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Oscar Aguilar v. Frank Strada

April 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo



Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Carlson's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") and Petitioner Oscar Aguilar's Objections. Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends that Mr. Aguilar's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus be denied. Because the sentencing court is in a better position to assess whether the Bureau of Prisons misinterpreted its sentencing order, the petition should be transferred to Judge Florence Marie Cooper of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. As such, the R & R will be rejected.

I. Background

On March 13, 2006, local authorities in California arrested Mr. Aguilar and charged him with the Sale/Transport of a Controlled Substance. Six weeks later, on May 1, 2006, Mr. Aguilar was convicted on that charge, and the Superior Court of California sentenced him to a five-year term of imprisonment. Mr. Aguilar received jail-time credit against his state sentence for the seventy-four days he spent in custody prior to his sentencing.

During his state proceedings, Mr. Aguilar also faced a federal indictment. On April 13, 2006, the United States District Court for the Central District of California indicted him on two charges: (1) Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(A)(1), 841(B)(1)(a); and (2) Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime in violation of 19 U.S.C. § 924(C). On October 23, 2006, the District Court issued a Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Prosequendum for Mr. Aguilar, compelling him to appear in federal court and answer the charges. Federal officials took him into federal custody based upon the Writ on November 17, 2006.

Mr. Aguilar pleaded guilty to both charges, and the District Court, with the Honorable Florence Marie Cooper presiding, sentenced him on February 1, 2008. At the sentencing, Mr. Aguilar's counsel asked for his federal sentence to be served concurrently with his previously served state sentence. Judge Cooper responded that concurrent federal and state sentences did "seem appropriate." Mr. Aguilar's counsel also requested that his sentence reflect that he had been in custody since April 13, 2006. Judge Cooper replied that she was "uncertain as to whether the court has authority or whether it would be effective" if she noted that date in her sentence.*fn1 Judge Cooper then stated, "I'm putting it out for consideration." On the Judgment and Probation/Commitment Order, Judge Cooper ordered that "[c]redits for custody should begin on April 13, 2006, the date of defendant's arrest."Based on a plea agreement, Judge Cooper sentenced Mr. Aguilar to a 132-month term on one of his federal counts and a 60-month term on the other. Judge Cooper ordered that Mr. Aguilar's two federal sentences be served consecutively.

At the time of his sentencing, Mr. Aguilar was still being held by federal officials on a writ from the state of California. Following his sentencing, federal officials returned him to the state facility. Eight months later, on October 8, 2008, Mr. Aguilar was paroled from his state sentence.

On that same date, October 8, 2008, federal officials took custody of Mr. Aguilar. The Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") calculated Mr. Aguilar's federal sentence credit and determined that his federal sentence commenced when he came under the primary jurisdiction of federal authorities on October 8, 2008. The BOP did not apply any of the time Mr. Aguilar spent in state custody against his federal sentence, nor did it calculate his federal sentences as being retroactively concurrent with his previously served state sentence.

On January 12, 2012, Mr. Aguilar filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 with the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Magistrate Judge Carlson issued his R & R on February 23, 2012; Mr. Aguilar filed objections on March 12, 2012. The petition has been fully briefed by both parties and ripe for disposition.

II. Legal Standard

Where objections to a magistrate judge's report are filed, a district court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify (in whole or in part) the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

III. Discussion

Mr. Aguilar applies for the writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Section 2241 confers jurisdiction on district courts to issue writs of habeas corpus in response to a petition from a state or federal prisoner who is in custody "in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States." Id. §§ 2241(a), (c)(3). A prisoner may file a § 2241 petition to challenge "some aspect of the execution of their sentence." Coady v. Vaughn, 251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001). A suit alleging that the BOP incorrectly calculated a sentence ...

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