United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Sorokin United States District Judge
the Court is petitioner Jeffrey Schmutzler's pro se
petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §
2241. Doc. No. 1. In his petition, Schmutzler essentially
asks this Court to award him a sentencing reduction which the
federal court that sentenced him denied in a reasoned
decision issued after consideration of the same arguments
Schmutzler presses here. For the reasons stated below, the
Court DISMISSES the petition for lack of
29, 2013, Schmutzler pleaded guilty in the United States
District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to one
count of knowingly receiving child pornography in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2). United States v.
Schmutzler, 602 F. App'x 871, 872 (3d Cir. 2015);
United States v. Schmutzler, No. 1:13-CR-65, 2015 WL
1912608, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 27, 2015).
William W. Caldwell sentenced Schmutzler on July 24, 2014. In
calculating the range applicable under the United States
Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG”), Judge Caldwell
overruled Schmultzler's objection to a five-level
enhancement to the offense level, which at the time applied
in cases where “a defendant had engaged in distribution
of child pornography for the receipt, or expectation of
receipt, of a thing of value, ” including “in
return for [other] child pornography.” United
States v. Schmutzler, No. 1:13-CR-65, 2017 WL 1406818,
at *1 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 20, 2017) (quotation marks omitted).
Judge Caldwell's finding was based on Schmutzler's
admission, reflected in an addendum to the PSR and not
disputed by Schmutzler's counsel at sentencing, that
“he ha[d] used file sharing programs . . . and did
acquire videos of younger boys having sex and did share
those files with others, ” and that his computer
“was set to receive and send files he had on
[it].” Id. (emphasis added).
USSG range, with this enhancement, was 210 to 240 months.
Id. Judge Caldwell, however, granted a substantial
downward departure and sentenced Schmutzler to 108
months' incarceration. Schmutzler's conviction and
sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. 602 F. App'x at
872. Schmutzler has lodged collateral attacks against his
conviction and sentence in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, and in this
District under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Each was unsuccessful.
E.g., In re Schmutzler, 688 F. App'x
143, 143 (3d Cir. 2017) (denying writ of mandamus and noting
previous denials of two applications to file “second or
successive” § 2255 petitions); Schmutzler v.
Grondolsky, No. 1:17-CV-10911, 2017 WL 2273147, at *1
(D. Mass. May 24, 2017) (denying third § 2241 petition);
Schmutzler, 2015 WL 1912608, at *1 (denying first
§ 2255 petition).
March 20, 2017, Schmutzler filed a motion before Judge
Caldwell seeking a reduction of his sentence pursuant to 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), asserting that Amendment 801 to the
USSG applied retroactively and rendered sentencing
enhancements for distribution of child pornography
inapplicable to him. Schmutzler, 2017 WL 1406818, at
Caldwell denied Schmutzler's motion on April 20, 2017,
noting the Sentencing Commission had not provided that
Amendment 801 should be given retroactive effect; as a
result, Judge Caldwell concluded he could not reduce
Schmutzler's sentence. Id.; see also
Mem., United States v. Schmutzler, No. 1:13-CR-65,
ECF No. 124 (M.D. Pa. May 10, 2017) (denying
reconsideration). Schmutzler's appeal of Judge
Caldwell's ruling on his motion for a sentence reduction
is currently pending before the United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit.
instant habeas petition, Schmutzler attempts to invoke the
“Savings Clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) as a
vehicle for presenting to this Court the same arguments
regarding Amendment 801 that failed before Judge Caldwell.
Schmutzler couches his argument here in terms of
“actual innocence” of the enhancement conduct,
attempting to bring his petition within the scope of the
Savings Clause and to trigger this Court's jurisdiction
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. His efforts, though clever,
speaking, a federal prisoner wishing to assert a collateral
challenge to the validity of his sentence must do so by
filing a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the
federal court that imposed his sentence. § 2255(a).
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, in certain circumstances, this
Court may entertain habeas petitions filed by individuals who
were sentenced in other federal courts, but who are serving
federal sentences in facilities located within Massachusetts.
