United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Robinson, Pro Se Petitioner.
P. Jones United States District Judge
petitioner, Keith Robinson, a federal inmate proceeding pro
se, has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging his mandatory life
sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 848(b) for operating a
continuing criminal enterprise (“CCE”). After
review of the record, I will summarily dismiss the
848(b) requires a life sentence on a CCE conviction if the
defendant was a leader or organizer of the CCE and his
offense conduct “involved at least 300 times the
quantity of a substance described in subsection
841(b)(1)(B).” 21 U.S.C. §§ 848(b)(1) and
(2). After a jury in the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Wisconsin found Robinson guilty of a CCE
offense, the trial judge found that
Robinson satisfied § 848(b)(1) as a principal organizer
and leader of the enterprise and § 848(b)(2)(A) because
he was involved in trafficking at least 10 kilograms of crack
cocaine (well in excess of the quantity required to trigger
the statute). As called for by § 848(b), [the judge]
sentenced Robinson to life in prison.
United States v. Hardin, 209 F.3d 652, 655 (7th Cir.
2000), cert. granted and judgment vacated sub
nom. Robinson v. United States, 531 U.S. 1135
the judgment against Robinson was affirmed on appeal.
See United States v. Robinson, 39 F.
App'x 386 (7th Cir. 2002) (unpublished),
cert.denied, 537 U.S. 963 (2002) and cert.
denied sub nom. Sallis v. United States, 540 U.S. 931
(2003). In its ruling, the court of appeals reaffirmed its
prior holding that “§ 848(b) was a sentencing
factor, not an element of the charge which had to be set out
in the indictment and proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a
jury.” Id. at 387 (citing United States v.
Harris, 243 F.3d 806 (4th Cir. 2001) and other circuit
court cases reaching same conclusion). Robinson then
filed an unsuccessful motion seeking relief under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255 that was dismissed as procedurally defaulted,
because he could have, but failed to raise the issues on
appeal. Order at 3, Robinson v. United States, No.
2:03-cv-000901-LA (E.D. Wis. May 31, 2006).
present § 2241 petition, Robinson again claims that his
life sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 848(b) is unlawful,
because the necessary factual issues for this enhancement
were not charged in the Indictment and decided beyond a
reasonable doubt by the jury. According to Robinson, if he
had been informed before trial that if convicted, he would be
sentenced to a mandatory life sentence, he would have pleaded
guilty. His current claims rest on a Supreme Court decision
issued after his initial § 2255 proceedings: Alleyne
v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 2155 (2013) (holding
that under the Sixth Amendment, “any fact that
increases the mandatory minimum is an ‘element'
that must be submitted to the jury” and overruling
Harris, 536 U.S. 545). Robinson also contends that
his sentence under § 848(b) was imposed without due
process and constituted cruel and unusual punishment, in
violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.
district court may not entertain a § 2241 petition
challenging the validity of an inmate's detention under a
federal court judgment unless a motion pursuant to §
2255 is “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality
of [that inmate's] detention.” 28 U.S.C. §
2255(e) (“the savings claus”); Swain v.
Pressley, 430 U.S.372, 381 (1977). A procedural
impediment to § 2255 relief, such as the statute of
limitations or the rule against successive petitions, does
not render § 2255 review “inadequate” or
“ineffective.” In re Vial, 115 F.3d
1192, 1194 n. 5 (4th Cir. 1997).The United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has concluded that
§ 2255 is inadequate and ineffective to test the
legality of a conviction when: (1) at the time of conviction
settled law of this circuit or the Supreme Court established
the legality of the conviction; (2) subsequent to the
prisoner's direct appeal and first § 2255 motion,
the substantive law changed such that the conduct of which
the prisoner was convicted is deemed not to be criminal; and
(3) the prisoner cannot satisfy the gatekeeping provisions of
§ 2255 because the new rule is not one of constitutional
In re Jones, 226 F.3d 328, 333-34 (4th Cir. 2000).
claims do not meet this three-prong standard. First, neither
Alleyne nor any other authority cited in
Robinson's petition decriminalized the acts for which he
was convicted. Moreover, “Fourth Circuit precedent has
. . . not extended the reach of the savings clause to those
petitioners challenging only their sentence[s].”
United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 267 n.7 (4th
Cir. 2008) (citing Jones, 226 F.3d at 333-34 as
identifying only circumstances when “§ 2255 is
inadequate and ineffective to test the legality of a
conviction”). Thus, Robinson cannot satisfy
the second prong of the “inadequate and
ineffective” analysis in Inre Jones.
In addition, “[b]ecause Alleyne is a
constitutional rule, ” he also cannot meet the third
prong of the analysis. Abbott v. United States, No.
2:13CV473, 2014 WL 12527697, at *2 (E.D. Va. Jan. 10, 2014),