United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge
Angel Cruz-Danzot, an inmate presently confined at the Canaan
United States Penitentiary, Waymart, Pennsylvania
(USP-Canaan) filed this pro se habeas corpus
petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Named as
Respondent is USP-Canaan Warden J. Baltazar. Accompanying the
petition is an in forma pauperis application which
will be granted for the filing of this action with this
states that he entered a guilty plea in the United States
District Court for the District of Puerto Rico on a charge of
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 28
grams of cocaine base within 1, 000 feet of a protected
location Following his plea, Petitioner was sentenced on July
20, 2012 to a seventy-eight (78) month term of imprisonment.
See Doc. 1, ¶ 4.
exhibit attached to the petition indicates that Cruz-Danzot
filed an appeal which was dismissed as untimely on January
20, 2016. See Doc. 3-2, p. 2. Petitioner also admits
that he previously filed a motion with the sentencing court
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 which was dismissed as
untimely on April 19, 2017. See Doc. 1, ¶ 10.
pending action claims that he is entitled to federal habeas
corpus relief under Burrage v. United States, 134
S.Ct. 881 (2014), McFadden v. United States, 135
S.Ct. 2298 (2015), and Rosemond v. United States,
134 S.Ct. 1240 (2014). Petitioner argues that under the
principles announced in those post-sentence decisions, his
guilty plea was involuntary and unintelligent.
Burrage, the Supreme Court in addressing a
sentencing enhancement issue held that death only results
from drug trafficking when the use of the controlled
substance is the but for cause of the victim's death. It
added that a penalty enhancement can only be applied if a
jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim's
use of a drug distributed by the defendant was a “but
for” cause of death. McFadden recognized that
the government must prove that a defendant charged with a
controlled substance offense knew that the substance was a
controlled substance. Rosemond established that an
accomplice must have advanced knowledge of the crime the
principal is planning to commit.
Standard of Review
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 petitions
under Rule 1(b)). See, e.g., Patton v. Fenton, 491
F.Supp. 156, 158-59 (M.D. Pa. 1979).
provides in pertinent part: “If it plainly appears from
the petition and any attached exhibits that the petitioner is
not entitled to relief in the district court, the judge must
dismiss the petition and direct the clerk to notify the
petitioner.” A petition may be dismissed without review
of an answer “when the petition is frivolous, or
obviously lacking in merit, or where. . . the necessary facts
can be determined from the petition itself. . . .”
Gorko v. Holt, Civ. No. 4:05-cv-956, 2005 WL 1138479
*1 (M.D. Pa. May 13, 2005)(McClure, J.)(quoting Allen v.
Perini, 424 F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).
he initiated his action before this Court, Petitioner is
apparently arguing that he may bring his present claims of an
unconstitutional guilty plea and sentence via a § 2241
petition. It would appear that it is Cruz-Danzot's
contention that this Court has jurisdiction over his §
2241 action by virtue of his ongoing detention at USP-Canaan.
challenging the validity of a federal sentence and not its
execution, a federal prisoner is generally limited to seeking
relief by way of a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2255.In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245,
249 (3d Cir. 1997); Russell v. Martinez, 325
Fed.Appx. 45, 47 (3d Cir. 2009)(“a section 2255 motion
filed in the sentencing court is the presumptive means for a
federal prisoner to challenge the validity of a conviction or
sentence”). A challenge can only be brought under
§ 2241 if “it . . . appears that the remedy by [a
§ 2255] motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the
legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).
This language in § 2255, known as the safety-valve
clause, must be strictly construed. Dorsainvil, 119
F.3d at 251; Russell, 325 Fed.Appx. at 47 (the
safety valve “is extremely narrow ...