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Fuller v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 16, 2014



DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

Petitioner William Fuller, III, an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution located in Marion, Illinois ("USP-Marion"), brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge his conviction and sentence ( United States v. Bew, et al., Case No. 04-cr-00253 (N.D. Ill. 2004)). Petitioner filed a form petition that is strikingly similar to several others filed by inmates at USP-Marion to challenge their convictions and sentences under the savings clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e), based on a claim of "actual innocence." For the reasons set forth below, the petition shall be DISMISSED.

This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the habeas petition. Rule 4 of the Federal Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States District Courts provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district 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.

I. Background

Petitioner was charged in 2004 as being part of a drug trafficking conspiracy that operated near Chicago, Illinois, between January 2000 and March 2004. See United States v. Bew, et al., Case No. 04-cr-00253 (N.D. Ill. 2004) ("criminal case").[1] The conspiracy's "self-professed ringleader" pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to testify against petitioner at trial (Doc. 480, criminal case). See also United States v. Fuller, et al., 532 F.3d 656, 660 (7th Cir. 2008). On December 8, 2005, a jury found petitioner guilty of one conspiracy count (Count 1) and three telephone facilitation counts (Counts 3, 6, and 16) (Docs. 257 and 259, criminal case). Petitioner was convicted of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 18 U.S.C. § 2, and of using a telephone to commit the felony, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b) (Docs. 259, 299, and 480, criminal case).

Prior to sentencing, petitioner filed a motion seeking a new trial (Doc. 279, criminal case). He argued that the Government failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because the evidence showed that the "ringleader" was his competitor and not a co-conspirator. On April 4, 2006, the district court denied the motion (Doc. 299, criminal case). Based on the drug amounts involved, [2] petitioner was sentenced to a guideline range of 262 months on Count 1 and a concurrent term of 48 months on Counts 3, 6, and 16.

On September 14, 2006, petitioner filed a direct appeal to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence underlying his conviction, as well as the drug amounts giving rise to his sentence (Doc. 373, criminal case). See also United States v. Fuller, et al., 532 F.3d at 660, 662 (7th Cir. 2008). Petitioner, once again, argued that the evidence at trial showed nothing more than a buyer-seller relationship and not a conspiracy. Id. at 662. Petitioner also "baldly assert[ed]" that the district court's determination[3] that he was responsible for more than 500 grams of cocaine resulted from the court's "nebulous eyeballing" and "unreliable guesswork." Id. The Seventh Circuit affirmed petitioner's conviction and sentence on July 11, 2008, after concluding that both arguments lacked merit (Doc. 480, criminal case). Id. The instant petition followed.[4]

II. Habeas Petition

Nearly six years after his conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal, petitioner is before this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, arguing that he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Along with the petition, he filed a 38-page memorandum raising four arguments. First, petitioner claims that he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel, in violation of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984) (Doc. 1-1, pp. 7-16). Second, petitioner claims that counsel recommended going to trial and failed to negotiate or present him with a reasonable plea option, in violation of Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012), and Lafler v. Cooper, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1376 (2012) (Doc. 1-1, pp. 7, 17-21). Third, petitioner claims that his sentence was not based on the elements of the crime or supported by evidence, in violation of Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), and Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013) (Doc. 1-1, pp. 7, 23-29). Finally, petitioner claims that defense counsel failed to challenge the evidence and witnesses at trial, in violation of Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 564 U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 2705 (2011) (Doc. 1-1, pp. 7, 30-35).

Petitioner does not explain why he failed to raise the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal or in a § 2255 motion. Instead, he brings this challenge under the "savings clause" of § 2255(e), which authorizes § 2241 motions where § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective" to test the legality of petitioner's detention. He specifically claims that he is "actually innocent" under the above-listed Supreme Court cases (Doc. 1, p. 2).

III. Discussion

As a general matter, "28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2255 provide federal prisoners with distinct forms of collateral relief. Section 2255 applies to challenges to the validity of convictions and sentences, whereas [Section] 2241 applies to challenges to the fact or duration of confinement." Hill v. Werlinger, 695 F.3d 644, 645 (7th Cir. 2012) (citing Walker v. O'Brien, 216 F.3d 626, 629 (7th Cir. 2000)). See also Valona v. United States, 138 F.3d 693, 694 (7th Cir. 1998).

A federally convicted person may challenge his conviction and sentence by bringing a motion pursuant to § 2255 in the court that sentenced him. Indeed, a § 2255 motion is ordinarily the "exclusive means for a federal prisoner to attack his conviction." Kramer v. Olson, 347 F.3d 214, 217 (7th Cir. 2003). However, the statute generally limits a prisoner to one challenge of his conviction and sentence under § 2255. A prisoner may not file a "second or successive" motion unless a panel of the appropriate court of appeals certifies that such motion contains either: (1) newly discovered evidence "sufficient to establish by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable factfinder would have found the movant guilty of the offense;" or (2) "a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h). Petitioner never filed a § 2255 motion prior to filing the operative petition, although he sought authorization to bring a second or successive § 2255 motion subsequent to filing this habeas action. See Fuller, III v. United States, Case No. 14-2360 (7th Cir. dismissed June 27, 2014).

Under very limited circumstances, a prisoner may challenge the legality of a conviction or sentence in cases pursuant to the "savings clause" of § 2255(e), where a remedy under § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention." See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e); see also United States v. Prevatte, 300 F.3d 792, 798-99 (7th Cir. 2002). "Inadequate or ineffective' means that a legal theory that could not have been presented under [Section] 2255 establishes the petitioner's actual innocence.'"[5] Hill, ...

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