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Willis v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

July 3, 2019

Hakeem Willis, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America; Warden Bryan Antonnelli, Respondents.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          Paige J. Gossett United States Magistrate Judge.

         The petitioner, Hakeem Willis, a self-represented prisoner confined at Federal Correctional Institution Williamsburg, 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) (D.S.C.). Having reviewed the Petition in accordance with applicable law, the court concludes that it should be summarily dismissed.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Petitioner, a federal prisoner housed in the Federal Correctional Institution in Williamsburg, South Carolina, indicates he was convicted of Hobbs Act robbery, conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, and carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Pet., ECF No. 1 at 2, ECF No. 1-1 at 1-2.) In 2012, he was sentenced to an aggregate term of 272 months' imprisonment. (Id.) Petitioner indicates that his direct appeal was dismissed and his motion to motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was denied. (Id. at 2-3.)

         Petitioner now files this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petitioner argues that his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence) is unlawful in light of United States v. Simms, 914 F.3d 229 (4th Cir. 2019).[1] Specifically, he argues that § 924(c) is unconstitutionally void for vagueness and Hobbs Act robbery does not qualify as a crime of violence under § 924(c)'s force clause or residual clause.

         II. 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, [2] 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 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (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 pleadings, which are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); King v. Rubenstein, 825 F.3d 206, 214 (4th Cir. 2016). Nonetheless, 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 cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for “all civil actions”).

         B. Analysis

         A petitioner cannot challenge his federal conviction and sentence through § 2241 unless he can show under the “savings clause” of § 2255(e) that a § 2255 motion is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e); see also Rice v. Rivera, 617 F.3d 802, 807 (4th Cir. 2010) (providing that if a federal prisoner brings a § 2241 petition that does not fall within the scope of the savings clause, the district court must dismiss the unauthorized habeas petition for lack of jurisdiction). The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that a petitioner must establish the following criteria to demonstrate that a § 2255 motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of a prisoner's conviction:

(1) at the time of conviction, settled law of this circuit or the Supreme Court established the legality of the conviction; (2) subsequent to the prisoner's direct appeal and first § 2255 motion, the substantive law changed such that the conduct of which the prisoner was convicted is deemed not to be criminal; and (3) the prisoner cannot satisfy the gatekeeping provisions of § 2255 because the new rule is not one of constitutional law.

United States v. Wheeler, 886 F.3d 415, 427 (4th Cir. 2018) (restating the test adopted in In re Jones, 226 F.3d 328 (4th Cir. 2000)).

         As noted above, the United States Supreme Court recently found that the residual clause § 924(c)(3)(B) is unconstitutional. United States v. Davis, No. 18-431, __ S.Ct. __, 2019 WL 2570623 (June 24, 2019). But even assuming Petitioner meets the first two elements of the In reJones test, Petitioner cannot meet the third element because the decision in Davis is a new rule of constitutional law. Therefore, Petitioner is foreclosed from bringing a § 2241 habeas petition in this court to challenge his sentence. Petitioner's remedy, if any, appears to be to seek permission to file a § 2255 motion in the court in which he was sentenced by filing a motion for leave to file a successive § 2255 motion in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.[3]See 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255(h). Therefore, this case should be ...


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