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Ruiz v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 27, 2014

GUILLERMO RUIZ, Petitioner,
v.
J. E. THOMAS, WARDEN, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

This pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 was filed by Guillermo Ruiz, an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg). Petitioner's request (Doc. 5) for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted for the sole purpose of the filing of his action with this Court.

Ruiz was convicted of being a felon in possession of ammunition as contemplated under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) and an unregistered silencer under 26 U.S.C. § 5861(i) following a jury trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. See Doc. 2-1, Exhibit A. He was sentenced to a 312 month term of incarceration on November 19, 1998. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. See United States v. Ruiz , 253 F.3d 634 (11th Cir. 2001) (Table). His direct appeal asserted that the jury had been erroneously instructed on the mens rea required for conviction under § 5861(I); irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial evidence was admitted; and insufficient evidence was presented to support the § 5861(i0 conviction. See id. at 636.

Ruiz acknowledges that he also filed a request for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 which was denied by the trial court as being time barred on July 22, 2003. See Doc. 1, ¶ 10(a). Petitioner asserts that his § 2255 action raised claims of defective indictment, ineffective assistance of counsel, and that imposition of an enhanced sentence was unlawful.

According to the Petition, Ruiz next filed a request for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 action with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on or about December 2011. His request, which raised claims of invalid conviction and sentence under § 922(g)(1) and a violation of the Tenth Amendment's doctrine of separation of powers, was denied on May 7, 2012. See id. at p. 5 (b).

On November 25, 2013, Petitioner states that he filed a second request for leave to file a second or successive § 2255 action with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He adds that the purpose of this request was to pursue an unlawful enhancement of sentence claim. The Court of Appeals denied his request by decision dated February 6, 2014. See id. at p. 4 (b).

Ground One of Ruiz's pending action claims entitlement to federal habeas corpus relief on the basis that his conviction under § 922(g) (1) should be overturned because that statute is ambiguous and invalid. Petitioner explains that the presumption created by that statute exceeded Congress' power to regulate commerce, and violates both his due process rights under the Fifth Amendment as well as the Tenth Amendment's doctrine of separation of powers.

Ground Two asserts that the Government failed to prove the offense of § 5861 beyond a reasonable doubt and that the trial court provided erroneous jury instructions with respect to that charge. See Doc. 1, p. 8. In Ground Three, Ruiz contends that an unlawful and unconstitutional sentence was imposed because it was improperly enhanced based on an offense not charged in the indictment.

Petitioner next claims that he was provided with ineffective assistance of counsel (Ground Four). The petition elaborates that Ruiz and defense counsel had a conflict of interest and irreconcilable differences existed between them regarding the way his case was handled. Moreover, counsel's performance was purportedly deficient for failing to raise "the constitutional violation that had infected the whole proceeding." Id . at p. 9.

In an accompanying supporting memorandum (Doc. 2), Petitioner raises the following arguments: (1) the trial court improperly instructed the jury by not including a direction that the Government must prove all essential elements of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court violated Petitioner's fundamental constitutional rights; and (3) the trial court was biased and allowed a malicious prosecution. A later portion of Ruiz's supporting memorandum reasserts the arguments set forth in the Petition and also raises contentions of a speedy trial violation, actual innocence, and lack of jurisdiction.

Discussion

Standard of Review

Habeas corpus petitions are subject to summary dismissal pursuant to Rule 4 ("Preliminary Review") of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States District Courts, 28 U.S.C. foll. § 2254 (2004). See, e.g., Mutope v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole , 2007 WL 846559 *2 (M.D. Pa. March 19, 2007) (Kosik, J.). The provisions of Rule 4 are applicable to § 2241 ...


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