif does not hold that the Government was required to prove that he knew he was prohibited from possessing a firearm to sustain a conviction under § 922(g)(1). As the Supreme Court explained:

[t]he question here concerns the scope of the word “knowingly.” Does it mean that the Government must prove that a defendant knew both that he engaged in the relevant conduct (that he possessed a firearm) and also that he fell within the relevant status (that he was a felon, an alien unlawfully in this country, or the like)? We hold that the word “knowingly” applies both to the defendant's conduct and to the defendant's status. To convict a defendant, the Government therefore must show that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and also that he knew he had the relevant status when he possessed it.

Rehaif, 139 S.Ct. at 2194.

         Thus, while the Government's burden includes proof that a defendant was aware of his “relevant status, ” meaning that he knew that he was “a felon, an alien unlawfully in this country, or the like, ” see Id. at 2195-96, it does not include proof that the defendant specifically knew that he was prohibited from possessing firearms. See United States v. Bowens, 938 F.3d 790, 797 (6th Cir. 2019) (refusing to adopt the defendant's argument that Rehaif requires the Government to prove “that [defendants] both knew they possessed firearms and knew that they were unlawful users of a controlled substance” under § 922(g)(3)).

         In fact, in Bowens, the Sixth Circuit rejected Maxie's unduly expansive reading of Rehaif:

[D]efendants appear to argue that even if they knowingly used marijuana, Rehaif requires something more: that the Government prove each defendant “knew he was prohibited from possession [of a firearm] because he was an unlawful user of a controlled substance, ” that in other words he “knew of his status as a prohibited person . . . . [I]t is at least plausible that they were unaware that they were prohibited from possessing firearms under a subsection of 18 U.S.C. ยง ...

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