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Veach v. Sniezek

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 4, 2013

JOHN RODNEY VEACH, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN T.R. SNIEZEK, et al., Respondents.

MEMORANDUM

CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, Chief District Judge.

Presently before the court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 filed by petitioner John Rodney Veach ("petitioner" or "Veach"), a Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") inmate currently incarcerated at Federal Correctional Facility ("FCI") at Sheridan, Oregon. For the reasons set forth below, the court will dismiss the petition (Doc. 1) for lack of jurisdiction.

I. Background

The factual and procedural background underpinning the instant petition have been summarized by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois as follows:

On December 20, 2002, an indictment was filed against [Veach], charging him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine. After being appointed two different attorneys, Veach retained attorney Eric J. Bell, who was substituted as counsel of record on May 2, 2003. After an examination, Veach was declared competent to stand trial, and then on July 22, 2003, he pleaded guilty with a plea agreement. The plea agreement contained an appellate waiver. Per the Stipulation of Facts signed by Veach, he obtained powder and crack cocain in Corpus Christi and New Orleans for distribution in southern Illinois. Veach was arrested in Carbondale, Illinois, on October 7, 2002, after throwing down a bag containing 310 grams of powder cocaine while fleeing on foot from the arresting officer. The parties agreed in the Stipulation of Facts that Veach's relevant conduct included 595 grams of powder cocaine and 28.35 grams of crack cocaine. On September 2, 2003, attorney John D. Stobbs II appeared as co-counsel for Veach. Before sentencing, Veach's attorneys filed objections to the presentence investigation report and a motion for downward departure for over-representation of Veach's criminal history, through his motion was withdrawn during the sentencing hearing.

Veach v. United States, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55257 at *2 (S.D. Ill. July 18, 2008).[1]

In calculating the petitioner's sentencing guideline range, the sentencing court applied the career offender enhancement contemplated by United States Sentencing Guideline § 4B1.1(a), given petitioner's two prior state court convictions for aggravated battery. (Doc. 1-1 at 2). Application of this enhancement increased petitioner's offense level from 25 to 32 and resulted in a guideline range of 151 and 188 months. Id . The court sentenced the petitioner at the top of the guideline range to a term of 188 months imprisonment. Veach, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55257 at *3.

Trial counsel withdrew, and petitioner appealed his sentence pro se to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Id . at *3-4. The Seventh Circuit rejected petitioner's contention that Booker v. United States , 543 U.S. 220 (2005) established an exception to his appellate waiver and dismissed his appeal.[2] Id . at *3. On July 18, 2006, petitioner, through current counsel, filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 on the ground that trial counsel was ineffective during plea negotiations. Id . at *3-4. The trial judge acknowledged that otherwise valid appeal waivers do not preclude ineffective assistance claims that have their basis in plea negotiations. Id . at *19-20 (observing that "otherwise enforceable waiver does not bar... ineffective assistance of counsel claim insofar as that claim specifically relates to the negotiation of the waiver"). The court thus conducted a merits review of the petitioner's ineffective assistance claim to the extent it pertained to the appellate waiver and ultimately concluded that the petitioner had failed to satisfy either element of the ineffective assistance test set forth in Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984). Id . at *19-24.

In doing so, the court emphasized the voluntariness of petitioner's plea agreement and his appellate waiver, noting that the plea agreement was signed by petitioner and that petitioner affirmatively responded to the sentencing court's thorough inquiries as to whether petitioner's plea agreement, and in particular the appellate waiver, were knowing and voluntary. Id . ("Veach's statements... during the... change of plea hearing clearly illustrate that he knowingly and voluntarily entered into the plea agreement and specifically accepted the appellate waiver terms of the agreement."). The court thus enforced the appellate waiver and dismissed the § 2255 motion.

Petitioner did not appeal the denial of his Section 2255 motion. Instead, he filed a motion for a certificate of appealability in the Seventh Circuit, which the Circuit directed the district court to file as a notice of appeal. See Veach v. United States, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106975, *2 (S.D. Ill. Oct. 6, 2010). Therein, petitioner asked the court to remand his case to the district court for resentencing without the career offender enhancement pursuant to the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Chambers v. United States , 555 U.S. 122 (2009) and Begay v. United States , 553 U.S. 137 (2008). Veach, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106975 at *2. The district court declined to issue a certificate of appealability, and concluded that while the Begay rule is retroactively applicable, petitioner had executed a broad appellate waiver, found by the court to be valid and enforceable, thus precluding petitioner's claim. Id . at *3-5. Petitioner appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which dismissed his appeal as untimely. However, noting Begay's retroactive applicability, the panel observed that Veach's argument regarding his career offender status "might be appropriately brought in a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which is the proper avenue for relief when § 2255 is "inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.'" Veach v. United States, No. 10-2129 (7th Cir. Nov. 19, 2010).

Petitioner filed the instant Section 2241 petition on June 22, 2011 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, alleging that:

[T]he sentence of 188 months imposed upon him and his classification as a career offender by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Judge G. Patrick Murphy, is constitutionally impermissible in light of the recent Supreme Court of the United States opinion in Begay v. United States , 553 U.S. 137 (2008), and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit opinion in Welch v. United States , 604 F.3d 408 (7th Cir. 2010).[3]

(Doc. 1 at 1). The matter was then transferred to this court on May 1, 2012, because petitioner was, at that time, incarcerated at FCI Schuylkill, which is located within this judicial district. (Doc. 17). The court issued a show cause order (Doc. ...


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