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Bursey v. Recktenwald

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2017

HAROLD BURSEY, Petitioner,
v.
WARDEN RECKTENWALD, Respondent.

          OPINION [1]

          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge

          Presently before the Court is a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by federal prisoner Harold Bursey (the "Petitioner"), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. 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 federal sentence. For the reasons set forth below, the petition is denied.

         I. A. Relevant Background

         From May 2009 to December 2009, the Petitioner committed the federal offense of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, Cocaine, Cocaine Base, and Marijuana. (Declaration of Forest Kelly (Resp's Ex. 2), ¶ 3). He was arrested by state authorities in Detroit, Michigan, on October 19, 2010, for the state offense of Possession with Intent to Deliver More than 50, but Less than 450, Grams of Cocaine. He was later released on bond from the Wayne County Jail. (Id., ¶ 4). On November 11, 2011, he was sentenced in Wayne County, Michigan, to a term of imprisonment of from three to 20 years.[2] (Id., ¶ 5).

         At this time, the Petitioner was in the "primary custody" (sometimes referred to as "primary jurisdiction") of the State of Michigan. 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.App'x 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. See, e.g., George, 463 F.App'x at 138 n.4.

         On February 6, 2012, the Petitioner was transferred to the physical custody of federal authorities pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (the "District Court"). It had issued the writ so that the Petitioner could appear in federal court for the processing of his federal criminal charges. (Kelly Decl., ¶ 7).

         Although the Petitioner was temporarily transferred to the physical custody of federal authorities pursuant to the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, the State of Michigan 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.

         The Petitioner subsequently pleaded guilty in the District Court to the federal offense of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Heroin, Cocaine, Cocaine Base, and Marijuana for a period of time spanning from May 2009 to December 2009. (Kelly Decl., Attach. 2(b), Judgment). On March 12, 2013, the District Court sentenced him to a 120-month term of imprisonment (which it later reduced to 84 months). The District Court ordered the sentence to run concurrently with the Petitioner's undischarged state sentence. (Kelly Decl., ¶ 8).

         On March 13, 2013, the United States Marshals Service returned physical custody of the Petitioner to the authorities with the State of Michigan in satisfaction of the federal writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. (Id., ¶ 9). On January 7, 2015, the state authorities released the Petitioner to federal authorities. (Id., ¶ 10).

         The BOP computed Petitioner's federal sentence to have commenced on the date it was imposed (March 12, 2013) pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3585(a). It also determined that the Petitioner was entitled to one day of prior custody credit (which could also be described as pre-commencement credit) under 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b). (Id., ¶¶ 11-14 & Attach. 2(1), Public Information Inmate Data).

         The Petitioner challenged the BOP's calculation of his federal sentence through the BOP's administrative remedy process. When he did not receive the relief he sought, he filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 4). He contends that he is entitled to additional credit against his federal sentence. The Respondent filed the answer (ECF No. 13), and the Petitioner filed a reply (ECF No. 17).

         B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         "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)). 28 U.S.C. § 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 v. Martinez, 627 F.3d 933, 935 (3d Cir. 2010), such as, for example, the way in which the BOP is computing his sentence. See, e.g., Barden, 921 F.2d at 478-79. Such petitions are filed in the federal court of the judicial district where the federal prisoner is incarcerated. Thus, this Court has jurisdiction under § 2241 to consider the Petitioner's claim that the BOP erred in computing his sentence. A federal habeas court may only extend a writ of habeas corpus to a federal inmate if he demonstrates that "[h]e is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States[.]" 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3).

         C. ...


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