Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Pryer v. Grondolsky

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 11, 2017

JOSEPH PRYER, Petitioner,


          Leo T. Sorokin, United States District Judge.

         Joseph Pryer, who presently is incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts, has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Doc. Nos. 1, 20. In his petition, Pryer essentially asks this Court to reduce the sentence imposed by another federal court, citing changes in the law that he believes render him ineligible for the career offender enhancement applied by his sentencing court. The respondent seeks dismissal of the petition, arguing this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain it and that the petition fails to state a legally meritorious claim.[1] For the following reasons, the petition is DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         On July 7, 2005, Pryer pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware to knowingly possessing with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base, [2] and to being a felon in possession of a firearm. Doc. No. 20 at 3; Pryer v. United States, 679 F.Supp.2d 529, 531 (D. Del. 2010). Judge Sue L. Robinson sentenced Pryer on January 19, 2006 to a total term of 216 months' incarceration, followed by five years of supervised release. Doc. No. 20 at 3; Pryer, 679 F.Supp.2d at 531.

         In calculating the range applicable under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG”), relying on a presentence report and without objection by Pryer, Judge Robinson found he was a career offender, which enhanced both the relevant offense level and the applicable criminal history category. See Sentencing Tr. at 3. According to Pryer, that finding was based on two prior convictions in Delaware state court - one for second-degree assault, and one for second-degree robbery - which were treated as “crimes of violence” for purposes of the USSG. Doc. No. 20 at 4. The sentencing range for Pryer, given the career offender status, was 262 to 327 months. Id. at 32; Sentencing Tr. at 5.

         The government argued that “a very severe sentence” in the range provided by the USSG was appropriate, in part, based on Pryer's serious criminal record. See Sentencing Tr. at 10 (characterizing Pryer as a twenty-eight-year-old with fifteen prior convictions, including several for drug offenses and violent crimes, who also had a history of violating probation). Pryer's counsel advocated for a fifteen-year sentence. Id. at 11. Judge Robinson emphasized the large amount of drugs at issue, and admonished Pryer for the “double damnation” of having “poisoned the community in which his children were going to grow up.” Id. at 16-17. Nonetheless, she departed downward, imposing a sentence about halfway between the lower end of the USSG range and Pryer's recommendation.

         Pryer did not appeal his plea or sentence. Pryer, 679 F.Supp.2d at 531. In 2007, he filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, asserting challenges to his lawyer's effectiveness and the legality of his sentence. Id. At that time, Pryer raised no challenge to his career offender status under the USSG. Id. Judge Robinson considered and rejected Pryer's claims on their merits in January 2010. Id.

         In June 2016, the Federal Public Defender's Office for the District of Delaware sought permission to file a second § 2255 petition on Pryer's behalf, asserting that the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), invalidating the “residual clause” of the Armed Career Criminal Act, called into question Pryer's status as a career offender under the parallel provision of the USSG. Motion, Pryer v. United States, No. 05-cr-15, ECF No. 52 (D. Del. June 27, 2016). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied the application for leave to file such a petition, citing an intervening decision by the Supreme Court that Johnson had not invalidated the career offender provisions of the USSG, as the advisory guidelines were not susceptible to a constitutional vagueness challenge. Order, In re Pryer, No. 16-2638 (3d Cir. May 23, 2017) (citing Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886, 897 (2017)).

         On June 7, 2017, Pryer signed and mailed a federal habeas petition to this Court. Doc. No. 1 at 37-38. He recently amended his petition to refine portions of his argument. See Doc. Nos. 19, 20, 21. Pryer attempts to invoke the “Savings Clause” of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) as a vehicle for presenting to this Court his post-Johnson challenge to his career offender status. He characterizes his § 2241 petition as raising a statutory claim based on new and binding precedent that applies retroactively to him, and he argues that failure to consider his claim via the Savings Clause will result in a miscarriage of justice. Doc. No. 20 at 9-17. The respondent has opposed the petition, arguing challenges such as Pryer's must be raised before the sentencing court, and noting that Beckles undermines Pryer's attack on his career offender status. Doc. No. 14.[3]

         Although Pryer's arguments are not frivolous, they fail to trigger this Court's jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.