United States v. Barrett, 178 F.3d 34, 49-50 &
n.10 (1st Cir. 1999). This is so where a petitioner
challenges the execution of his sentence, or where he
demonstrates “that the remedy [available] by [§
2255] motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the
legality of his detention.” § 2255(e). The latter
circumstance, known as the Savings Clause, applies
“only on rare occasions.” Barrett, 178
F.3d at 52 & n.13. Indeed, the First Circuit has
described the Savings Clause as properly invoked “only
when, in a particular case, the configuration of section 2255
is such ‘as to deny a convicted defendant any
opportunity for judicial rectification.'”
Trenkler v. United States, 536 F.3d 85, 99 (1st Cir.
2008) (quoting In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605, 611
(7th Cir. 1998) (emphasis in original)). This is not such a
and determinatively, the only claim Schmutzler asserts in the
present petition is that he is entitled to resentencing based
upon a post-sentencing amendment to the USSG. This Court
finds persuasive the reasoning of federal courts in a number
of other jurisdictions which have concluded that such claims
may not be pursued via applications for habeas relief. Those
courts have explained that “challenges to an
earlier-imposed sentence based on a subsequent change to the
Sentencing Guidelines . . . must be brought in the sentencing
court under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), ” which provides
a “special remedy for [the] narrow class of collateral
challenges” arising from “amendments to the
Sentencing Guidelines.” Smith v. Fondren, No.
09-CV-764, 2009 WL 2171109, at *1, *3 (D. Minn. July 20,
2009); accord Thomas v. Hulick, No. 08-CV-129, 2008
WL 4371300, at *3 (S.D. Ill. Sept. 19, 2008). Because a
petitioner like Schmutzler is “challeng[ing] the legal
validity of the sentence imposed, ” and not “the
enforcement or execution of his sentence, ” and because
§ 3582(c) is available to him as a means of pursuing the
type of sentence reduction he seeks, Schmutzler's
“challenge cannot be raised by way of a petition under
Section 2241.” Smith, 2009 WL 2171109, at *4;
accord Cloman v. O'Brien, No. 7:08-CV-329, 2008
WL 2345001, at *1 (W.D. Va. June 6, 2008); Anderson v.
United States, No. 1:07-CV-942, 2008 WL 1836673, at *2
(E.D. Tex. Apr. 23, 2008).
not only is § 3582(c) available to Schmutzler as an
avenue for presenting his Amendment 801 claim, he already has
pursued the claim before his sentencing court in the
appropriate manner, by way of a § 3582(c) motion.
Although Judge Caldwell denied the motion after reviewing the
merits of Schmutzler's claim, an appeal of that ruling
remains pending in the Third Circuit. The Savings Clause does
not provide a vehicle for this Court to consider the claim
(and essentially reconsider Judge Caldwell's ruling)
where Schmutzler has been provided an “opportunity for
judicial rectification, ” Trenkler, 536 F.3d
at 99, even if that opportunity has not yielded the result
Schmutzler desires, see Ono v. Pontesso, 162 F.3d
1169, 1998 WL 757068, at *1 (9th Cir. 1998) (“Although
[petitioner] was unsuccessful in obtaining relief on the
merits under section 3582, he cannot now pursue the same
relief under section 2241.” (citation omitted)).
Accordingly, the federal habeas statutes do not empower this
Court to grant the relief Schmutzler seeks.
it bears noting that even if Schmutzler were able to pursue a
sentence reduction here, and even if this Court were to
accept his view that Amendment 801 applies retroactively and
eliminates the relevant sentencing enhancements, nothing in
the record suggests that Schmutzler is serving an unfair or
excessive sentence in light of the conduct to which he has
admitted. The generous downward departure Judge Caldwell
awarded effectively eliminated the challenged enhancements.
Indeed, Schmutzler's 108-month sentence falls squarely
within the range that would have applied under the USSG, had
his offense level been reduced as he proposes. Doc. No. 1 at
9; see Schmutzler, 2017 WL 1406818, at *2 n.1
(noting that if entirely successful in his challenges,
Schmutzler's offense level would have been 30, rather
than 37, “with a resulting guideline range of 97 to 121
months”). Schmutzler has presented no information or
argument that causes this Court to doubt the appropriateness
of the sentence carefully ...