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Wells v. Flourney

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

January 17, 2018

TONY WELLS, Petitioner,
v.
J.V. FLOURNOY, Respondent.

          ORDER AND MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          R. STAN BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Petitioner Tony Wells (“Wells”), 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. 8), and Wells filed a Response, (doc. 10). For the following reasons, I RECOMMEND that the Court GRANT Respondent's Motion, DISMISS Wells's Section 2241 Petition, DIRECT the Clerk of Court to CLOSE this case and enter the appropriate judgment of dismissal, and DENY Wells in forma pauperis status on appeal.

         BACKGROUND

         Wells pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine in the Western District of North Carolina in January of 2006. (Doc. 8-5.) Approximately two months later, a grand jury in that same District indicted Wells for tampering with a witness in his underlying criminal case. (Doc. 8-7.) Wells subsequently pleaded guilty to the witness tampering charge. (Docs. 8-8, 8-9.) At a combined hearing, the district court sentenced Wells to two 235 months' terms of imprisonment to be served concurrently. (Doc. 8- 10.) That sentence was subsequently reduced to 188 months' imprisonment due to retroactive Sentencing Guidelines amendments. (Doc. 8-11.)

         Wells filed a direct appeal challenging his guilty pleas and his sentences, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed. (Doc. 8-12). Wells then sought to attack his conviction and sentence through a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion in the Western District of North Carolina. (Doc. 8-13.) That court denied Wells's motion and denied him a certificate of appealability. (Docs. 8-15, 8-16.)

         Wells has now filed a Section 2241 Petition in this Court attacking his sentence. (Doc. 1.) He contends that the Western District of North Carolina impermissibly enhanced his sentence using a prior felony marijuana conviction. He maintains that the conviction no longer qualifies as a felony following the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011).

         Respondent moves to dismiss Wells's Petition, contending that he does not satisfy the requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)'s “saving clause” in light of the Eleventh Circuit's decision in McCarthan v. Director of Goodwill Industries-Suncoast, Inc., 851 F.3d 1076 (11th Cir. 2017). (Doc. 8.) Wells filed a Response to the Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 10.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether Wells 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 F. App'x 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). 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 F. App'x 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, 851 F.3d at 1081.

         To determine whether a prisoner satisfies the saving clause, a court need only analyze “whether the motion to vacate is an adequate procedure to test the prisoner's claim.” Id. at 1086. A court should “ask whether the prisoner would have been permitted to bring that claim in a motion to vacate. In other words, a prisoner has a meaningful opportunity to test his claim whenever section 2255 can provide him a remedy.” Id. at 1086-87. In short, when reviewing a Section 2241 petition, courts should look to whether the petitioner's claim is of a kind that is “cognizable” under Section 2255. If so, the petitioner cannot meet the “saving clause” and cannot proceed under Section 2241. To be sure, “[t]he remedy [afforded] by [a Section 2255] motion is not ineffective unless the procedure it provides is incapable of adjudicating the claim.” Id. at 1088. Whether the ...


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