United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
January 1996, defendant, Roberta Ronique Bell, was found
guilty by a jury of obstruction of justice by tampering with
a witness by murder and by tampering with a witness by use of
physical force and threats. She was sentenced to life
imprisonment, and is currently an inmate at the federal
correctional institution in Dublin, California. Bell has
filed a counseled motion under Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b)(6) for
relief from judgment, seeking to reopen her 28 U.S.C. §
2255 proceedings for the purpose of having the convictions
vacated. In the alternative, she seeks relief by way of a
petition for a writ of audita querela.
filing is prompted by Arthur Andersen LLP v. United
States, 544 U.S. 696, 125 S.Ct. 2129, 161 L.Ed.2d 1008
(2005), and Fowler v. United States, 563 U.S. 668,
131 S.Ct. 2045, 179 L.Ed.2d 1099 (2011), both decided after
her 2255 motion was denied. She argues these cases
decriminalized the conduct that was the basis of her
convictions. She points out that Willie Tyler, a
co-conspirator, successfully used these decisions to vacate
his convictions on the same offenses. See United States
v. Tyler, 732 F.3d 241 (3d Cir. 2013), and United
States v. Tyler, 35 F.Supp.3d 650 (M.D. Pa. 2014).
not reach the merits of Bell's claims because we agree
with the government that Bell must pursue them in a petition
under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. We lack jurisdiction over such a
petition because Bell must file it in the district of her
confinement and where her custodian is located, the United
States District Court for the Northern District of
California. We will therefore dismiss this motion without
prejudice to Bell's filing a 2241 petition in that
April 21, 1992, Doreen Proctor was murdered in Adams County,
Pennsylvania. Proctor was to be a witness later that day in a
state-court drug trial against David Tyler, Willie
Tyler's brother. In July 1992, Bell was arrested and
charged under state law with Proctor's murder. Others
charged and arrested were David Tyler, Willie Tyler, Jerome
King, David King, and Mary Hodge.
was tried in Adams County for criminal homicide and related
offenses. In April 1993, she was acquitted of all charges.
Federal authorities then conducted their own investigation of
the Proctor homicide, leading to the filing of federal
charges against Bell and Willie Tyler. Bell and Tyler were
January 1996, Bell was found guilty by a jury of the
following offenses: (1) conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 371 (Count I); (2) tampering with a witness by murder,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(A) and (C) (Count
III); (3) tampering with a witness by use of physical force
and threats, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1),
(2), and (3) (Count IV); and (4) using a firearm to commit a
crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)
September 16, 1996, before she was sentenced, Bell filed a
motion to vacate under section 2255. (Doc. 86). On September
24, 1996, the motion was dismissed (Doc. 90), based upon
being premature. (Doc. 133, Bell's Motion for Relief from
Judgment ¶ 10). On September 30, 1996, Bell was
sentenced to life imprisonment, consisting of a term of five
years on Count I, life imprisonment on Count III, ten years
on Count IV, to run concurrently with each other, and ten
years on Count V, to run consecutively to the term imposed on
Count III. (Doc. 92).
convictions were upheld on direct appeal. See United
States v. Bell, 113 F.3d 1345 (3d Cir. 1997). In
November 1998, Bell filed a pro se motion under section 2255.
It raised the following grounds for relief:
1. Ineffective assistance of counsel: "[Trial counsel]
showed a total lack of devotion to defendant's interests,
he had very little contact with the defendant, he failed to
send an investigator, and he failed to request a continuance
when, due to the weather, we were told that there was a
shortage of jurors. (Please see attachment)”
2. Double jeopardy: "The Constitution states that a
person shall not be twice put in jeopardy of life of limb
(sic) for for (sic) the same offense."
3. Due Process: "Trooper Graham tampered with evidence
and manufactured notes containing incriminating evidence
against the defendant. He misled the court."
4. Vindictive Prosecution: "I was reprosecuted because
the lead investigator was angry about having to take the
stand at my first trial as my rebuttal witness, therefore
rebutting his whole case against me."
(Doc. 114, ECF pp. 4-5). By order dated February 1, 1999, we
denied the motion. We rejected the first and third grounds
for relief because they were conclusory. We rejected the
second ground for relief because it had already been decided
adversely to Bell. We rejected the fourth ground for relief
because, in part, Bell did not show why it could not have
been raised in the original criminal proceedings. (Doc. 117,
ECF pp. 3-4). Bell did not seek a certificate of
appealability from the Third Circuit. (Doc. 133, Def.'s
Rule 60(b) motion ¶ 18).
Bell did not seek any further relief from her convictions
except that in June 2016 she sought permission from the Third
Circuit to file a second 2255 motion challenging her
conviction on Count V under Johnson v. United
States, U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2551, 192 L.Ed.2d 569 (2015).
In re Bell, No. 16-2758 (3d Cir.). And in the same