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Mata v. Hazlewood

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

January 29, 2018

Alberto Mata
v.
Robert Hazlewood, Warden, FCI Berlin

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Alberto Mata, currently a federal inmate in Florida, petitioned this court for a writ of habeas corpus (Doc. No. 1), pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, when he was an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution in Berlin, New Hampshire (“FCI-Berlin”). Before the court is the respondent's motion to dismiss and objection to the relief sought in the petition (Doc. No. 4). Mata objects to the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 7).

         Background

         In March 2008, in a federal prosecution in the Southern District of Texas, Mata pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B)(vii). See Conditional Plea Agreement, United States v. Mata, No. 5:07-CR-1435-1 (“Criminal Case”) (S.D. Tex. Mar. 11, 2008) (ECF No. 97). In November 2008, Mata was sentenced to 168 months on those charges, based in part on the imposition of a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence, and to a determination that he was a “career offender” under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”). See Nov. 14, 2008 Judgment, Criminal Case (ECF No. 152); see also Nov. 12, 2014 Mem. & Order, Criminal Case (ECF No. 195) (discussing procedural history).

         At all relevant times, Mata had both a prior cocaine “delivery” conviction, in violation of § 481.112 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, [1] and a prior Texas burglary conviction. See Pet. (Doc. No. 1), at 10. Mata was subjected to an enhanced sentence as a “career offender” under § 4B1.1 of the Guidelines, [2] see id.; see also Nov. 12, 2014 Mem. & Order, Criminal Case (ECF No. 195), and to a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B), which provides for a ten-year minimum sentence if the defendant has been previously convicted of “felony drug offense.”

         Mata filed an unsuccessful direct appeal of his federal conviction and sentence, see United States v. Mata, 397 Fed.Appx. 39 (5th Cir. 2010), and an unsuccessful motion in his federal criminal case under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, challenging the court's use of the Texas burglary conviction in finding him to be a career offender under the Guidelines. See Dec. 13, 2010 § 2255 Mot., Criminal Case (ECF No. 179); see also Apr. 5, 2011 Mem., Criminal Case (ECF No. 181), slip op. at 2 (denying § 2255 motion).

         The instant § 2241 petition focuses on Mata's Texas drug delivery conviction, in challenging the federal court's use of that prior conviction in imposing a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 841, and in citing that conviction as a predicate offense in sentencing Mata as a “career offender” under § 4B1.1 of the Guidelines. Mata relies on two 2016 cases, Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and United States v. Hinkle, 832 F.3d 569 (5th Cir. 2016), arguing that those cases effectively narrowed the scope of § 841's mandatory minimum and the Guidelines career offender provisions, as applied to his drug delivery conviction.

         Discussion

         I. Savings Clause Jurisdiction

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, the trial court generally has exclusive jurisdiction over an individual's post-conviction motions challenging the validity of his or her conviction or sentence. Section 2255(e), known as the “savings clause, ” preserves a limited role for the court in the district where a federal inmate is in prison to consider a § 2241 petition challenging the validity of his or her detention. See United States v. Barrett, 178 F.3d 34, 49 (1st Cir. 1999). When Mata filed the § 2241 petition at issue here, Mata was an FCI-Berlin inmate, seeking to invoke this court's “savings clause” jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

         The savings clause provides, in pertinent part:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to [§ 2255], shall not be entertained . . . unless it . . . appears that the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e) (emphasis added).

         “[P]ost-conviction relief can be termed ‘inadequate' or ‘ineffective'” for purposes of invoking the savings clause, “only when, in a particular case, the configuration of section 2255 is such ‘as to deny a convicted defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification.'” Trenkler v. United States, 536 F.3d 85, 99 (1st Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original) (citation omitted). The jurisdictional inquiry into § 2255's “adequacy and effectiveness must be judged ex ante.” Id. The First Circuit has noted that “[m]ost courts have required a credible allegation of actual innocence, ” before a petitioner can access the savings clause. Trenkler, 536 F.3d at 99. See also United States v. Almenas, 52 F.Supp.3d 341, 345 (D. Mass. 2014). Savings clause jurisdiction is available for petitioners asserting statutory claims based on new binding precedent, previously unavailable to them, that narrows the scope of a criminal statute in a manner that would have rendered them not guilty under the ...


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