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Rinaldi v. Rios

May 20, 2010

MICHAEL RINALDI, PETITIONER
v.
H.A. RIOS, JR., RESPONDENT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, filed by Petitioner Michael Rinaldi ("Rinaldi"), an inmate currently incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary in Atwater, California.*fn1 (Doc. 1.) Rinaldi is challenging his conviction by raising actual innocence claims. For the reasons that follow, the petition will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

I. Background

On June 18, 1999, Rinaldi was convicted of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, possession of a firearm, and use of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking. (Doc. 10 at 2.) On November 4, 1999, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 248 months by the Honorable Edwin M. Kosik in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Id.) Rinaldi's conviction was upheld by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. (Id. at 2-3.)

Rinaldi subsequently filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Id. at 3.) In his petition, Rinaldi raised grounds of insufficient evidence and ineffective assistance of counsel. (Id. at 3-4.) The district court denied Rinaldi's petition on June 19, 2002. (Id. at 4.)

On June 15, 2004, Rinaldi filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 that was denied by this court without prejudice to any right Rinaldi may have had to move the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider a successive § 2255 motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b). See Rinaldi v. Nash, Civ. No. 1:CV-04-1287 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 13, 2005). In that petition, Rinaldi asserted challenges to the sufficiency of evidence at trial, the jury instructions, and his sentencing. (See id.) Following the denial of the petition, on February 14, 2005, Rinaldi sought an order from the Third Circuit Court authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive § 2255 petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b).*fn2 (See Doc. 10 at 9.) The Third Circuit Court denied the application.*fn3 In re. Rinaldi, No. 05-1457 (3d Cir. June 23, 2005).

On April 10, 2008, Rinaldi filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 in this court. Rinaldi v. Sniezek, Civ. No. 1:CV-08-0679 (M.D. Pa.). In that petition, Rinaldi's sole claim was that he is "actually innocent" of the charge of conspiracy to distribute narcotics upon which he was convicted. He did not provide any explanation for his failure to raise this claim in his previous § 2255 petition. The court dismissed the petition without prejudice to any right Rinaldi may have had to move the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider a second or successive § 2255 motion. (See id.) The court also denied a later motion for reconsideration. (See id.)

Rinaldi then appealed this court's dismissal of the petition to the Third Circuit Court. See Rinaldi v. Sniezek, 302 F. App'x 125 (3d Cir. 2008). In a per curiam opinion affirming this court's decision, the Third Circuit Court held:

We agree with the District Court that Rinaldi has not demonstrated such a limitation in § 2255's scope or procedure here. While he claims that he has presented newly discovered evidence that demonstrates his innocence, this evidence solely consists of trial transcripts and witness affidavits. Of course, the testimony was available at trial. In addition, Rinaldi does not argue, and there is no indication, that the information in the affidavits was unavailable at trial. Finally, the District Court properly denied Rinaldi's motion for reconsideration because he did not identify an intervening change in the law that prevented him from raising an actual innocence claim in his first § 2255 motion.

Id. at 127.

Rinaldi filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on January 19, 2010. (Doc. 1.) On February 26, 2010, an order to show cause was issued, directing the respondent to reply to Rinaldi's petition. (Doc. 8.) The matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

"[T]he usual avenue for federal prisoners seeking to challenge the legality of their confinement," including a challenge to the validity of a conviction or to a sentence, is a motion filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 249 (3d Cir. 1997). See also United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644, 648 n.2 (3d Cir. 1999) (stating § 2255 provides federal prisoners a means by which to bring collateral attacks challenging the validity of their judgment and sentence); Snead v. Warden, F.C.I. Allenwood, 110 F. Supp. 2d 350, 352 (M.D. Pa. 2000) (stating challenges to a federal sentence should be brought in a § 2255 motion). The § 2255 motion must be filed in the district court where the defendant was convicted and sentenced. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a) (the motion must be filed in "the court which imposed the sentence").

A defendant can pursue a § 2241 petition only when he shows that the remedy under § 2255 would be "inadequate or ineffective to ...


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