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Cook v. Meeks

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 22, 2014

NATHAN LEE COOK, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN BOBBY L. MEEKS, Respondent.

OPINION AND ORDER [1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by federal prisoner Nathan Lee Cook pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [ECF No. 4]. He contends that the Bureau of Prisons (the "Bureau" or the "BOP"), which is the agency responsible for implementing and applying federal law concerning the computation of federal sentences, see, e.g., United States v. Wilson , 503 U.S. 329 (1992), erred in computing his sentence. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

I.

A. Relevant Background

Petitioner has a lengthy criminal history. In 2004, he was serving a state sentence imposed upon him by the state court in Anderson County, Texas, for the offenses of Burglary of a Habitation and Possession of a Controlled Substance. On September 8, 2004, he was on parole. On that date, a Deputy Sheriff in Anderson County pulled over the car he was driving during a routine traffic stop. A search of the vehicle revealed a fully-loaded handgun, drug paraphernalia, digital scales, 131.90 grams of methamphetamine, and a large sum of U.S. currency. The Deputy Sheriff arrested him and new state criminal charges were filed against him. In addition, on September 16, 2004, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Clemency and Parole, issued a parole violation warrant (which is commonly referred to as a "blue warrant") and he was placed in a jail unit on that date. He received credit against his state parole violator term beginning on that date.[2] [Resp's Doc. 2, Declaration of Helen Ramsdell, ¶¶ 5, 6(y), ECF No. 10-3 at 3-4, 8; Resp's Doc. 2n at 2].

The criminal conduct associated with Petitioner's September 8, 2004, arrest also is the basis for the federal conviction and sentence at issue in this case. On February 1, 2005, he was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas with: Count 1 - Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine; Count 2 - Possession of a Firearm During Drug Trafficking; Count 3 - Felon in Possession of a Firearm; and, Count 4 - Felon in Possession of Ammunition. See ECF No. 1 in United States v. Cook, No. 6:05-cr-06-LED-JKG-1 (E.D. Tx.) (available on PACER).

Because Texas authorities had arrested Petitioner first, he was in the "primary custody" (sometimes referred to as "primary jurisdiction") of the State of Texas. The "primary custody" doctrine developed to provide different sovereigns (in this case the state and the federal governments) with an orderly method by which to prosecute and incarcerate an individual who has violated each sovereign's laws. Ponzi v. Fessenden , 258 U.S. 254 (1922). See, e.g., Bowman v. Wilson , 672 F.2d 1145, 1153-54 (3d Cir. 1982); George v. Longley , 463 F.Appx. 136, 138 n.4 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam); Elwell v. Fisher , 716 F.3d 477 (8th Cir. 2013). In relevant part, the doctrine provides that the sovereign that first arrests an individual has primary custody over him. That sovereign's claim over the individual has priority over all other sovereigns that subsequently arrest him. The sovereign with primary custody is entitled to have the individual serve a sentence it imposes before he serves a sentence imposed by any other jurisdiction, regardless of the chronological order of sentence imposition. See, e.g., Bowman , 672 F.2d at 1153-54. Primary custody remains vested in the sovereign that first arrests the individual until its sentence expires and it releases the inmate, or until it relinquishes its priority through some other act, such as granting bail, dismissing the charges, or releasing the individual on parole. George , 463 F.Appx. at 138 n.4.

When it came time for Petitioner to be prosecuted for his federal charges, he was at the Limestone County jail in Groesbeck, Texas. In April 2005, a U.S. Magistrate Judge issued a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum so that Petitioner could appear in federal court to answer the federal charges. The U.S. Marshals Service ("USMS") took temporary custody of him pursuant to that writ and federal authorities arrested him on April 15, 2005. See ECF Nos. 5, 13 in United States v. Cook, No. 6:05-cr-06-LED-JKG-1 (E.D. Tx.).

Although Petitioner was now in the physical custody of federal authorities pursuant to the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, the State of Texas maintained primary custody over him. That is because a prisoner detained pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum remains in the primary custody of the sending sovereign unless and until it relinquishes jurisdiction over him. See, e.g., Ruggiano v. Reish , 307 F.3d 121, 125 n.1 (3d Cir. 2002), superseded on other grounds by U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(c) app. note 3(E) (2003). See also Elwell , 716 F.3d at 482 ("When the United States obtained physical custody of Elwell based upon the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, the transfer of physical control over Elwell's custody from Iowa to the United States did not terminate Iowa's primary jurisdiction."). The receiving sovereign - in this case, the federal government - is considered simply to be "borrowing" the prisoner from the sending sovereign for the purposes of indicting, arraigning, trying, and/or sentencing him. Id.

Petitioner subsequently entered a guilty plea to Counts 1 and 2 of the federal indictment and the remaining Counts were dismissed. In October of 2005, the District Court sentenced him to a total aggregate sentence of 138 months. The District Court was silent as to the relationship of Petitioner's federal sentence with any other state sentence to which Petitioner was or would be subject. See 10/11/05 Judgment in a Criminal Case, ECF No. 23 in United States v. Cook, No. 6:05-cr-06-LED-JKG-1 (E.D. Tx.).

