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James v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lake Charles Division

June 7, 2018

LOUIS JAMES REG. # 14248-026

         SECTION P



         Before the court is the pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 by Louis James. James is an inmate in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons and is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institute at Oakdale, Louisiana.

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned for review, report, and recommendation in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and the standing orders of this court. For the reasons stated below, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the action be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of jurisdiction.



         Following a jury trial, James was convicted in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois of (1) possession with intent to distribute narcotics, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a); (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, a violation 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (3) unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). United States v. James, No. 04-cr-20025, doc. 41 (C.D. Ill. Feb. 14, 2005). He was sentenced to terms of imprisonment totaling 360 months: 300 months on Count 1, 60 months on Count 2, and 120 months on Count 3, with the terms imposed for Counts 1 and 3 to run concurrently to each other and the term imposed for Count 2 to run consecutively to those sentences. Id. at doc. 54; see unnumbered Docket Entry at February 9, 2005. James filed a Notice of Appeal to the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal, and that court affirmed his conviction and sentence on September 22, 2006.[1] Id. at docs. 55, 69. James filed a pro se “Motion Urging Remand, ” which the Seventh Circuit construed as a petition for rehearing and denied. United States v. James, 555 F.3d 563 (7th Cir. 2009). The United States Supreme Court denied his petition for writ of certiorari on April 20, 2009. James v. United States, 129 S.Ct. 2035 (2009).

         In this time James also began seeking relief in Central District of Illinois under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He filed a motion to vacate on December 26, 2007, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. James v. United States, No. 2:07-cv-2247, docs. 1, 3 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2008). The court found no merit to this claim and denied the motion. Id. at docs. 13, 14. James filed a “Motion to Vacate Unconstitutional Conviction” on or about November 12, 2009, but withdrew the motion shortly thereafter, once the court announced that it would be construed under § 2255. James v. United States, No. 2:09-cv-2272 (C.D. Ill.Dec. 10, 2009). Finally, James filed a third motion to vacate on or about November 21, 2011. James v. United States, No. 2:11-cv-2279 (C.D. Ill. Nov. 21, 2011). That motion was denied for lack of jurisdiction by judgment entered the following day, based on James's failure to obtain authorization from the Seventh Circuit for the filing of a successive § 2255 motion. Id. at docs. 3, 4. James sought post-judgment relief in 2013, and the court likewise denied the post-judgment motion for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at docs. 5, 9.

         James now brings the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. He claims that he is actually innocent of the drug possession conviction, based on the Supreme Court's decision in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), as made retroactively applicable in Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). Doc. 1, att. 1.


         Law & Analysis

         Habeas corpus petitions filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 are generally used to challenge the manner in which a sentence is executed. See Warren v. Miles, 230 F.3d 688, 694 (5th Cir. 2000). A motion to vacate sentence filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 allows federal inmates to collaterally attack the legality of their convictions or sentences. Cox v. Warden, Fed. Det. Ctr., 911 F.2d 1111, 1113 (5th Cir. 1990). Here James collaterally attacks his conviction, arguing that he has been convicted of a nonexistent offense or that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Therefore, his claim should be advanced in a motion to vacate.

         The savings clause of 28 U.S.C § 2255 permits a petitioner to seek habeas relief under § 2241 when the remedy provided under § 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). “A § 2241 petition is not, however, a substitute for a motion under § 2255, and the burden of coming forward with evidence to show the inadequacy or ineffectiveness of a motion under § 2255 rests squarely on the petitioner.” Jeffers v. Chandler, 253 F.3d 827, 830 (5th Cir. 2001). The fact that a prior motion was unsuccessful, or that the petitioner is unable to meet the statute's second or successive requirement, does not make § 2255 inadequate or ineffective. Id. Instead, James must demonstrate the following to satisfy § 2255's savings clause: (1) that his claim is based on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision establishing that he may have been convicted of a nonexistent offense, and (2) that his claim was foreclosed by circuit law at the time when it should have been raised in his trial, appeal, or first § 2255 motion. Reyes-Requena v. United States, 243 F.3d 893, 903-04 (5th Cir. 2001).

         James was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). If an offender convicted under that statute has three or more prior convictions for a serious drug offense or a violent felony, then, under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”), he is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). This same mandatory minimum applied at the time of James's sentencing. In Johnson, supra, the Supreme Court invalidated the residual clause of 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), through which courts determined whether a prior conviction was a violent felony, as unconstitutionally vague. Johnson was not decided until after James's first ยง 2255 motion was denied, and he invokes it here as a basis for relief. James's claims, however, relate to his narcotics conviction rather than his firearm possession conviction, and to the elements ...

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