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Williams v. Flournoy

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

October 26, 2017




         Petitioner Shariff Marcelle Williams (“Williams”), 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. (Doc. 1.) Respondent filed a Motion to Dismiss, (doc. 6), to which Williams filed a Response, (doc. 9). For the reasons which follow, I RECOMMEND that the Court GRANT Respondent's Motion, DISMISS Williams's Section 2241 Petition, and DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case. I also RECOMMEND the Court DENY Williams in forma pauperis status on appeal.


         On January 28, 2013, Williams pleaded guilty to armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2113(a) and (d), and brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan. (Docs. 6-1, 6-4.) He was designated a career offender under the United States Sentencing Guidelines due to his prior convictions for armed and unarmed robbery. (Doc. 6-5.) The Western District of Michigan sentenced Williams to a total of 228 months' imprisonment (144 months for the robbery offense and 84 months for the firearm offense, to be served consecutively). (Doc. 6-6.)

         On June 14, 2013, Williams filed a notice of appeal, pro se, and his trial counsel subsequently filed a brief pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967) and a motion to withdraw. (Doc. 6-1, pp. 9-10.) The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reviewed the case and counsel's assessment of the relative merit on appeal, determined that there were no issues of arguable merit, and affirmed Williams's convictions and sentence. (Doc. 6-7.)

         On March 30, 2016, Williams filed a Motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the Western District of Michigan, attacking his conviction and sentence. (Doc. 6-8.) In support of that Motion, Williams cited the United States Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), striking down the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act as unconstitutionally vague. (Id.) Williams argued that the court should invalidate similar language in the career offender provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, and that, therefore, he should no longer qualify as a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines. (Id.) The district court denied Williams's Section 2255 motion based on the Supreme Court's decision in Beckles v. United States ___ U.S. ___, 137 S.Ct. 886 (Mar. 6, 2017), which held that the vagueness analysis of the Armed Career Criminal Act in Johnson does not apply to the Sentencing Guidelines. (Docs. 6-10, 6-11.)

         Having been rejected by his sentencing court, Williams now turns to this Court to attack his sentence. In the instant Section 2241 Petition, Williams claims that he was “mistakenly classified as a career offender” when the district court applied a modified categorical approach in violation of the Supreme Court's holding in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016); and that he was “mistakenly enhanced under 924(c)(1)(A), ” because that statute is unconstitutionally vague following Johnson. (Doc. 1-1, p. 1.) As relief, he asks that this Court “reverse the enhancements” in his sentence. (Id. at p. 8.)

         Respondent moved to dismiss Williams's Petition, contending that he does not satisfy the requirements of the 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) “saving clause” in light of the Eleventh Circuit's decision in McCarthan v. Dir. of Goodwill Indus.-Suncoast, Inc., 851 F.3d 1076, 1081 (11th Cir. 2017). (Doc. 6.) Williams filed a Response opposing the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 9.)


         I. Whether Williams can Proceed Pursuant to Section 2241

         Section 2241 habeas corpus petitions “are generally reserved for challenges to the execution of a sentence or the nature of confinement, not the validity of the sentence itself or the fact of confinement.” Vieux v. Warden, 616 Fed.Appx. 891, 896 (11th Cir. 2015) (internal punctuation and citation omitted). 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) (citation omitted). To utilize Section 2241 to attack the validity of a federal sentence or conviction, a petitioner must show that the remedy afforded under Section 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective.” Taylor v. Warden, FCI Marianna, 557 Fed.Appx. 911, 913 (11th Cir. 2014); Turner, 709 F.3d at 1333 (noting the petitioner bears the burden of establishing that the remedy under Section 2255 was inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention). A motion to vacate covers only challenges to the validity of a sentence, but the saving clause and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus cover challenges to the execution of a sentence. Cf. Antonelli v. Warden, U.S.P. Atlanta, 542 F.3d 1348, 1351 n.1 (11th Cir. 2008) (“It is well-settled that a § 2255 motion to vacate is a separate and distinct remedy from habeas corpus proper. . . . A prisoner in custody pursuant to a federal court judgment may proceed under § 2241 only when he raises claims outside the scope of § 2255(a), that is, claims concerning execution of his sentence.”) (internal citations omitted)); United States v. Flores, 616 F.2d 840, 842 (5th Cir. 1980) (“[The prisoner's] appropriate remedy is under § 2255, not 28 U.S.C. § 2241, since the alleged errors occurred at or prior to sentencing.”).

         Section 2255(e) provides:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) (emphasis added). The above-emphasized portion of Section 2255(e) is referred to as the “saving clause.” “Section 2255(e) makes clear that a motion to vacate is the exclusive mechanism for a federal prisoner to seek collateral relief unless he can satisfy” the saving clause. McCarthan v. ...

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