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Reynolds v. Werlich

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 21, 2018

MICHAEL CURTIS REYNOLDS, No. 10671-023, Petitioner,
v.
T.G. WERLICH, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          DAVID R. HERNDON, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Michael Curtis Reynolds, currently incarcerated in the FCI-Greenville, Illinois, brings this habeas corpus action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 to challenge the constitutionality of his confinement. He invokes Mathis v. United States, __ U.S. __, 136 S.Ct. 2243, 2250 (2016), and notes that the Seventh Circuit has stated that a Mathis claim must be brought in a § 2241 proceeding, if at all. Dawkins v. United States, 829 F.3d 549, 550 (7th Cir. 2016). (Doc. 1, p. 1).

         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.

         Background

         According to recent orders issued by the Middle District of Pennsylvania dismissing Reynolds' petitions in that court, he was found guilty by a jury of “multiple terrorism related criminal offenses” in July 2007, in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. See Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-1093 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 9, June 14, 2018); Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-691 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 5, April 4, 2018); see also United States v. Reynolds, No. 05-CR-493 (M.D. Pa.). The convictions were for attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (18 U.S.C. § 2339B); attempting to provide material support to damage an interstate gas pipeline facility by means of force or explosive (18 U.S.C. §§ 2339A(a) & 2); soliciting others to damage an interstate pipeline facility by means of force or explosive (18 U.S.C. § 373); distributing information through the internet on the manufacture and use of an explosive device (18 U.S.C. §842(p)(2); and possession of a grenade (18 U.S.C. §§ 5841, 5861(d), & 5871). (Doc. 297, United States v. Reynolds, No. 05-CR-493 (M.D. Pa.)). He was sentenced to a total of 360 months. Id.

         On March 18, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed Reynolds' convictions. United States v. Reynolds, 374 Fed.Appx. 356 (3d Cir. 2010). See also Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-1093 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 9, June 14, 2018); Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-691 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 5, April 4, 2018).

         Reynolds' original attempt to collaterally attack his conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was dismissed on the merits on August 15, 2012. Reynolds v. United States, No. 05-CR-493, 2012 WL 12981962 (M.D. Pa.). He then filed several successive § 2255 petitions without obtaining authorization from the Third Circuit, all of which were dismissed. See Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-1093 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 9, June 14, 2018); Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-691 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 5, April 4, 2018); see also United States v. Reynolds, Appeal No. 13-4195 (3d Cir. Feb. 12, 2014). Reynolds additionally filed “multiple unsuccessful § 2241 petitions” in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in which he challenged the legality of his federal prosecution. Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-1093 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 9, June 14, 2018); Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-691 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 5, April 4, 2018); see also Reynolds v. Bledsoe, No. 08-cv-909 (M.D. Pa.); Reynolds v. Kosik, No. 08-cv-293 (M.D. Pa.); Reynolds v. Martinez, No. 08-cv-2094 (M.D. Pa.).

         In 2018, Reynolds filed 2 actions in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, both invoking Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238 (1944), to urge the court to set aside its judgment as having been obtained by fraudulent means. In the first, the court construed the action as a habeas petition pursuant to § 2241. Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-691 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 5, April 4, 2018). Reynolds raised numerous claims, including:

(1) It was physically impossible for him to have committed an e-mail crime within the confines of this district; (2) a prosecution witness was coerced; (3) false statements and testimony by an FBI agent was used to obtain his conviction; and (4) illegally seized evidence was used against him.

Id. at Doc. 5, p. 3. The court found that Reynolds' claim for relief did not fall within the “safety-valve” clause of 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) such that it was cognizable in a § 2241 action, and dismissed the case without prejudice. The court explained that even though he claimed “actual innocence, ” Reynolds did not argue that his conduct was no longer criminal because of a change in the law subsequent to his conviction. He also failed to show that he could not have presented his claims in the context of a § 2255 action. Id. at Doc. 5, p. 5.

         The court analyzed Reynolds' second Hazel-Atlas petition as a civil rights claim, and in the alternative as a habeas action under both § 2241 or §2255. Reynolds v. United States, No. 18-CV-1093 (M.D. Pa., Doc. 9, June 14, 2018). In dismissing the case without prejudice, the court reasoned that Reynolds could not seek release in the context of a civil rights claim; failed again to bring a § 2241 claim that would fit within the narrow window of the 28 U.S.C.§ 2255(e) “safety-valve;” and could not proceed with the action under § 2255 because he had not obtained authorization from the court of appeals for a successive § 2255 motion.

         The Petition

         Reynolds filed the instant Petition on April 30, 2018. He has since filed a number of motions. The Petition asserts that Reynolds' sentence was improperly enhanced pursuant to § 3A1.4, [1] because he was never indicted by a grand jury for the enhanced elements of his offense, nor was the § 3A1.4 enhancement found by a jury at his trial. (Doc. 1, p. 1). He also claims that the § 2332a element of his § 2339A and B convictions was not charged or presented to the jury. (Doc. 1, pp. 1, 13-15). Specifically, the jury was not ever asked to find that the property that was the target of the alleged attempted destruction was used in interstate or foreign commerce, or in an activity that affects such commerce. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-17). Reynolds further states that his charges under 18 U.S.C. § 842(p)(2)(A) and § 922(g)(1)[2] were unconstitutional. (Doc. 1, p. 1). He contends that his convictions are void and must be “removed.” (Doc. 1, p. 2).

         The Petition further asserts that the FBI planted evidence (the hand grenades and emails), which amounted to plain and clear error affecting Reynolds' substantial rights. (Doc. 1, pp. 3-4). He contends that it was physically impossible for him to have committed any of the crimes, and that the government withheld material exculpatory evidence. (Doc. 1, pp. 4, 9-10). Because his conviction was allegedly based on fabricated and/or planted evidence, Reynolds asserts that he is actually innocent of the offenses, and should be released. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-6). As he did in the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Reynolds raises Hazel-Atlas as authority that a ...


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