United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
RICHARD P. CONABOY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 was filed by Raaib Witherspoon,
an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood
Federal Correctional Institution, White Deer, Pennsylvania
(FCI-Allenwood). Named as Respondent is FCI-Allenwood Warden
Spaulding. The required filing fee has been paid.
entered a guilty plea to a charge of possession of a firearm
by a convicted felon in the United States District Court for
the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. See United States
v. Witherspoon, No. 2:11-cr-445. Witherspoon was
thereafter sentenced on September 26, 2013 as a career
offender to a one hundred and eighty (180) month term of
is no indication by Petitioner that he filed a direct appeal.
See Doc. 1, ¶ 7. However, Witherspoon
acknowledges that he previously filed a petition for relief
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 with the sentencing court.
His § 2255 petition is described as alleging improper
sentence enhancement because one of the predicate prior state
convictions underlying the enhancement had been vacated.
See id., ¶ 10. Petitioner's § 2255
action was denied by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on
October 27, 2015. Specifically, the Eastern District
concluded that although Petitioner's state court
conviction had been vacated it was only one of five prior
offenses used to find that Petitioner was a career criminal
and as such the validity of Witherspoon's sentence was
not affected I since the enhancement only required three
predicate offenses . See Witherspoon, No.
2:11-cr-445, Doc. 37, p. 11.
pending action, Parker claims that he is entitled to federal
habeas corpus relief because he was improperly sentenced as a
career offender under the standards announced in Mathis
v. United States, __U.S.__, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016).
See id. at ¶ 13. Petitioner contends that a
Pennsylvania state drug conviction was improperly used as a
predicate offense in designating him as a career offender.
Based upon the nature of Witherspoon's allegation, his
action will be construed as challenging the legality of his
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. foil. § 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.
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, 2005 WL 1138479 *1(M.D. Pa. May 13,
2005) (McClure, J.) (quoting Allen v. Perini, 424
F.2d 134, 141 (6th Cir. 1970).
corpus review under § 2241 "allows a federal
prisoner to challenge the ''execution' of his
sentence." Woodall v. Federal Bureau of
Prisons, 432 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2005). A habeas
corpus petition may be brought by a prisoner who seeks to
challenge either the fact or duration of his confinement in
prison. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475 (1973),
Telford v. Hepting, 980 F.2d 745, 748 (3d Cir.
1993). Federal habeas relief is available only "where
the deprivation of rights is such that it necessarily impacts
the fact or length of detention." Learner v.
Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002).
challenging the validity of a federal sentence, and not the
execution of his sentence, a federal prisoner is generally
limited to seeking relief by way of a motion pursuant to
§ 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 and has been held to
apply in unusual situations, such as those in which a
prisoner has had no prior opportunity to challenge his
conviction for a crime later deemed to be non-criminal by an
intervening change in the law").
is the inefficacy of the remedy, not the personal inability
to use it, that is determinative." Cradle v. United
States, 290 F.3d 536, 538 (3d Cir. 2002). "Section
2255 is not inadequate or ineffective merely because the
sentencing court does not grant relief, the one-year statute
of limitations has expired, or the petitioner is unable to
meet the stringent gatekeeping requirements of the amended
§ 2255." Id., at 539. See also,
Alexander v. Williamson, 324 Fed.Appx. 149, 151 (3d
Cir. Apr. 16, 2009).
instant claim is not based upon a contention that the conduct
which led to his conviction is no longer criminal as a result
of some change in the law. Rather, Witherspoon's action
only challenges his sentence enhancement. As recognized by
the Hon. Kim R. Gibson in Pollard v. Yost, No.
07-235, 2008 WL 4933599, at *6 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 18,
2008), for a challenge to a federal conviction to be
presented by a federal inmate by way of a § 2241
petition, there must not only be "a claim of actual
innocence but a claim of actual innocence coupled with the
inability to have brought the claim before because of a
change in the construction of the criminal statute by a court
having the last word on the proper construction of the
statute, which change rendered what had been thought to be
criminal within the ambit of the statute, no longer
criminal." Petitioner is clearly challenging the
validity of his sentence enhancement ...