On October 21, 2005, the Anderson County Prosecutor's Office dismissed the state criminal charges pending against Petitioner for the conduct connected with the September 8, 2004, since he had been convicted and sentenced in federal court for crimes related to the same incident. The state parole violator warrant was not affected. [Resp's Doc. 2, Ramsdell Dec., ¶ 5, ECF No. 10-3 at 3-4]. Therefore, Petitioner should have been returned to the physical custody of the State of Texas. However, the USMS mistakenly requested that the BOP designate Petitioner to a federal institution for service of his federal sentence. [Resp's Doc. 2, Ramsdell Dec., ¶ 6(l), ECF No. 10-3 at 6].

On November 17, 2005, Petitioner arrived at the Federal Correctional Institutional ("FCI") Texarkana to serve his federal sentence. The BOP quickly realized that the USMS had erred and that Petitioner should have been returned to the physical custody of the State of Texas to serve his state parole violator term in a state institution before he served his federal sentence. The BOP immediately placed Petitioner on an admission change so that he could be returned to state authorities, and on November 21, 2005, his status was changed to "holdover" due to the fact that he was awaiting transportation to state authorities. On December 20, 2005, Petitioner was returned to state authorities in satisfaction of the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. The USMS lodged a federal detainer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. [Resp's Doc. 2, Ramsdell Dec., ¶ 6(m)-(r), ECF No. 10-3 at 6-7].

Almost four years later, on December 11, 2009, the State of Texas paroled Petitioner from his state parole violator term to the federal detainer. The State of Texas credited against Petitioner's state parole violator sentence all of the time that he served in either state or federal custody from September 16, 2004, through December 11, 2009. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a), the BOP has calculated Petitioner's federal sentence as consecutive to his state parole violator sentence. [Resp's Doc. 2, Ramsdell Dec., ¶ 11, ECF No. 10-3 at 10]. Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a), the BOP has calculated Petitioner's federal sentence to have commenced on the day the State of Texas released him on parole (December 11, 2009). The BOP also has determined that Petitioner is entitled to a total of 13 days of pre-commencement credit. Specifically, the BOP has decided that he is entitled to eight days of credit pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b) for the time he spent in official detention from September 8, 2004, through September 15, 2004, because the State of Texas did not credit that time against his state parole violator sentence. As an equitable measure, the BOP also has granted Petitioner sentencing credit for the five days he served at FCI Texarkana from November 17, 2005, through November 21, 2005, due to the fact that he was temporarily erroneously designated to that federal institution. Assuming that Petitioner receives all good conduct time available to him, his projected release date is January 9, 2020. [Resp's Doc. 2, Ramsdell Dec., ¶ 6(y), ¶ 13, ECF No. 10-3 at 8, 11].

When Petitioner learned how the BOP was calculating his federal sentence, he sent a letter to the federal sentencing court (the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas), in which he asserted that he should have received additional credit against his federal sentence for time served. [Resp's Doc. 2j, ECF No. 10-3 at 65-68]. Of course, the BOP, and not the federal sentencing court, calculates Petitioner's federal sentence. However, the District Court could have ordered that his federal sentence be served concurrent with his state sentence, or at the very least advised the BOP that it did not object to Petitioner's federal sentence being calculated as concurrent with his state sentence. [See PS 5160.05, Pages 5-6]. It did not do so. Instead, the District Court issued an Order in which it explained:

Defendant was brought into federal custody pursuant to a Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Prosequendum from Anderson County, Texas on April 15, 2005, where he was being held on a parole violation warrant. On October 3, 2005, Defendant pled guilty to the offenses of Possession With Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine and Possession of a Firearm During and in Relation to a Drug Trafficking Crime and was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William M. Steger to a sentence of 138 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Defendant's judgment was silent as to whether the sentence imposed should run concurrently or consecutively with any future state sentence he may receive.
Defendant was in the primary custody of the State of Texas throughout, and he was relinquished to the State of Texas by the U.S. Marshal's Service on November 23, 2005. Defendant remained in State custody for the duration of his State sentence and was transferred to the Federal Bureau of Prisons around December 11, 2009.
Defendant contends that there is a paperwork "discrepancy, " and argues that his federal sentence should have commenced October 3, 2005 [the date he was sentenced in federal court]. In other words, Defendant appears to assert that his federal sentence should have run concurrently with his State sentence from 2005 to 2009. Defendant also appears to argue that, at a minimum, he should be credited time against his federal sentence while he was in federal custody awaiting sentencing. Ultimately, Defendant contends that he believes his current release date is December 4, 2014, and that it should be revised to November 10, 2015.
Defendant was being held on a parole violation warrant in Anderson County, Texas, when he was brought into federal custody. Therefore, he had an undischarged term of imprisonment from a previous State sentence, and his situation implicates U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3, entitled "Imposition of a Sentence on Defendant Subject to an Undischarged Term of Imprisonment." That provision allows sentences for the current offense to be imposed to run concurrently, partially concurrently, or consecutively to the prior undischarged term of imprisonment given the specific circumstances of the case. U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(c). Specifically, Defendant's situation implicated § 5G1.3(c) which applies in cases where a defendant was on federal or state ...

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