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Chestnut v. Thomas

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 4, 2014

RAYMOND EDWARD CHESTNUT, Petitioner
v.
WARDEN J. THOMAS, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.

Raymond Edward Chestnut, an inmate presently confined in the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Doc. 1, petition). Chestnut challenges a sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina for convictions of conspiracy to distribute fifty (50) grams or more of crack cocaine and, the possession, use, and carrying a firearm in a drug trafficking crime. Id . Despite a guilty plea, Chestnut claims he is actually and factually innocent of the firearms conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A), because he has newly discovered evidence that was not available at the time of his conviction, specifically, a "witness affidavit from Veronica Ford that clearly alleges that the firearms petitioner were [sic] convicted for did not actually or factually belong to petitioner, and he did not use, carry, or possess the firearms." (Doc. 1 at 7). The petition is ripe for disposition, and, for the reasons set forth below, will be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

Background

On October 5, 2006, Chestnut entered a guilty plea in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina to the offenses of conspiracy to distribute more than fifty (50) grams of cocaine base, and the possession, use or carrying of a firearm in connection with drug trafficking crimes. See (Doc. 6-1, Ex. 1, United States v. Chestnut, No. 4:05-CR-1044 (D.S.C. 2006), Criminal Docket Sheet).

On May 18, 2007, he was sentenced to an aggregate term of three hundred (300) months imprisonment. Id.

On May 31, 2007, Chestnut filed an appeal of his judgment and sentence to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Id . He then filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, which was granted by the Circuit Court on July 12, 2007. Id.

On July 26, 2010, the District Court reduced Chestnut's sentence to an aggregate term of 180 months imprisonment in response to a government motion for a sentence reduction. Id.

Since his conviction, he has filed more than ten (10) challenges to his conviction and sentence before the sentencing court, including numerous motions to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See (Doc. 6-1, Ex. 1, United States v. Chestnut, No. 4:05-CR-1044 (D.S.C. 2006), Criminal Docket Sheet at docket entry nos. 115, Mot. for Two Point Reduction; 116, Mot. for Downward Departure; 117, Mot. for Retroactive Appl. of Sentencing Guidelines; 145, Mot. to Reduce Sentence Rule 35(b); 154, Mot. for Retroactive Appl. of Sentencing Guidelines; 183, Mot. to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255; 189, Mot. to Am./Correct Sentence; 215, Mot. to Reduce Sentence/to Seek Relief under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c); 225, Mot. under Rule 52(b) (plain error); 226, Mot. to Correct Sentence/J.; 233, Mot. to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); 235, Mot. to Suppress/Dismiss/Overturn Drug Conspiracy; 250, Letter Motion; 257, Mot. Challenging Sentence under 21 U.S.C. 851; 258, Mot. to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255; 283, Mot. to Vacate under 28 U.S.C. § 2255; 290, Mot. to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); 319, Mot. Preserving Error under Rule 51(b); 334, Mot. to Am./Correct Sentence Pursuant to Rule 35(a); 373, Mot. to Reduce Sentence pursuant to 3582(c)(2); 383, Mot. for Recons. re Mot. to Vacate; 421, Mot. to Reduce Sentence pursuant to 3582(c)(2)). The sentencing court denied all of Chestnut's motions. Id. at docket entry nos. 125, 137, 147, 158, 237, 254-255, 264, 287, 305, 323, 340, 374, 388, 467.

Since filing the instant action, Chestnut has filed, in the state court, three (3) additional motions to vacate Count 4 of his indictment (the weapons offense) on the basis that he is actually innocent of the offense because there is no evidence that he "used, carried, or possessed any firearms in relation or in furtherance of the drug trafficking crime." Id. at docket entries 411, 416 and 459. These motions are currently pending before the sentencing court.

Chestnut's first motion to vacate asserted that he was incorrectly classified as a career offender, that his criminal history was "over-represented, " that trial counsel failed to object to his sentence enhancement as a career offender, and that his prior crack cocaine offense should not be constituted as a serious offense for the purposes of his sentence enhancement. See (Doc. 6-2, Ex. 2, Chestnut v. United States, No. 4:04-CR-1044 (D.S.C. Feb. 27, 2012)). The sentencing court dismissed the § 2255 motion because it was not filed within the one-year statute of limitations, denied a certificate of appealability, and noted that Chestnut's claims had no merit. Id . Subsequently, the sentencing court also dismissed Chestnut's Rule 60(b) motion, subsequent § 2255 motions, the motion under Rule 52(b), the motion to correct/amend sentence, and the motion to suppress/reduce/overturn drug conspiracy as successive § 2255 motions, and the motion seeking reconsideration of the decision to deny his § 2255 motion. See (Doc. 6-1, Ex. 1, United States v. Chestnut, No. 4:05-CR-1044 (D.S.C. 2006), Criminal Docket Sheet at docket entry nos. 255, Order; 264, Order; 287, Order; 304, Text Order; 388, Text Order; and Ex. 2, United States v. Chestnut, No. 4:05-CR-1044 (D.S.C. 2012)).

Chestnut appealed the sentencing court's rulings and filed five (5) additional motions with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking leave to file second or successive § 2255 motions. The Circuit Court has denied all of the motions for leave to file successive § 2255 motions. See In re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 12-158 (4th Cir. Apr. 6, 2012); In re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 12-203 (4th Cir. June 11, 2012); In re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 13-228 (4th Cir. May 16, 2013); In Re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 13-362 (4th Cir. Sept. 17, 2013); In Re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 14-138 (4th Cir. Feb. 28, 2014). In the most recent motion (No. 14-138), Chestnut argued that the one-year statute of limitations to § 2255 motions does not apply because he had a witness affidavit that was not available until August 30, 2013, and attached the same.[1] See (Doc. 6-2 at 7, Mot. for Second or Successive Application for Relief under § 2255); (Doc. 6-2 at 6, In Re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 14-138) (4th Cir.)). The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals denied his application to file successive § 2255 motions. In Re: Raymond Edward Chestnut, No. 14-138 (4th Cir. Feb. 28, 2014).

Additionally, this Court has previously dismissed a habeas corpus action in which it consolidated five (5) separate habeas corpus petitions filed by Chestnut, challenging his federal conviction and sentence. See Chestnut v. Thomas, No. 3:13-CV-1403 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 27, 2013).[2] He appealed. See (Id., Doc. 21, Not. of Appeal). On May 13, 2014, the United States Court of Appeal for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's dismissal of the habeas petition, finding that Chestnut failed to meet the "saving[s] clause" exception in Bailey v. United States, 516 U.S. 137 (1995), because Bailey was decided before he was convicted and he therefore had the opportunity to present his claims either on direct appeal or in a motion to vacate. See Chestnut v. Thomas, No. 13-4628 (3d Cir. May 13, 2014). The Court of Appeals further found that the fact that Chestnut's initial § 2255 motion was dismissed as untimely does not render that remedy ineffective. Id.

Discussion

Motions filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 are the presumptive means by which federal prisoners can challenge their convictions or sentences that are allegedly in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States or are otherwise subject to collateral attack. Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974); O'Kereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 122-23 (3d Cir. 2002). However, a "second or successive motion must be certified as provided in section 2244 [28 U.S.C. § 2244] by a panel of the appropriate court of appeals...." 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h); 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b)(3)(A) ("Before a second or successive application permitted by this section is filed in the district court, the applicant shall move in the appropriate court of appeals for an order authorizing the district court to consider the application."). Where a petitioner ...


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