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Maxwell v. Werlich

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

January 10, 2020

DON JUAN MAXWELL, #31799-044, Petitioner,
v.
T. G. WERLICH, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STACI M. YANDLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Don Juan Maxwell, an inmate in the Bureau of Prisons, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on February 23, 2018. (Doc. 1). Maxwell was sentenced to 300 months imprisonment in 2006 after a jury found him guilty of possessing with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (also known as “crack cocaine”). United States v. Don Juan Maxwell, No. 05-cr-0238, Doc. 66 (E.D. Mo. Feb. 17, 2006). 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 Maxwell's three prior burglary convictions. However, the sentencing court varied downwards from the Guidelines' career offender range of 360 months to life imprisonment and instead imposed a sentence within the non-career offender Guidelines range. Id. at Doc. 69, pp. 4, 24.

         Maxwell now invokes Mathis v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016) to challenge his designation as a career offender based on his prior burglary convictions and contends he is entitled to be resentenced without that designation. Specifically, Maxwell argues that these prior convictions do not qualify as “crimes of violence” under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a)(2) (2006) because they criminalize a broader swath of conduct than the generic definition of burglary as defined by the Supreme Court. (Doc. 1, pp. 16-19).

         Respondent opposes issuance of the Writ on multiple grounds. Respondent argues that Maxwell cannot satisfy the requirements of § 2255(e)'s savings clause, noting his alleged harm cannot be deemed a “miscarriage of justice” since his sentence fell within the statutory maximum penalty for his crimes of conviction, regardless of his career offender designation. (Doc. 12, pp. 7-12). Respondent also argues that Maxwell procedurally defaulted his current habeas claim by failing to raise it on direct appeal or in his original § 2255 motion. (Id. at pp. 6-7). Maxwell replied to Respondent's response, (Doc. 10), and the parties each filed supplemental briefings discussing additional legal authority. (Docs. 11, 12, 14, 15).

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

         Procedural History and Relevant Facts

         On October 13, 2005, a jury found Maxwell guilty of one count of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(iii). United States v. Don Juan Maxwell, No. 05-cr-0238, Doc. 42 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 13, 2005).[1] At the time of his conviction and sentencing, Maxwell's statutory sentencing range included a maximum of life imprisonment.[2] Notably, even under the current United States Code, possessing with intent to distribute or dispense 28 grams or more of cocaine base carries a statutory maximum penalty of forty years (480 months) imprisonment. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)(iii) (2018).

         The Presentence Report (“PSR”) applied the Guidelines' career offender designation to Maxwell pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) due to his prior burglary convictions.[3] However, at Maxwell's sentencing, the judge explicitly stated his belief that “it [was] more appropriate to sentence [Maxwell] in the range of a total offense level of 34” instead of applying the greater offense level set forth by the career offender designation. Id. at Doc. 69, p. 24. The judge further stated that “if [Maxwell] was not a career offender [under the Guidelines] . . . the [Guidelines range] would be 262 months to 327 months imprisonment” instead of 360 months to life imprisonment. Id. at p. 4. Maxwell was ultimately sentenced to 300 months imprisonment, which was within the non-career offender Guidelines range and represented a downwards variance from the career offender Guidelines range of 360 months to life imprisonment. Id. at p. 24.

         Maxwell filed a direct appeal relating to alleged racial discrimination during his jury selection and the district court's rulings regarding the same. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the judgment on appeal in 2007. United States v. Maxwell, 473 F.3d 868 (2007). Maxwell then sought relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. His first motion, filed in January 2008, argued that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective. This motion was denied by the district court and no certificate of appealability was issued. Maxwell v. United States, No. 08-cv-0062, Doc. 7 (E.D. Mo. May 12, 2010). Maxwell's subsequent application for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion, which like the instant Petition, was premised in part on Mathis v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), was also denied by the Eighth Circuit, Maxwell v. United States, No. 16-cv-1017- AGF, Doc. 2 (July 12, 2016); Maxwell v. United States, No. 16-2291, Doc. 8 (8th Cir. Nov. 22, 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 and 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 Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012). In other words, something more than a lack of success with a § 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied.” See Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1136 (7th Cir. 2015).

         Analysis

         In light of Mathis, Maxwell argues he was improperly designated as a career offender under the Guidelines because his prior burglary convictions criminalize more behavior than the generic definition of burglary set forth by the Supreme Court. (Doc. 1, pp. 15-19). Before reaching the merits of this argument, the Court must first consider whether Maxwell's claim can be brought within the narrow scope of ยง 2255's savings clause. The Court agrees with Respondent that Maxwell cannot demonstrate the existence of a fundamental defect in his conviction or sentence that is grave enough to be deemed ...


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