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Young v. Thomas

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

February 17, 2017

Joseph Louis Young, III, #12222-171, Petitioner,
Warden Thomas, Respondent.


         Petitioner Joseph Louis Young, III (“Petitioner”) filed this pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“Petition”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that he should not have been charged as a “career offender.” (ECF No. 1.) Respondent Warden Thomas (“Respondent”) was not required to file a return. (ECF No. 10 at 5.)

         In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett for pre-trial handling. On July 31, 2014, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report, ” ECF No. 10) recommending the court deny the Petition (ECF No. 1). This review considers Petitioner's Objections to the Report (“Objections”) filed June 19, 2015.[1] (ECF No. 42.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report (ECF No. 10), and DISMISSES the Petition (ECF No. 1) with prejudice.


         This court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual synopsis is accurate and incorporates it by reference. This court will thus focus on the facts pertinent to the analysis of Petitioner's Objections. The relevant facts, viewed in a light most favorable to Petitioner, are as follows.

         On August 31, 2007, Petitioner pleaded guilty to three counts of various drug and firearm offenses. See United States v. Young, C/A No. 6:07-cr-00113-GRA, ECF No. 23 (D.S.C. Feb. 13, 2007). On December 30, 2008, Petitioner was sentenced to 262 months' imprisonment.[2] Id. at ECF No. 56. On January 14, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (“Fourth Circuit”) affirmed the conviction and sentence. Id. at ECF No. 80. On June 17, 2010, Petitioner filed a Motion to Vacate under § 2255, Id. at ECF No. 83, which the court denied on October 14, 2010. Id. at ECF No. 96.

         In his Petition for Habeas Corpus, Petitioner alleges that he “is actually innocent of being a Career Offender.” (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Petitioner, citing to Descamps v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2276 (2013), and United States v. Hemingway, 734 F.3d 323 (4th Cir. 2013), claims that a former conviction for pointing and presenting a firearm no longer qualifies as a predicate offense necessary to be considered a career offender.[3] The Magistrate Judge's Report recommended the Petition be summarily dismissed because Petitioner could not satisfy the § 2255 savings clause. (ECF No. 10 at 3.)


         The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge's Report is only a recommendation to this court, and has no presumptive weight-the responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See 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 Report to which specific objections are made. Id. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the Magistrate Judge's recommendation or recommit the matter with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

         Additionally, pro se filed documents should be “liberally construed, ” held to a less stringent legal standard than those complaints or proceedings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). However, even liberally construed, objections to a Report must specifically identify portions of the Report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2). Furthermore, while pro se documents may be entitled to “special judicial solicitude, ” federal courts are not required to recognize “obscure or extravagant claims.” Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 390-91 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1277 (4th Cir. 1985)).


         Petitioner filed objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on June 19, 2015. (ECF No. 42.) In his Objections, Petitioner takes issue with the Report's assertion that he may not resort to § 2255(e)'s savings clause (id. at 2-3), and further asserts that Descamps and Hemingway are applicable. (Id. at 4.) However, though Petitioner outlines his objections in detail, reiterating his claims that Descamps and Hemingway apply retroactively (Id. at 4-5), the court concludes that the information brought up in Petitioner's Objections is not sufficient to abrogate the Report's recommendation of dismissal.

         In order for Petitioner to challenge his sentence under § 2241, Petitioner must satisfy the § 2255 savings clause. § 2255(e). “[D]efendants 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)). Because Petitioner has already been denied relief under § 2255 once before, see Young, C/A No. 6:07-cr-00113-GRA at ECF No. 83, in order for the § 2255(e) to be applicable, Petitioner must show that the “remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” § 2255(e). In order to satisfy the “inadequate or ineffective” element of the savings clause, Petitioner must show three elements laid out by the Fourth Circuit in In re Jones.[4] Petitioner takes issue with the Report's finding that he failed to show “the conduct for which [he] was convicted has been deemed non-criminal by any substantive law change” (the second element of the In re Jones test). (ECF No. 42 at 3.) Petitioner seems to be trying to support his argument by asserting that Descamps and Hemingway should be applied retroactively to the present action. (Id. at 4.)

         Petitioner acknowledges that the application of Descamps is critical to the success of his Petition. (Id.) In support of his retroactivity claims, Petitioner cites to multiple cases. (Id. at 2-7; see Chaidez v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 1103, 1107 (2013); Begay v. United States, 553 U.S. 137 (2008); Schriro v. Summerlin, 542 U.S. 348 (2004); Bryant v. Coleman, 738 F.3d 1253 (11th Cir. 2013); Parker v. Walton, No. 13-cv-01110-DRH, 2013 WL 6169153 (S.D. Ill. Nov. 29, 2013).) Despite Petitioner's assertions, the court is not convinced that Descamps (or for that matter Hemingway) applies retroactively.

         As Petitioner himself notes (see ECF No. 42 at 4), Chaidez held that when the Court “announce[s] a ‘new rule, ' a person whose conviction is already final may not benefit from the decision in a habeas or similar proceeding.” Chaidez, 133 S.Ct. at 1107. Petitioner tries to counter Chaidez by citing to Schriro, which said that “[n]ew substantive rules generally apply retroactively.” Schriro, 542 U.S. at 351. However, Schriro also noted that “the [new] rule applies only in limited circumstances, ” Schriro, 542 U.S. at 351, and “[n]ew rules of procedure … generally do not apply retroactively.” Id. at 352. Regardless, the court does not have to decide if Descamps establishes a procedural or substantive rule. As the Report notes, case law indicates that Descamps in not retroactive on collateral review. (ECF No. 10 at 4, citing Baker v. Zych, C/A ...

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