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Alexander v. Spaulding

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 4, 2019

JERMAIN MARVIN ALEXANDER, Petitioner,
v.
STEPHEN SPAULDING, Warden, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Indira Talwani, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Petitioner Jermain Marvin Alexander, a prisoner incarcerated at Federal Medical Center (“FMC”) Devens in Ayer, Massachusetts, filed this Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [#1].[1] Petitioner, who was sentenced in the Western District of Michigan, asserts that the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit no longer recognizes as crimes of violence the predicate offenses for his career offender sentencing enhancement, and requests that this court transfer his petition to the Sixth Circuit. Presently at issue is Respondent's Motion to Dismiss [#8]. For the reasons set forth below, Respondent's motion is ALLOWED and the Petition is dismissed.

         II. Background

         In December 2006, a grand jury in the Western District of Michigan returned a one-count Indictment charging Petitioner with possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). United States v. Alexander, No. 1:06-cr-00312, Indictment, Docket 7 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 14, 2006).[2] Petitioner pled guilty before a magistrate judge in January 2007, and the district court accepted his guilty plea approximately one month later. Id. at Dockets 19, 22. In June 2007, Petitioner was sentenced as a career offender, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2, to 30 years' imprisonment, to be followed by five years of supervised release, and a $100 mandatory assessment. Id at Docket 29; United States v. Alexander, 543 F.3d 819, 821 (6th Cir. 2008).

         On direct appeal, Petitioner argued inter alia that the district court erred by finding that he was a career offender because one of the predicate offenses used to classify him as a career offender, assaulting a police officer causing bodily injury requiring medical attention, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 750.81d(2), is not properly classified as a crime of violence. Id. at 823. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit concluded that because “causing a bodily injury” is an element of the crime defined by section 750.81d(2), and the record shows that Petitioner was previously convicted of that offense, his previous conviction was properly classified as a crime of violence pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a). Id. at 823-24. After concluding that Petitioner's sentence was both procedurally and substantively reasonable, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment. Id. at 826.

         In 2009, Petitioner filed his first motion to vacate, set aside, or a correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Alexander v. United States, No. 1:09-cv-889, 2010 WL 2573372, at *1 (W.D. Mich. June 23, 2010). Petitioner argued that his sentence should be set aside because, among other reasons, his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object at sentencing to the court's determination that Petitioner was a career offender pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. Id., at *2. The district court found that Petitioner's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to Petitioner's designation as a career offender considering the Sixth Circuit's finding that Petitioner was correctly classified as such. Id., at *5. The district court further noted that “a § 2255 motion may not be used to relitigate an issue that was raised on appeal absent highly exceptional circumstances, such as an intervening change in the law, ” and that “[a]s a general rule, sentencing matters decided on direct appeal may not be relitigated under § 2255.” Id. (citing DuPont v. United States, 76 F.3d 108, 110-11 (6th Cir. 1996)). The court denied Petitioner's § 2255 motion and denied Petitioner a certificate of appealability. Id., at *6.

         In 2010, Petitioner filed a notice of appeal of the district court's denial of his first habeas petition and moved the district court for a certificate of appealability, which the district court again denied. Alexander v. United States, No. 1:09-cv-889, Dockets 12, 13, 15. In 2011, Petitioner filed on the (civil) habeas docket a motion challenging the district court's jurisdiction over his criminal conviction. Id. at Docket 16. The district court construed this filing as a motion for permission to file a second and subsequent application for § 2255 habeas relief under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2244, and, in March 2011, transferred the motion to the Sixth Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631.[3] Id. at Docket 17. Petitioner also filed the same motion challenging the district court's jurisdiction in his underlying criminal case, which the district court similarly transferred to the Sixth Circuit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631. United States v. Alexander, No. 1:06-cr-00312, Dockets 42, 52.

         The Sixth Circuit construed Petitioner's notice of appeal of the district court's denial of his first § 2255 motion as an application for a certificate of appealability pursuant to Fed. R. App. P. 22(b)(2), which it then denied. Order, Alexander v. United States, No. 10-1888 (6th Cir. March 29, 2012). The court found that Petitioner had not made a substantial showing of the denial of a federal constitutional right pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2). Id. The Sixth Circuit highlighted its ruling on direct appeal that Petitioner's career offender status was properly decided, and that the issue may not be relitigated through a § 2255 motion. Id. The Sixth Circuit also reviewed the referred motion for permission to file a second or successive habeas petition or motion to vacate under § 2255, sent Petitioner a letter notifying him that his application was procedurally deficient pursuant to Sixth Circuit Local Rule 22, and gave him a brief extension to cure the defaults. In re Jermain Alexander, No. 12-1136 (6th Cir. 2012), Docket 3-1. Petitioner failed to correct the deficiency and the court dismissed Petitioner's motion for want of prosecution. Id. at Docket 4-2.

         In February 2017, while incarcerated at FMC Devens in Ayers, Massachusetts, Petitioner filed in the Sixth Circuit a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b), 2255(h), asking the court to issue an order authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive application. Alexander v. United States, No. 17-1177 (6th Cir. Feb. 16, 2017). In his motion, Petitioner asserted that his designation as a career offender was unlawful in light of the Supreme Court's ruling in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2251 (2015). He argued in his memorandum in support of his motion that two of his prior convictions no longer qualify as predicates for a career offender sentencing enhancement after the Supreme Court's ruling in Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). Petitioner further argued that the Sixth Circuit held in Hill v. Masters, 836 F.3d 591 (6th Cir. 2016), that Mathis was a new rule of statutory interpretation. Alexander v. United States, No. 17-1177, Docket 12.

         The Sixth Circuit denied Petitioner's 2017 motion, holding that Johnson has no effect on Petitioner's sentence in light of Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), which concluded that U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2)'s residual clause is not subject to void-for-vagueness challenges, and that Mathis did not establish a new rule of constitutional law that the Supreme Court has made retroactive to cases on collateral review. Id. at Order, Docket 13 (citing Washington v. United States, 868 F.3d 64 (2nd Cir. 2017); Holt v. United States, 843 F.3d 720, 722 (7th Cir. 2016); Dawkins v. United States, 829 F.3d 549, 551 (7th Cir. 2016)).

         This Petition [#1] and Respondent's Motion to Dismiss [#8] followed.

         III. Analysis

         A collateral challenge to the length of a petitioner's sentence generally must be brought before the sentencing court under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Trenkler v. United States, 536 F.3d 85, 97- 98 (1st Cir. 2008). Section 2255 “provides for post-conviction relief in four instances, namely, if the petitioner's sentence (1) was imposed in violation of the Constitution, or (2) was imposed by a court that lacked jurisdiction, or (3) exceeded the statutory maximum, or (4) was otherwise subject to collateral attack.” David v. United States, 134 F.3d 470, 474 (1st Cir. 1998). Here, Petitioner's request for habeas relief challenging the validity of his career offender enhancement under the Sentencing Guidelines falls squarely under ยง 2255. As Petitioner was convicted in the Western District of Michigan, this court ...


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