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Dantzler v. Hollingsworth

August 25, 2010

WILLIE DANTZLER, PETITIONER,
v.
LISA HOLLINGSWORTH, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This cause is before the Court on Petitioner's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2). Based on the financial information provided with his motion, Petitioner's motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is GRANTED.

Also before the Court is Petitioner's application for a writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1). Petitioner, an inmate in the United States Penitentiary located in Marion, Illinois (USP-Marion), brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge his 2002 conviction in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois before the Honorable G. Patrick Murphy, United States District Judge. Petitioner bring his challenge based on the Seventh Circuit's decision in Buchmeier v. United States, 581 F.3d 561 (7th Cir. 2009).

Rule 4 of the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases in United States District Courts provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, "[i]f it plainly appears from the face of the petition and any exhibits annexed to it that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge shall make an order for its summary dismissal and cause the petitioner to be notified." Rule 1(b) of those Rules gives this Court the authority to apply the rules to other habeas corpus cases. After carefully reviewing the petition in the present case, the Court concludes that Petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the petition must be dismissed.

BACKGROUND

In early 2002, Petitioner was indicted for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). United State v. Dantzler, Case No. 02-cr-30023 (S.D. Ill.). Petitioner's 1984 Illinois conviction for armed robbery conviction was the predicate felony alleged in the § 922(g) count. Id. (Criminal Complaint filed February 20, 2002). Desiring to keep the facts and circumstances surrounding his 1984 Illinois conviction from the jury, Petitioner stipulated, in writing, "that prior to February 18, 2002, Defendant Willie G. Dantzler had been convicted of a crime punishable in excess of one year, that is, a felony." Id. (Stipulation of Facts, filed June 12, 2002). At trial, the jury was instructed as follows:

In this case, the parties have stipulated that on or about November 15, 1984, in the Circuit Court, in and for St. Clair Count, Illinois, defendant Willie G. Dantzler was convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment exceeding one (1) year.

Trial Transcript, June 12 and 13, 2002, pg I-135: 10-14, filed Aug. 29, 2003. The jury found Petitioner guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm as charged in the indictment.

After the trial, Petitioner moved to have his conviction vacated on the basis that the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) had sent him a letter restoring his civil rights with respect to the 1984 conviction. In relevant part, the letter reads:

We have been advised by the Field Services Office of the Illinois River Correctional Center that you have complete the maximum of your sentence as of 03/23/2001. On this date, your obligations to the Department ceases.

We are pleased to inform you of the restoration of your right to vote and to hold offices created under the Constitution of the State of Illinois. You also have the right to restoration of the licenses granted to you under the authority of the State of Illinois if such license was revoked solely as a result of your conviction, unless the licensing authority determines that such restoration would not be in the public interest. (Defendant's First Amended Motion to Vacate Conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), Attachment, filed March 10, 2003). The letter did not inform Petitioner that the restriction against him possessing firearms still continued.

In his motion to vacate, Petitioner argued that the letter restored his civil rights and that he received the letter in March 2001 - well before the offense for which he was convicted was committed. Furthermore, because the letter failed to state that the firearms restrictions continued, Petitioner argued that he had been trapped into reasonably thinking that he was no longer disqualified from possessing a gun by virtue of the 1984 Illinois conviction. Accordingly, Petitioner claimed that the 1984 Illinois armed robbery conviction could not be used as a predicate felony for the felon in possession conviction. On April 15, 2003, Judge Murphy held a hearing on Petitioner's motion to vacate.*fn1 One of the issues addressed at the hearing was the date on which Petitioner received the IDOC's letter. The date on which Petitioner received the IDOC's letter appears to have been in question because Petitioner allegedly lost the original letter he claimed to have received. As such, Petitioner was able to supply only a copy of the letter he obtained from the IDOC. The copy, however, was dated May 6, 2002, which is date after the date on which the offense was committed. At the hearing, Petitioner introduced evidence suggesting that when a former state convict, like Petitioner, requests a copy (or replacement) letter - having lost or misplaced the original - the copy/replacement letter is dated as of the date the copy/ replacement letter is generated (in this case May 6, 2002) - not the date on the original letter. At the hearing, Judge Murphy noted that Petitioner's claim that he had received the letter prior to the date of the offense was "reasonable." Transcript of Hearing on Motion to Vacate, April 15, 2003, pg. 18: 15-19, filed July 5, 2005.

Judge Murphy, however, found that even if Petitioner had received the letter prior to the date offense was committed, the letter did not "trap" Petitioner into reasonably believing that he was no longer disqualified from possessing a gun by virtue of the 1984 Illinois conviction. Transcript of Hearing on Motion to Vacate, April 15, 2003, pg. 19: 24-25; pg. 20: 1-6, filed July 5, 2005. Therefore, Judge Murphy denied Petitioner's motion to vacate his conviction. Transcript of Hearing on Motion to Vacate, April 15, 2003, pg. 19: 7, filed July 5, 2005.

On May 13, 2003, Judge Murphy sentenced Petitioner as an armed career criminal, 18 U.S.C. ยง 924(e), to 210 months' imprisonment. Petitioner's 1984 Illinois conviction was used as one of the three ...


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