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United States of America v. Harold Spurell

February 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.


Presently before the Court is Petitioner Harold Spurell's pro se*fn1 Habeas Corpus Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (ECF No. 42.)*fn2 For the following reasons, Petitioner's Motion will be denied.


A. Factual Background

On the evening of February 11, 2004, Officers Frank Casey and Brian Lorenzo of the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) saw a blue Chevrolet, driven by Petitioner, traveling recklessly through the intersection of Lehigh and Sedgley Avenues in North Philadelphia. (Trial Tr. 57-58, Mar. 21, 2005.) The officers attempted to pull the vehicle over; however, the driver refused to stop, and violated several traffic laws during his attempt to evade police. (Id. at 59-60.) After driving in the wrong direction on one-way residential streets, Defendant stopped on the 1800 block of North Taney Street. (Id. at 60.) The street was well-lit because of the presence of street lights and a hovering PPD helicopter that, by this time, had joined the pursuit and "lit up the whole block." (Id. at 65.)

After stopping his vehicle, Petitioner exited and ran down Taney Street. (Id. at 65-66.) As Petitioner exited the vehicle, Officer Lorenzo saw a "shiny object" fall from Petitioner's waist to the ground. (Id. at 66.) As Officer Casey chased Petitioner, Officer Lorenzo went to the area near the vehicle where the "shiny object" had fallen, and recovered a revolver, loaded with five rounds of live ammunition. The gun was approximately ten feet from Petitioner's car. (Id. at 66-67.) The firearm was later identified as a .38 caliber Iver Johnson Arms & Cycle Works revolver, with Serial Number 62802. (Id. at 70-73).

Officer Casey, along with other PPD officers, pursued Petitioner, and eventually apprehended him. (Id. at 69.) Petitioner was arrested, and charged with traffic violations and weapons offenses. (Id. at 70.) Petitioner was, at the time of his arrest, a convicted felon.

B. Procedural History

On March 12, 2003, Petitioner was found guilty by a jury of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Judgment, ECF No. 33.) On December 13, 2005, Defendant was sentenced to sixty months in prison followed by three years of supervised release. (Id.) The Third Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence and entered a Final Judgment on September 12, 2007. (ECF No. 41).

On November 20, 2008, Defendant filed a pro se Motion to vacate his sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Pet'r's Mem., ECF No. 42.) The Government filed its response on February 27, 2009. (Gov't. Mem., ECF No. 46.) Petitioner filed a response to the Government's submission on March 30, 2009. (Pet'r's Resp., ECF No. 47.)


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a federal prisoner may move the sentencing court to vacate, set aside or correct a sentence "upon the ground that the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Relief under § 2255 is generally available "to protect against a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice or an omission inconsistent with the rudimentary demands of fair procedure." United States v. DeLuca, 889 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1989).

While the court may in its discretion hold an evidentiary hearing on a Section 2255 petition, Virgin Islands v. Forte, 865 F.2d 59, 62 (3d Cir. 1989), such a hearing need not be held if the "motion and the files and records conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); see also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 41-42 (3d Cir. 1992).


A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Petitioner first claims that this Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate his criminal case. (Pet'r's Mem. 2-3; Pet'r's Resp. 2.) Specifically, Petitioner claims there is no "statutory, regulatory, or constitutional authority" which invests this Court with jurisdiction over this case. (Pet'r's Mem. 2.)

Petitioner's claim is meritless. Congress, in accordance with the powers provided by Article III of the United States Constitution, has conferred jurisdiction over violations of federal criminal law upon federal district courts. "The district courts of the United States shall have original jurisdiction, exclusive of the courts of the States, of all offenses against the laws of the United States." 18 U.S.C. § 3231. The law on this issue is unambiguous. Petitioner was tried, and convicted, under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). Because his crime was an "offense against the laws of the United States," this Court properly exercised jurisdiction over the matter. Accordingly, Petitioner's claim is denied.

B. Constitutionality of Public Law No. 80-772

Petitioner anticipates the argument that 18 U.S.C. ยง 3231 amounts to a positive grant of subject matter jurisdiction to this Court, and argues that Congress failed to constitutionally enact the legislation which created Section 3231. (Pet'r's Mem. 4.) Specifically, Petitioner claims that the 80th Congress passed Public Law Number 80-772, which enacted ...

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