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Mason v. Thomas

United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

December 16, 2014

Lorenzo Kenyon Mason, Petitioner,
v.
Warden Thomas, FCI Edgefield, Respondent.

ORDER

R. Bryan Harwell United States District Judge.

On June 24, 2014, Lorenzo Kenyon Mason (“Petitioner”), a federal prisoner currently confined at Federal Correctional Institution—Edgefield in Edgefield, SC, filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. See Pet., ECF No. 1. Petitioner is proceeding pro se. The matter is before the Court for review of the Report and Recommendation (“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. See R & R, ECF No. 13. In the R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommends the Court dismiss Petitioner’s petition without prejudice and without requiring the Respondent to file a return. See Id. at 6.

Factual Background and Procedural History

Petitioner alleges a conviction for use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, resulting in a sentence of 262 months imprisonment. See ECF No. 1 at 2. Records in Petitioner’s criminal case, United States v. Mason, indicate that Petitioner was originally sentenced to a 60 month term of imprisonment on June 2, 2009, subsequent to a guilty plea. See Order, United States v. Mason, No. 1:08-cr-103-MR, at 4 (W.D. N.C. Oct. 24, 2011). The Government filed a notice of appeal arguing that the sentencing court erred in failing to apply the career offender enhancement for a prior North Carolina firearm conviction, and on August 23, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit remanded the case for resentencing. See Id. Petitioner was resentenced on January 21, 2011, and was sentenced to a 262 month term of imprisonment. See Id. at 4–5. Petitioner appealed this sentence, but the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal on August 25, 2011. See Id. at 5.

On October 3, 2011, Petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 before the sentencing court, the Western District of North Carolina. See Id. The district court denied that motion and dismissed the petition via Order dated October 24, 2011. See Id. at 9. Petitioner subsequently filed a motion purporting to seek relief under the “All Writs Act, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1651, which the Western District of North Carolina construed as a second and unauthorized 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion and dismissed. See United States v. Mason, ___ Fed. App’x ___, 2014 WL 4292073, at *1 (4th Cir. 2014). Petitioner attempted to appeal this decision to the Fourth Circuit, but his appeal was dismissed. See id.

At some point Petitioner was transferred to FCI—Edgefield in Edgefield, SC, and on June 24, 2014, he filed the Petition that is presently before this court pursuant to § 2241. Petitioner does not appear to have obtained authorization from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to proceed with a second or successive § 2255 petition.

Standard of Review

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the district court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the district court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270–71 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

The court is obligated to conduct a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge’s report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only “general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982) (“[D]e novo review [is] unnecessary in . . . situations when a party makes general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate’s proposed findings and recommendation.”). The Court reviews only for clear error in the absence of a specific objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310 (4th Cir.2005). Furthermore, in the absence of specific objections to the R & R, this Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation. See Diamond, 416 F.3d at 315; Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198 (4th Cir. 1983).

Discussion

I. Petition, R & R, and Objections

In his Petition, Petitioner asserts that he is actually innocent of the career offender enhancement under the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”), [1] as his prior conviction in North Carolina for conspiracy to discharge weapon in occupied property no longer qualifies as a predicate offense for purposes of the enhancement. See ECF No. 1 at 3. Petitioner asserts that the Supreme Court’s decision in Descamps v. United States, U.S., 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), and the Fourth Circuit’s decisions in United States v. Hemingway, 734 F.3d 323 (4th Cir. 2013) and Whiteside v. United States, 748 F.3d 541 (4th Cir. 2014), reh’g en banc granted, 578 Fed. App’x 218 (4th Cir. 2014), support his argument that the conviction no longer qualifies as a predicate offense. See ECF No. 1 at 3.

In her R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommended finding that Petitioner failed to satisfy the savings clause of § 2255, and thus could not pursue relief through a § 2241 habeas petition. See ECF No. 13 at 4–5. As the Magistrate Judge explained, Petitioner cannot challenge his federal conviction and sentence under § 2241 unless he can satisfy the § 2255 savings clause, which states:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that ...

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