         II. Discussion

         Generally speaking, a federal prisoner wishing to collaterally challenge 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 incarcerated 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, arising under a provision known as the Savings Clause, applies “only on rare occasions.” Barrett, 178 F.3d at 52 & n.13. A “rare and exceptional” case will fall “within the narrow confines of the savings clause” only if refusal to entertain the present petition will result in a “complete miscarriage of justice.” Trenkler v. United States, 536 F.3d 85, 98-99 (1st Cir. 2008). This is not such a case.

         The claim Pryer presents in his § 2241 petition is essentially the same as the one he sought to litigate before his sentencing court in a second § 2255 petition. Compare Doc. No. 20 at 9-31 (arguing three Supreme Court cases[4] remove his robbery conviction from the scope of the USSG's definition of “crime of violence”), with Second or Successive Motion at 3-12, Pryer v. United States, No. 05-cr-15, ECF No. 52-2 (D. Del. June 27, 2016) (citing the same three Supreme Court cases and arguing his prior offenses were not “crimes of violence”). That the Third Circuit denied Pryer permission to advance this claim via a second or successive petition does not, on its own, render § 2255 inadequate or ineffective.[5] See Barrett, 178 F.3d at 50 (explaining that such an application of the Savings Clause would render the gatekeeping provisions of § 2255 “a meaningless gesture” and risk “recreat[ing] the serious structural problems that led Congress to enact § 2255 in the first place”); Burgess v. Grondolsky, No. 11-cv-12293, 2012 WL 139322, at *10 (D. Mass. Jan. 13, 2012) (noting “it is well settled that a petitioner . . . who has exhausted his § 2255 avenues, cannot use the ‘savings clause' to circumvent the restrictions of § 2255[, ]such as the restriction on filing second and successive motions absent permission of the appellate court”); Little v. United States, No. 01-cv-40077, 2002 WL 1424581, at *2 (D. Mass. July 1, 2002) (noting “something more than a procedural bar is required to show that [the] remedy under § 2255 is inadequate, ” and invoking the Savings Clause where “allowing [an] illegal sentence to stand would represent a grave miscarriage of justice” (emphasis added)).

         Pryer does not argue his sentence is illegal, that he is innocent of the charges underlying his guilty plea, or that he did not commit the crimes which served as the basis for his career offender status. Moreover, he has not identified a retroactive change in the law that would, in fact, plainly benefit him, let alone raise the risk of a miscarriage of justice.[6] Pryer's only challenge is to whether his second-degree robbery conviction was a “crime of violence” justifying application of the career offender provisions of the USSG. But, regardless which version of the USSG applies - the 2006 edition used at his sentencing, or the 2016 edition with the “residual clause” eliminated - Pryer has not established that his robbery conviction fails to satisfy the definition of “crime of violence.” In 2006, an Application Note to the definition specified that robbery was a “[c]rime of violence.” Application Note 1 to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a) (2006). In 2016, the list that previously was in Application Note 1 - including robbery - appears in the text of the provision defining “crime of violence.” U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (2016). Thus, Pryer's assertion that the Delaware crime of second-degree robbery is not encompassed within the USSG's definition of “crime of violence” fails under either version of § 4B1.2(a), as both identify robbery among the enumerated crimes which satisfy the provision.[7]See United States v. Childers, No. 16-cr-79, 2017 WL 2559858, at *6-8, *11-12 (D. Me. June 13, 2017) (finding a substantially similar state robbery statute satisfied the “enumerated offenses” provision of § 4B1.2(a), under any version of the USSG, and listing decisions in which other courts had reached the same ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.