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Mederos v. Commonwealth

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 28, 2016



F. DENNIS SAYLOR, IV, District Judge.

This action is a pro se request for declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and further relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2202, by a civil committee and alien subject to a removal order. Plaintiff Antonio Mederos has filed three prior petitions to this court for a writ of habeas corpus. Having been denied each time, Mederos brought the present action seeking a declaration that his confinement in the Massachusetts Treatment Center ("MTC") in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, results from procedural error. Specifically, Mederos seeks a declaration that (1) the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") was required to take him into custody at the completion of his earlier criminal sentence; (2) ICE was required to withdraw its detainer when it became aware of the Commonwealth's petition to commit him as a sexuallydangerous person; and (3) the Commonwealth was required to drop its petition for civil commitment upon learning that ICE had filed a valid detainer for his removal with the Massachusetts Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Mederos also seeks a court order directing ICE to take custody of him immediately, or, in the alternative, voiding the final order of removal issued by the Immigration Judge. Because plaintiff's request is properly construed as a fourth petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, it will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) for the reasons set forth below.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

On March 27, 2000, Mederos was sentenced to a three-year term of imprisonment for indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of fourteen, to be served consecutively to a one-year sentence that he was already serving.[1] A year earlier, Mederos had been notified that removal proceedings had been instituted, and that a detainer had been issued to his place of incarceration. In 2001, while Mederos was serving his prison term, an ICE Immigration Judge ordered him to be removed from the United States. In 2002, the Massachusetts DOC sent a letter to the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office advising it, pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 123A, § 12(a), of Mederos's prospective release on December 31, 2002.[2] One month before his release, the DOC informed Mederos that ICE agents would take him into custody upon his release, pending his removal. Instead, on December 19, 2002, before his scheduled release from the DOC, he was taken into court, appointed counsel, and notified of the existence of a petition to commit him civilly as a sexually-dangerous person.

The complaint alleges that Mederos advised the Immigration Judge of the circumstances, and that he received a reply stating that the Commonwealth could not override the judge's order of removal. Mederos provided copies of that letter to his attorney and the DOC, but he contends that nothing was done to notify ICE that he was available to be taken into its custody. At his civil-commitment proceedings, he advised the court of the final order of removal, but was told that his removal proceedings had no bearing on his commitment status. Mederos was found to be sexually dangerous and, on January 14, 2003, was committed to the MTC for an undetermined term of one day to his natural life.

The complaint alleges that ICE ignored the fact that the Commonwealth was seeking to commit Mederos civilly, and that the final order of removal stated that he was to be transferred to ICE upon completion of his criminal sentence. Mederos concedes that ICE does not have to act on an order to remove an alien, but contends that it cannot allow a final order of removal to languish and then initiate enforcement whenever it sees fit.[3]

Further, Mederos contends that he is unable to participate in the final phase of treatment, which should take place at the Community Transition House, because he is subject to the ICE detainer. Without that treatment, according to the complaint, he is unable to demonstrate satisfactory adjustment, and so is forced to serve a life sentence at the MTC. The complaint alleges that he is in a perpetual state of limbo because he is civilly committed until he completes sexual-offender treatment, but he cannot complete that treatment due to the ICE detainer. At the same time, he cannot be taken into ICE custody and removed from the United States, because he is civilly committed until he completes that treatment.

Moreover, the complaint alleges that the final phase of treatment may be unnecessary. Mederos contends that, because he has been involved in sexual-offender therapy on a consistent basis for thirteen years, he may be able to convince a jury that he is no longer sexually dangerous, and that he should to be transferred into ICE's custody to be removed.

B. Prior Related Litigation

Mederos has previously raised similar challenges to his civil commitment at the MTC in both state and federal court, as discussed below.

1. Commonwealth v. Mederos

Mederos appealed the judgment and order of civil commitment on the grounds that the Superior Court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition because, at the time, he was subject to removal. Mederos, 2008 WL 1958004, at *1 (Mass.App.Ct. May 7, 2008). He also asserted that his civil commitment deprived him of his due process rights because his removal status made it unlikely that he would be released into the community or re-offend in the Commonwealth. Id. The Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected those arguments, holding that Mederos remained subject to the laws of the Commonwealth. Id. The court also rejected the jurisdictional argument based on the removal order because Mederos had remained in state custody continuously without interruption since his original conviction. Id. at *2. Finally, the court ...

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