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McNeil v. Warden, FCI, Estill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

May 21, 2015

Robert Nathaniel McNeil, #XXXXX-XXX, Petitioner,
v.
Warden, FCI, Estill, Respondent.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARY GORDON BAKER, Magistrate Judge.

The petitioner, Robert Nathaniel McNeil ("Petitioner"), a self-represented prisoner confined at Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") Estill, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. This matter is before the court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B) (2)(c) DSC. Having reviewed the petition in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that it should be summarily dismissed.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND[1]

On March 6, 2002, Petitioner pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). (Cr. Case No. 2:01-cr-84) Three months later, Petitioner pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). (Cr. Case No. 2:02-cr-32). Petitioner's two convictions were consolidated for sentencing, and he is currently serving a 300 month sentence, consisting of 120 months' imprisonment on the firearms charge (2:01-cr-84) and 300 months' imprisonment on the drug conspiracy charge (2:02-cr-32), with such terms to run concurrently. Petitioner did not appeal. However, on January 30, 2012, Petitioner filed a petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2255. This petition is still pending.

Citing primarily United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (2011), [2] Petitioner contends that he was incorrectly classified as a "career offender" under United States Sentencing Guideline § 4B1.1 (USSG). (ECF No. 1.) Therefore, in his request for relief, Petitioner indicates that he should be sentenced "without the career offender status applied to his sentence." (ECF No. 1.).

DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of the pro se petition filed in this case pursuant to the Rules Governing § 2254 Cases, [3] FN1 28 U.S.C. § 2254; the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), Pub.L. No. 104-132, 110 Stat. 1214; and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 112 S.Ct. 1728, 118 L.Ed.2d 340 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir.1995) (en banc); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir.1983).

This court is required to liberally construe pro se petitions. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Pro se petitions are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, id.; Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir.1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a petition filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9, 101 S.Ct. 173, 66 L.Ed.2d 163 (1980); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 92 S.Ct. 1079, 31 L.Ed.2d 263 (1972). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se petition the petitioner's allegations are assumed to be true. Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93 (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

However, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir.1990). The mandated liberal construction afforded to pro se pleadings means that if the court can reasonably read the pleadings to state a valid claim on which the petitioner could prevail, it should do so; however, a district court may not rewrite a petition to include claims that were never presented, Barnett v. Hargett, 174 F.3d 1128 (10th Cir.1999), construct the petitioner's legal arguments for him, Small v. Endicott, 998 F.2d 411 (7th Cir.1993), or "conjure up questions never squarely presented" to the court, Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir.1985).

B. Analysis

The instant petition, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, is subject to summary dismissal because "it is well established that defendants convicted in federal court are obliged to seek habeas relief from their convictions and sentences through § 2255." Rice v. Rivera, 617 F.3d 802, 807 (4th Cir.2010) (citing In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 (4th Cir.1997)). 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 the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e); see also Reyes-Requena v. United States, 243 F.3d 893, 901 (5th Cir.2001); Ennis v. Olsen, No. 00-7361, 2000 WL 1868982, at *1 (4th Cir. Dec.22, 2000). In this case, Petitioner alleges that he has been unsuccessful in seeking relief under § 2255 in his initial petition.[4] However, "the remedy afforded by § 2255 is not rendered inadequate or ineffective merely because an individual has been unable to obtain relief under that provision, or because an ...


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