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Robinson v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 17, 2014

JOSEPH EUGENE ROBINSON, No. 08938-030, Petitioner,


DAVID R. HERNDON, Chief District Judge.

Petitioner Joseph Robinson, currently incarcerated in the USP-Marion, Illinois, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge his conviction and sentence. This case is now before the Court for a preliminary review of the petition pursuant to Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States District Courts.

Rule 4 provides that upon preliminary consideration by the district court judge, "[i]f it plainly appears from the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the petitioner." Rule 1(b) of those Rules gives this Court the authority to apply the rules to other habeas corpus cases, such as this action under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. After carefully reviewing the petition, the Court concludes that this action is subject to dismissal.

I. Background

Petitioner was charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to distribute at least 5 grams but not more than 50 grams of crack cocaine (Count 1), and one count of distribution of crack cocaine (Count 2). United States v. Robinson, Case No. 08-cr-121 (S.D. Iowa). He was tried by a jury, which convicted him on Count 1, but returned a not guilty verdict on Count 2. United States v. Robinson, 639 F.3d 489 (8th Cir. 2011). The jury specifically found that petitioner had conspired to distribute more than five grams of crack. Id. at 492. The sentencing court found that the conspiracy involved at least 50 grams. Further, the court concluded that petitioner qualified for sentencing as a career offender because of two prior convictions. Id.; U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. On July 19, 2010, he was sentenced to 360 months (Doc. 1, p. 1).

On direct appeal, the Eighth Circuit agreed with petitioner's contention that his 2007 Iowa conviction for violating the state's drug tax stamp law was not a "controlled substance offense" within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1; therefore, he should not have been sentenced as a "career offender" under that guideline. United States v. Robinson, 639 F.3d at 495-498. Petitioner's sentence was vacated. Upon remand, he was resentenced on September 16, 2011, to 180 months for the drug conspiracy count.

Petitioner filed an unsuccessful appeal from the amended judgment. United States v. Robinson, 478 F.Appx. 341 (8th Cir. 2012). He then moved to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, raising several claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Robinson v. United States, Case No. 13-cv-00066 (S.D. Iowa). That motion was denied on November 15, 2013 (Doc. 7 in Case No. 13-cv-00066). The Eighth Circuit denied him a certificate of appealability on April 16, 2014.

II. The Petition

In the instant petition, filed on June 20, 2014, petitioner again enumerates several allegations that his trial counsel was ineffective (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7). These include a failure to "establish a sound defense strategy" and failure to seek suppression of certain evidence, failing to properly advise petitioner of plea options or his potential maximum sentence, failing to challenge elements that led to an enhanced sentence, and failing to challenge the credibility of key testimony against him ( Id.; Doc. 1-1, p. 8). Much of his 39-page "formal petition" consists of boilerplate arguments that have been presented in identical form to this Court by several of petitioner's fellow Marion inmates. Indeed, even his statement of the four grounds for relief is an exact copy of the grounds relied upon by these other inmates (Doc. 1-1, p. 8).

First, petitioner argues that his lawyer's overall performance was deficient, citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). Second, counsel failed to negotiate or present a reasonable plea option, gave petitioner unrealistic information on his likely sentence, and advised him to go to trial, which violated his rights as explained in Missouri v. Frye, 132 S.Ct. 1399 (2012), and Lafler v. Cooper, 132 S.Ct. 1376 (2012). Third, he argues (based on Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), and Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013)) that counsel failed to challenge the sentencing guideline range, allowing it to be based on the elements of the crime without due consideration to the supporting evidence. Finally, counsel failed to challenge the trial testimony against petitioner, in violation of Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 2705 (2011).

Petitioner asserts that he may bring these claims under the "savings clause" of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) because the "new" Supreme Court cases he cites establish his "actual innocence" of the 180-month sentence imposed on remand (Doc. 1-1, p. 1). Even though he was no longer subject to the "career offender" sentencing enhancement after his successful appeal, petitioner asserts he still faced a sentencing range of 180-210 months based on the drug quantity found (Doc. 1-1, p. 7). He claims he is "actually innocent" of the "enhanced sentence exceeding [his] applicable mandatory minimum" (Doc. 1-1, p. 1).

III. Discussion

Initially, the Court notes that the proper respondent in a § 2241 petition is the warden of the prison where petitioner is confined, not the United States. See 28 U.S.C. § 2242 (an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall name the person who has custody over the applicant); Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 442, 447 (2004); Kholyavskiy v. Achim, 443 F.3d 946, 948-49 (7th Cir. 2006); Hogan v. Hanks, 97 F.3d 189, 190 (7th Cir. 1996). Warden Walton, who is named as a co-respondent, is the only proper opposing party. Therefore, the United States shall be dismissed as a respondent herein.

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 § 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 Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012); Valona v. United States, 138 F.3d 693, 694 ...

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