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Limon-Pacias v. Farley

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 28, 2019

CEASAR LIMON-PACIAS, #28755-180 Petitioner,
v.
ROBERT FARLEY, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANCY J. ROSENSTENGEL CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Petitioner Ceasar Limon-Pacias, an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons, filed a Petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1). In November 2013, Limon-Pacias was sentenced to 77 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to illegally re-entering the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2). His United States Sentencing Guidelines range was enhanced after the sentencing judge found he had unlawfully remained in the United States after a conviction for a drug trafficking offense for which the sentence imposed exceeded 13 months. U.S.S.G. § 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(i) (2013). United States v. Limon-Pacias, 13-cr-0356-SS, Doc. 29 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 1, 2013). Limon-Pacias is now in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Hinton, Oklahoma (“FCI Hinton”).[1]

         Limon-Pacias now invokes Mathis v. United States, ___U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), to challenge his sentence and argue that he is entitled to be resentenced without this Guidelines enhancement. Specifically, Limon-Pacias argues that because the Texas controlled substance statute of his conviction criminalizes the “sale” and “delivery” of marijuana, but the Sentencing Guidelines' definition of a “drug trafficking offense” under Section 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(i) refers to “distribution” and “dispensing” instead of “sale” or “delivery, ” this conviction can no longer support the Guidelines enhancement under Mathis. (Doc. 1, pp. 5-6).

         Respondent opposes issuance of the writ on multiple grounds. Respondent argues that Limon-Pacias cannot satisfy the requirements of Section 2255(e)'s savings clause because his Mathis argument was not foreclosed by binding precedent before Mathis was decided, and Limon-Pacias' alleged harm cannot be deemed a “miscarriage of justice” because his sentence fell within the statutory maximum penalty for his crime of conviction notwithstanding his Guidelines enhancement. (Doc. 8, pp. 7-13). Respondent also argues that Limon-Pacias procedurally defaulted on his current habeas claim by failing to raise it on direct appeal. (Id. at pp. 13-15).

         Limon-Pacias replied to Respondent's response. (Doc. 10). This matter is now ripe for resolution. For the reasons discussed below, Limon-Pacias's Section 2241 Petition (Doc. 1) will be denied.

         Relevant Facts and Procedural History

         Limon-Pacias pleaded guilty to one count of illegal reentry into the United States pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1326 on August 12, 2013. United States v. Limon-Pacias, No. 13-cr-0356-SS, Doc. 18 (W.D. Tex. Aug. 15, 2013). His potential sentence was up to twenty years' (240 months') imprisonment pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2). Id. at Doc. 30, ¶ 70. The sentencing court determined that Limon-Pacias' criminal history included one drug trafficking offense for which the sentence imposed exceeded 13 months, id. at ¶ 37, as well as two other prior felonies and at least three prior misdemeanors. Id. at ¶¶ 38-40, 44-45. During the sentencing hearing, the judge pointed to Limon-Pacias's lengthy criminal record, as well as his multiple deportations and subsequent illegal reentries in support of the sentence he was imposing, and ultimately sentenced Limon-Pacias to 77 months' imprisonment.[2]

         Limon-Pacias filed a direct appeal, arguing that the use of his prior drug conviction violated the Sixth Amendment under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). His appeal was denied by the Fifth Circuit. United States v. Limon-Pacias, No. 13-51042, Doc. 512763754 (5th Cir. Sept. 10, 2014). Limon-Pacias then filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the Western District of Texas, arguing his counsel was ineffective for, among other things, failing to object to his Guidelines enhancement under Taylor v. United States, 495 U.S. 575 (1990). United States v. Limon-Pacias, No. 13-cr-0356-SS, Doc. 43, p. 3 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 5, 2016). This motion was denied by the district court, id., and the denial was affirmed on appeal by the Fifth Circuit. Id. at Doc. 52, pp. 2-3.

         Applicable Legal Standards

         Generally, petitions for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 may not be used to raise claims of legal error in conviction or sentencing, but are instead limited to challenges regarding the execution of a sentence. See Valona v. United States, 138 F.3d 693, 694 (7th Cir. 1998).

         Aside from the direct appeal process, a prisoner who has been convicted in federal court is generally limited to challenging his conviction and sentence by bringing a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in the court which sentenced him. A Section 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). And, a prisoner is generally limited to only one challenge of his conviction and sentence under Section 2255. A prisoner may not file a “second or successive” Section 2255 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).

         It is possible, however, under very limited circumstances, for a prisoner to challenge his federal conviction or sentence under Section 2241. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) contains a “savings clause” which authorizes a federal prisoner to file a Section 2241 petition where the remedy under Section 2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). See United States v. Prevatte, 300 F.3d 792, 798-99 (7th Cir. 2002). The Seventh Circuit construed the savings clause in In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 1998): “A procedure for postconviction relief can be fairly termed inadequate when it is so configured as to deny a convicted defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification of so fundamental a defect in his conviction as having been imprisoned for a nonexistent offense.”

         The Seventh Circuit has explained that, in order to fit within the savings clause following Davenport, a petitioner must meet three conditions. First, he must show that he relies on a new statutory interpretation case rather than a constitutional case. Secondly, he must show that he relies on a decision that he could not have invoked in his first Section 2255 motion and that case must apply retroactively. Lastly, he must demonstrate that there has been a “fundamental defect” in his conviction or sentence that is grave enough to be deemed a miscarriage of justice. Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013). See also Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012).

         Since Davenport, the Seventh Circuit has made it clear that ‚Äúthere must be some kind of structural problem with section 2255 before section 2241 becomes available. In other words, something more than a lack of success with a section 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause ...


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