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Baker v. Werlich

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

September 5, 2017

HOWARD BAKER, #14954-026, Petitioner,
v.
T. G. WERLICH, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Howard Baker is currently incarcerated in the Federal Correctional Institution located in Greenville, Illinois (“FCI-Greenville”). He filed this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in order to challenge the constitutionality of his confinement. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Relying on the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), Baker asserts that his sentence was wrongfully enhanced based on his prior Illinois drug conviction(s). Id.

         This matter is now before the Court for preliminary review of the § 2241 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. The § 2241 Petition survives preliminary review under Rule 4 and Rule 1(b).

         I. Background

         In 2009, Baker was charged with possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B). United States v. Baker, No. 09-CR-20055-MPM-DGB-1 (C.D. Ill. 2009) (“criminal case”). He was found guilty following a jury trial on November 3, 2009. (Doc. 45, criminal case). The United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois sentenced him as a career offender to an enhanced term of 360 months' imprisonment, based on his prior state drug conviction(s). (Doc. 49, criminal case). He appealed, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court on August 23, 2011. United States v. Baker, 655 F.3d 677 (7th Cir. 2011) (Doc. 53, criminal case).

         On August 23, 2012, Baker filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the Central District of Illinois. Baker v. United States, No. 12-CV-2221 (C.D. Ill. 2012) (“collateral attack”). He argued that his trial counsel was ineffective. Id. The district court denied the § 2255 motion. Baker v. United States, 2013 WL 5642096 (C.D. Ill. 2013). Because Baker made no substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, the district court also denied a certificate of appealability. Id.

         Baker filed a notice of appeal from the denial of his § 2255 motion. Baker v. United States, App. No. 13-3774 (7th Cir.). The Seventh Circuit construed the notice as an application for a certificate of appealability and denied the request on April 10, 2014. Id. (Doc. 4).

         He then filed an application for an order authorizing a second or successive § 2255 motion. Baker v. United States, App. No. 16-2422 (7th Cir.). In the application, Baker requested permission to challenge his sentence under Johnson v. United States, __ U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), which held that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) is unconstitutionally vague. Id. (Doc. 6). The Seventh Circuit denied the application, after determining that Baker's sentence was not impacted by Johnson. Id. His sentence as a career offender was instead based on two prior felony convictions for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. Id.

         Following the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, __ U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), Baker filed another application for an order authorizing a second or successive § 2255 motion. Baker v. United States, App. No. 17-2067 (7th Cir.). The Seventh Circuit explained that Mathis “cannot serve as the basis for a successive § 2255 petition, because it is a case of statutory interpretation.” Id. (Doc. 2) (citing Dawkins v. United States, 829 F.3d 549, 551 (7th Cir. 2016)).

         Accordingly, the Seventh Circuit denied the application on May 26, 2017. Id.

         II. Habeas Petition

         In the instant § 2241 Petition, Baker now challenges his enhanced sentence in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Mathis v. United States, __ U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). He also points to the Fifth Circuit's decision in United States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016), in support of his challenge. (Doc. 1, pp. 1-15). Baker maintains that his Illinois drug conviction(s) pursuant to 720 ILCS § 570/401 no longer support his enhanced sentence under Mathis and Hinkle. Id. Because the Illinois state statute criminalizes conduct that falls outside of the conduct proscribed by the Sentencing Guidelines, Baker argues that his drug conviction(s) cannot be used to support his sentence as a career offender. Id. (citing Descamps v. United States, __ U.S.__, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013)).

         III. Discussion

         A federally convicted person may ordinarily challenge his conviction and sentence by bringing a motion pursuant to § 2255 in the court that sentenced him. Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012)). 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). ...


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