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Stratton v. Meeks

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 29, 2014

TYREE STRATTON, Petitioner,
v.
BOBBY L. MEEKS, Respondent.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. REPORT

A. Relevant Background

Petitioner, Tyree Stratton, is a federal inmate incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution, McKean, which is located in Bradford, Pennsylvania. On December 1, 2005, he was found guilty by a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (the "sentencing court") on the following three counts: (I) Conspiracy to Commit Armed Bank Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371; (II) Armed Bank Robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d); and (III) Using and Carrying a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). The sentencing court sentenced Petitioner on April 11, 2006, to a 260-month term of imprisonment, reflecting 140 months on each of Counts I and II (to run concurrently) and 120 months on Count III (to run consecutively).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed Petitioner's judgment. See docket in United States v. Stratton, No. 06-2321 (3d Cir.). On October 6, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court denied his petition for a writ of certiorari. See Order in Stratton v. United States, U.S. Supreme Court Dkt. No. 07-11396 (Oct. 6, 2008).

In 2009, Petitioner filed with the sentencing court his first motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Resp's Ex. C). He raised claims not relevant to this proceeding. The sentencing court denied that motion (Resp's Ex. D) and on December 8, 2010, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied a certificate of appealability. See docket in United States v. Stratton, No. 10-3256 (3d Cir.).

In June of 2013, the Supreme Court decided Alleyne v. United States, ___ U.S. ___ , 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). In that decision, the Supreme Court overruled Harris v. United States , 536 U.S. 545 (2002) and held that since mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for a crime, the facts used to enhance a sentence are offense elements "that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt" before an enhanced mandatory minimum sentence can be imposed. Alleyne , 133 S.Ct. at 2160-64.

Soon after Alleyne was decided, Petitioner filed with his sentencing court a second § 2255 motion. (Resp's Ex. F). He contended that his sentence is unconstitutional pursuant to the holding in Alleyne. The 1996 amendments that the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") made to § 2255 bar a federal prisoner from filing a second or successive § 2255 motion unless the appropriate court of appeals certifies the filing contains, in relevant part, a claim based on "a new rule of constitutional law, made retroactive to cases on collateral review by the Supreme Court, that was previously unavailable." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h)(2). Because Petitioner had not received from the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit authorization to file a second § 2255 motion, the sentencing court denied his motion. (Resp's Ex. G). (Since the Supreme Court has not held that Alleyne is retroactive to cases on collateral review, the courts of appeals cannot authorize federal prisoners to file second or successive § 2255 motions based upon that decision. See, e.g., United States v. Winkelman , 746 F.3d 134, 135-36 (3d Cir. 2014)).

After the sentencing court denied his second § 2255 motion, Petitioner, who is incarcerated within the territorial boundaries of the Western District of Pennsylvania, filed with this Court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [ECF No. 4]. He alleges that pursuant to the decision in Alleyne, the sentencing court violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial by imposing a 120-month sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(iii) for discharging a firearm in connection with a crime of violence without proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he "discharged" a firearm during the crime. As relief, he seeks an order from this Court directing that his 120-month sentence at Count III be vacated and that he be resentenced to what he contends is the appropriate mandatory minimum of 5 years.

Respondent has filed his Answer [ECF No. 10], to which Petitioner has filed a Reply [ECF No. 12].

B. Discussion

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute[.]" Cardona v. Bledsoe , 681 F.3d 533, 535 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am. , 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). "Two federal statutes, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241 & 2255, confer federal jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by federal inmates."[1] Id . "The core' habeas corpus action is a prisoner challenging the authority of the entity detaining him to do so, usually on the ground that his predicate sentence or conviction is improper or invalid." McGee v. Martinez , 627 F.3d 933, 935 (3d Cir. 2010). That type of action is brought in the district court that tried and sentenced the prisoner by way of a motion filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, which permits a federal prisoner to challenge his conviction or sentence "upon the ground that [it] 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[.]" In contrast, § 2241 "confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but the execution of his sentence, " McGee , 627 F.3d at 935, such as, for example, the way in ...


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