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Graves v. Walton

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

October 20, 2014

CURTIS GRAVES, # XXXXX-XXX, Petitioner,
v.
JEFFREY S. WALTON, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

DAVID R. HERNDON, District Judge.

Petitioner Curtis Graves, an inmate in the Federal Correctional Institution located in Marion, Illinois, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge his enhanced sentence as a career offender. Graves claims that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 186 L.Ed.2d 438 (June 20, 2013), like several Supreme Court decisions before it, calls into question his status as a career offender and, consequently, his sentence. Graves has also filed a motion to supplement the Section 2241 petition (Doc. 3), in order to offer additional authority in support of this claim.

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, such as this action brought pursuant to Section 2241. For the reasons set forth below, the petition shall be DISMISSED.

I. Background

Following a jury trial in 2004, Graves was convicted of two counts of distributing 50 or more grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). See United States v. Graves, No. 02-cv-00127 (S.D. Ind. 2002) ("criminal case") (Doc. 1). At sentencing, his base offense level was determined to be a 34 because of the drug quantities involved. However, the sentencing court increased the offense level to 37, after determining that Graves qualified as a career offender under United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.") § 4B1.1. Graves' offense level, when combined with his criminal history category (VI), led to a sentencing range of 360 months to life. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of 360 months on each count (Doc. 1-2, criminal case).

Graves' conviction was affirmed on appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. See United States v. Graves, 418 F.3d 739 (7th Cir. 2005). His sentence was also affirmed, after a limited remand pursuant to United States v. Paladino, 401 F.3d 471 (7th Cir. 2005), for review of the sentence in light of United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). See United States v. Graves, 184 Fed.Appx. 579 (7th Cir. 2006) (unpublished decision). The Seventh Circuit affirmed the sentence on June 19, 2006. Id.

On appeal, Graves argued "that the career offender enhancement should not have been used to determine his sentence because he did not have the requisite number of prior felony convictions." See Graves, 418 F.3d at 744. He maintained that two of his prior felony convictions for aggravated battery were so closely related to one another that they were effectively a single conviction. The Seventh Circuit considered the issue at length before concluding that "the district court [did not] err in finding that Graves' two prior felonies were not related'; thus, sentencing him as a career offender was proper." Id. at 745.

Graves collaterally attacked his sentence by filing a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Graves v. United States, No. 07-cv-01217 (S.D. Ind., filed Sept. 24, 2007) (Doc. 1). Among other things, Graves challenged his status as a career offender, but couched this challenge in terms of the ineffective assistance of his counsel. After finding that Graves was attempting to breathe new life into a stale argument, the district court held that the "correctness of his sentence as a career offender was considered and affirmed in his direct appeal" (Doc. 23, p. 5). The district court denied the Section 2255 motion with prejudice on February 8, 2011, and also declined to issue a certificate of appealability (Doc. 23, p. 7). The Seventh Circuit denied Graves' request for a certificate of appealability on August 3, 2011. Graves v. United States, No. 11-1768 (7th Cir. 2011) (Doc. 9).

Graves filed a second collateral attack on June 12, 2014. See Graves v. United States, No. 14-cv-00977 (S.D. Ind., filed June 12, 2014). Graves did not receive the Seventh Circuit's prior authorization to file the successive motion. After noting this fact, the district court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction on June 30, 2014, and declined to issue a certificate of appealability (Doc. 2). The instant petition followed.

II. Habeas Petition

In his Section 2241 petition (Doc. 1) and his motion to supplement (Doc. 3), Graves again attacks his sentence. He challenges the predicate offenses giving rise to his status as a career offender. Graves argues that his two convictions for aggravated battery were so closely related to one another that they should have been treated as a single felony when assessing Graves' status as a career offender; alternatively, one of the convictions for aggravated battery should have been deemed an attempted aggravated battery, and not a qualifying conviction, after applying the analytical framework set forth in Descamps. Under either of these theories, Graves argues that he is not a career offender and should not have been sentenced as such (Doc. 1, pp. 12-13).

Graves now invokes the "savings clause" under Section 2255, by arguing that Section 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective" to test the validity of his sentence because new case law demonstrates that he is "actually innocent" of being a career offender. Graves points to several United States Supreme Court and Seventh Circuit opinions in support of his argument. See Descamps v. United States, 570 U.S. ___, 133 S.Ct. 2276, 186 L.Ed.2d 438 (2013) (June 20, 2013); Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008); Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 588 (7 Cir. 2013); Narvaez v. United States, 674 F.3d 621, 629-30 (7th Cir. 2011). However, he relies primarily on Descamps (Doc. 1, pp. 6-8).

Graves specifically argues that Descamps calls into question the analytical framework used to determine whether his prior convictions qualified as predicate offenses. He asserts that Descamps is retroactively applicable to his case. Finally, he argues that his enhanced sentence amounts to a miscarriage of justice (Doc. 1, p. 7). He ...


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