The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter
Petitioner Gabriel J. Jennings is a federal inmate. At the time he commenced this proceeding he was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution McKean, which is located within this district. Presently before this Court is his Petition For Writ Of Habeas Corpus, which he filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [ECF No. 4 at pp. 1-6], and an accompanying 16-page memorandum [ECF No. 4 at pp. 7-23]. He challenges his 1991 conviction for arson under 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). Specifically, Jennings argues that his arson conviction should be vacated based on the Supreme Court's decision in Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000). Jennings also claims that if his arson conviction is voided, then his convictions for Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine and violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act should also be vacated.
For the reasons set forth below, the petition is dismissed with prejudice for abuse of the writ and because it is an improper successive habeas petition.
On December 10, 1991, following a jury trial, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania sentenced Jennings to a total term of imprisonment of 372 months, to be followed by 10 years of parole, on numerous criminal counts, including one for arson, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(i). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed his convictions and sentences on July 16, 1992.
Jennings' first 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to set vacate, set aside or correct his sentence was denied in 1993. In 1997, he received authorization from the Third Circuit Court to file a second or successive § 2255 motion so that he could challenge his firearm convictions on the basis of United States v. Bailey, 516 U.S. 137 (1995). In a Memorandum and Order dated June 3, 1997, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Court granted the § 2255 motion in part and denied it in part, such that all of Jennings' firearms convictions and sentences were vacated. The court denied his remaining claims.
Several years later, on May 22, 2000, the Supreme Court decided Jones v. United States, 529 U.S. 848 (2000), the case upon which Jennings now relies in support of his contention that his arson conviction should be vacated. The arson statute that Jennings was convicted under, 18 U.S.C. § 844(i), reads in relevant part:
Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce shall be imprisoned for [sets forth term and fines]. (Emphasis added). In Jones, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether § 844(i) covers property occupied and used by its owner not for any commercial venture, but as a private residence. It held that such a dwelling place was not "used in . in activity affecting . commerce." Therefore, it concluded that the defendant, who had been convicted under § 844(i) for setting fire to a home owned and occupied by his cousin as a dwelling place for everyday family living, had to be vacated. Jones, 529 U.S. at 851-58.
On September 8, 2000, a few months after Jones was decided, Jennings (who at the time was incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado) filed his first petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.C.S. § 2241. (Jennings v. Holt, No. 1:00-cv-01780 (D. Co.)). The record before this Court does not indicate what claims Jennings raised in that habeas action, and the documents filed in that case are not available for review on that court's electronic docket. All that this Court can glean from the available information is that on October 2, 2000, the District Court of Colorado denied Jennings' habeas petition.
A little more than two months later, on December 12, 2000, Jennings filed with the Third Circuit Court a motion for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 motion. [ECF No. 15-2 at pp. 2-4, Resp't Ex. 1, docket sheet in In Re: Jennings, No. 00-4257]. He raised issues related to his arson conviction, as well as several of his other convictions. On February 21, 2001, the Third Circuit Court issued an order in which it held, in relevant part:
Jennings' application for certification to file a second or successive motion to vacate sentence under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255 is therefore denied without prejudice to his right to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 2241 to challenge his conviction under 18 U.S.C. Section 844(i), in light of Jones v. United States, 120 S.Ct. 1904 (2000), in the District Court in the district of his confinement. See In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 247 (3d Cir. 1997). We express no opinion on the merits of petitioner's Jones claim[.] [ECF No. 15-2 at p. 4, Resp't Ex. 1, docket sheet in In Re: Jennings, No. 00-4257].
In accordance with the Third Circuit Court's directive, on June 25, 2001, Jennings (who at the time was incarcerated in the U.S. Penitentiary in Pollock, Louisiana) filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241.
[ECF No. 15-2 at pp. 7-52, Resp't Ex. 2, § 2241 habeas petition filed at Docket No. 01-cv-1194 (W.D. La.)]. In that habeas petition, Jennings raised numerous claims, including a claim based upon Jones. Specifically, in "Ground One" of his habeas petition, Jennings asked: "Does setting fire to private family dwelling prove jurisdiction element affecting interstate commerce as Jones requires?" He then argued that his trial court had erred in failing to instruct the jury that, in order to convict him of arson, it had to find "the building that was burned was 'being used in ...