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West v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

December 17, 2014

MATTHEW D. WEST, Petitioner,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

INDIRA TALWANI, District Judge.

I. Introduction

On March 12, 2014, Matthew D. West petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, naming as Respondent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. West challenges the legality of his federal detention on the ground that a predicate state conviction, used to enhance his federal sentence, was void. Presently at issue is the Commonwealth's Motion to Dismiss [#9].

The court finds that West cannot challenge his state sentence through a petition for habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, because that sentence is fully expired and he is currently in federal, not state, custody. Moreover, even if the court construed West's petition as a challenge to his federal sentence as enhanced, a petitioner may not collaterally challenge a predicate state conviction used to enhance a federal sentence through a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Accordingly, the Commonwealth's motion is ALLOWED.

II. Background

A. West's Federal Conviction and Sentencing

After a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, West was found guilty for two counts of distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(a). See United States v. West, 552 F.Supp.2d 74, 83 (D. Mass. 2008). The trial court scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 24, 2007. See West v. United States, 631 F.3d 563, 566 (1st Cir. 2011).

In preparation for this hearing, the Probation Office prepared a presentence report, which classified West as a career offender based on two prior convictions: (1) a 1992 Virginia conviction for two counts of felony distribution of cocaine, and (2) a 2001 Massachusetts misdemeanor conviction for assault and battery for which West received a ninety day suspended sentence. West, 552 F.Supp.2d at 83-84. Application of the career-offender guideline increased West's recommended guidelines' sentence from 10-16 months to 262-327 months. Id.

On September 19, 2007, West's attorney filed a motion in the Roxbury, Massachusetts District Court asking that court to vacate West's 2001 assault and battery conviction to avoid application by the federal court of the career-offender guideline. See Pet. 2 [#1]; West, 552 F.Supp.2d at 84 & n.7. On the morning of West's scheduled sentencing hearing in federal court, the state court judge allowed West's motion after an ex parte hearing. West, 552 F.Supp.2d at 84 & n.7, 89-95.

After receiving notice that the state court had vacated West's 2001 conviction, the government obtained a continuance of the sentencing hearing. West, 631 F.3d at 566. The Commonwealth then petitioned a single justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") to vacate the order vacating West's 2001 conviction. Id . Before the single justice acted, the state court judge reconsidered, vacated sua sponte her prior order, and restored West's 2001 conviction. See Commonwealth v. West, No. 11-P-2076, 2013 WL 464589, at 1 (Mass.App.Ct. Feb. 8, 2013). The single justice subsequently dismissed the Commonwealth's petition for relief as moot, and West did not appeal that dismissal. See id.

On October 10, 2007, the federal district court sentenced West as a career offender. West, 552 F.Supp.2d at 84. After a downward departure, West received a sentence of 180 months' imprisonment and ten years' supervised release. Id. at 85. West is currently in federal custody pursuant to this sentence.

B. West's Collateral Challenge to His Federal Sentence

On March 2, 2009, West filed a motion to vacate or modify his sentence under 28 U.S.C.

§ 2255.[1] West challenged his federal sentence on four grounds: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel, (2) improper continuation of the sentencing hearing, (3) sentencing factor manipulation by the government, and (4) imposition of an unreasonable sentence. See West, 631 F.3d at 566. On July 29, 2009, the district court denied West's § 2255 motion. See id. On January 26, 2011, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of this motion. See id. at 573. The ...


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