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Maze v. Werlich

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

July 12, 2019

JOSEPH MAZE, #13378-040, Petitioner,
T. G. WERLICH, Respondent.



         Petitioner Joseph Maze, an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on August 23, 2017. (Doc. 1). Maze was sentenced to 240-months imprisonment in 2008 after a jury found him guilty of possessing with intent to deliver more than 5 grams of cocaine base (also known as “crack cocaine”). United States v. Joseph Maze, No. 07-cr-0170-RJJ, Doc. 154 (W.D. Mich. December 22, 2008). His Guidelines range was enhanced after he was found to be a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, based in part on two prior controlled substance convictions in violation of Michigan law.

         Maze now invokes Mathis v. United States, - U.S. -, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) to challenge his designation as a career offender based on the prior Michigan controlled substance convictions and contends he is entitled to be resentenced without that designation. Specifically, Maze argues that the prior convictions pursuant to Mich. Comp. Laws. Ann. § 333.7401 (West 2003) do not qualify as “serious drug offenses” under the Guidelines because they criminalize the “sale” and “delivery” (as well as the attempted sale and delivery) of controlled substances, which is materially different from offenses that criminalize “distributing” and “dispensing” controlled substances as defined by the Guidelines. (Doc. 1, pp. 4-8).

         Respondent opposes issuance of the Writ on two grounds. First, Maze's sentence cannot be deemed a “miscarriage of justice” under § 2255(e)'s savings clause as it fell within the statutory maximum penalty for his crimes of conviction regardless of his career offender designation. (Doc. 12, pp. 4-6). Second, Maze's prior Michigan convictions meet the Sentencing Guidelines' definition of “controlled substance offense, ” because the terms “sale” and “delivery” as defined by the Michigan statute are substantially identical to the Guidelines' use of “distribute” - thus his claim fails on the merits. (Id. at pp. 6-9). Maze filed a Reply. (Doc. 14).

         This matter is now ripe for resolution. For the reasons discussed below, Maze's § 2241 Petition (Doc. 1) will be DENIED.

         Procedural History and Relevant Facts

         On November 1, 2007, a jury found Maze guilty of one Count of Possession with Intent to Deliver More Than 5 Grams of Cocaine Base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii). United States v. Joseph Maze, et al., No. 07-cr-0170-RJJ, Doc. 29 (W.D. Mich. Nov. 1, 2007). At the time of his conviction and sentencing, Maze's statutory sentencing range included a maximum of forty years (480 months) imprisonment, without any enhancement for a prior drug offense.[1] Notably, even under the current statute, possession with intent to distribute or dispense less than 28 grams of cocaine base retains a statutory maximum penalty of twenty years (240 months) imprisonment, with no recidivist enhancement. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) (2018).[2]

         The Presentence Report (“PSR”) applied the Guidelines' career offender designation to Maze pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) due to his two prior Michigan controlled substance convictions.[3] Maze was ultimately sentenced to 240 months imprisonment on December 22, 2008, a downwards departure from the Guidelines range of 360-months to life imprisonment. Id. at Doc. 54, p. 2; Doc. 56, p. 62.

         Maze filed a direct appeal relating to the district court's evidentiary rulings and challenging the fundamental fairness of his trial. His conviction was affirmed in all respects by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in June of 2010. Id. at Doc. 65. Maze then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. His first motion, filed in September 2011, argued that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective. This motion was denied by the district court and no certificate of appealability was issued. Maze v. United States, No. 11-cv-1007-RJJ, Doc. 5 (W.D. Mich. May 21, 2012). Maze's two subsequent applications for leave to file successive § 2255 motions were both summarily denied by the Sixth Circuit, including his most recent application which, like the instant Petition, was premised on Mathis v. United States, - U.S. -, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). See In re Joseph Maze, No. 17-1111, Doc. 11 (6th Cir. June 28, 2017).

         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 § 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). A prisoner is generally limited to one challenge of his conviction and sentence under § 2255. A prisoner may not file a “second or successive” § 2255 motion unless a panel of the appropriate court of appeals certifies that such motion either 1) contains 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) invokes “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).

         Under very limited circumstances, however, it is possible for a prisoner to challenge his federal conviction or sentence under § 2241. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) contains a “savings clause” under which a federal prisoner can file a § 2241 petition when the remedy under § 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.”

         Following Davenport, a petitioner must meet three conditions to trigger the savings clause. 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 § 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 Brownv. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012). In other words, ...

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