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Casas v. Hastings

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division

September 18, 2014

RALPH CASAS, Petitioner,
v.
SUZANNE R. HASTINGS, Warden, Respondent.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JAMES E. GRAHAM, Magistrate Judge.

Petitioner Ralph Casas ("Casas"), who is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Jesup, Georgia, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, to which Casas filed a Response. For the reasons which follow, Respondent's Motion should be GRANTED and Casas' petition should be DISMISSED.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

Casas was convicted in the District of Puerto Rico, after a jury trial, of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Casas was sentenced to life imprisonment. Casas filed a direct appeal, and he asserted that his sentence violated Apprendi v. New Jersey , 530 U.S. 466 (2000), because the jury did not determine the drug quantity the conspiracy distributed. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Casas' conviction and sentence and noted that the jury used a special verdict form and determined the conspiracy was responsible for distributing over 9, 400 kilograms of cocaine. United States v. Casas , 356 F.3d 104, 127-28 (1st Cir. 2004).

Casas filed a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion in the District of Puerto Rico and again asserted that his sentence violated Apprendi. The trial court denied Casas' motion for three (3) reasons: 1) Apprendi does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review; 2) the jury made a specific drug quantity finding; and 3) he raised the same claim on direct appeal. (Doc. No. 8, pp. 2-3).

Casas then filed a motion for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion with the First Circuit. The First Circuit denied this application because Casas did not cite a new rule of constitutional law; Alleyne v. United States, ___ U.S. ___ , 133 S.Ct. 2151 (June 17, 2013), does not apply retroactively to cases on collateral review; and his ineffective assistance of counsel did not rest on newly discovered evidence. Casas v. United States, No. 14-1317 (1st Cir. May 14, 2014).

In this petition, Casas asserts that the remedy afforded under § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective to challenge the legality of his sentence. Casas contends that Alleyne establishes that he is actually innocent of violating the "aggravated statute", 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), and a fundamental defect occurred during sentencing. (Doc. No. 1, p. 5). Casas asserts that Alleyne applies retroactively to his case, his claims were foreclosed by First Circuit precedent, and he is being punished for an uncharged crime for which a jury did not find him guilty. Respondent asserts that Casas fails to meet the savings clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

DISCUSSION AND CITATION OF AUTHORITY

Ordinarily, an action in which an individual seeks to collaterally attack "the validity of a federal sentence must be brought under § 2255, " in the district of conviction. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); Turner v. Warden Coleman FCI (Medium, 709 F.3d 1328, 1333 (11th Cir. 2013). To utilize § 2241 to attack the validity of a federal sentence or conviction, a petition must show that the remedy afforded under section 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective" to challenge the validity of a conviction and/or sentence. Taylor v. Warden, FCI Marianna , 557 F.App'x 911, 913 (11th Cir. 2014).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit provided two "challenges to which the savings clause" is applicable. Williams v. Warden, Fed. Bureau of Prisons , 713 F.3d 1332, 1343 (11th Cir. 2013). First:

[t]he savings clause of § 2255 applies to a claim when: 1) that claim is based upon a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision; 2) the holding of that Supreme Court decision establishes the petitioner was convicted for a nonexistent offense; and, 3) circuit law squarely foreclosed such a claim at the time it otherwise should have been raised in the petitioner's trial, appeal, or first § 2255 motion.

Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Wofford v. Scott , 177 F.3d 1236, 1244 (11th Cir. 1999)). Second, the savings clause may apply when "a fundamental defect in sentencing occurred and the petitioner had not had an opportunity to obtain judicial correction of that defect earlier." Id.. (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Eleventh Circuit "retreated from the purported three-factor test enumerated in Wofford, calling it only dicta, and explain[ed] that [t]he actual holding of the Wofford decision... is simply that the savings clause does not cover sentence claims that could have been raised in earlier proceedings." Turner, 709 F.3d at 1333 (alteration in original) (internal citation and punctuation omitted). However, Wofford's holding establishes two necessary conditions-although it does not go so far as holding them to be sufficient-for a sentencing claim to pass muster under the savings clause." Williams , 713 F.3d at 1343.

First, the claim must be based upon a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision. The second, and equally essential, condition is that the Supreme Court decision must have overturned a circuit precedent that squarely resolved the claim so that the petitioner had no genuine ...

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