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Ledezma-Rodriguez v. Brecken

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

September 24, 2019

JUAN LEDEZMA-RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner,
v.
M. BRECKEN, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. JACKSON L. KISER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Juan Ledezma-Rodriguez, a federal inmate proceeding pro se, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. §2241. Relying on 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e), United States v. Wheeler, 886 F.3d 415 (4th Cir. 2018), and United States v. Simmons, 649 F.3d 237 (4th Cir. 2011), [1] Ledezma-Rodriguez seeks to invalidate the sentence imposed on him by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in 2002, No. 3:00cr00071. Upon review of the record, I conclude that the respondent's motion to dismiss must be granted because I lack jurisdiction to consider Ledezma-Rodriguez's § 2241 petition.

         I.

         In 2002, after a jury trial in the Southern District of Iowa, the court convicted Ledezma-Rodriguez of possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of mixture containing methamphetamine and amphetamine purporting to be methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B); conspiracy to distribute cocaine and more than 500 grams of mixture containing methamphetamine and amphetamine purporting to be methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(B); and carrying a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Prior to trial, the United States filed a notice of prior convictions pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, setting forth Ledezma-Rodriguez's two prior Oregon felony drug convictions, which increased the mandatory minimum sentence to life imprisonment on two of the federal drug counts. The court sentenced Ledezma-Rodriguez to life imprisonment on the conspiracy and methamphetamine distribution convictions, a concurrent thirty-year sentence on the cocaine distribution conviction, and a consecutive five-year sentence on the § 924(c) conviction. Ledezma-Rodriguez appealed and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit denied the appeal.

         In September 2003, Ledezma-Rodriguez filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to § 2255, which the Southern District of Iowa denied and the Eighth Circuit affirmed. In 2006, Ledezma-Rodriguez filed a petition for a successive habeas corpus motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2244, and the Eighth Circuit denied his motion. In 2013, Ledezma-Rodriguez filed a second § 2255 motion in the district court and the court dismissed it without prejudice as successive. In 2014, Ledezma-Rodriguez filed another petition for a successive habeas corpus motion under § 2244, which the court again denied. In 2016, Ledezma-Rodriguez filed a third petition for a successive habeas corpus motion under § 2244, and the court again denied his petition.

         In his instant § 2241 petition, Ledezma-Rodriguez argues that his sentence is unlawful because his prior Oregon drug convictions are not qualifying offenses for the sentencing enhancement of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), in light of Simmons, 649 F.3d 237.[2] Respondent filed a motion to dismiss and Ledezma-Rodriguez has responded, making the matter ripe for disposition.

         II.

         A prisoner generally must file a motion under § 2255 to collaterally attack the legality of his detention under a federal conviction or sentence. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 343 (1974). A district court cannot entertain a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under § 2241 challenging 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 clause"); United States v. Wheeler. 886 F.3d 415, 423 (4th Cir. 2018). "[T]he remedy afforded by § 2255 is not rendered inadequate or ineffective merely because an individual has been unable to obtain relief under that provision, or because an individual is procedurally barred from filing a § 2255 motion." In re Vial 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 n.5 (4th Cir. 1997).[3]

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has concluded that § 2255 is inadequate and ineffective to test the legality of a sentence when:

(1) at the time of sentencing, settled law of this circuit or the Supreme Court established the legality of the sentence; (2) subsequent to the prisoner's direct appeal and first § 2255 motion, the aforementioned settled substantive law changed and was deemed to apply retroactively on collateral review; (3) the prisoner is unable to meet the gatekeeping provisions of § 2255(h)(2) for second or successive motions; and (4) due to this retroactive change, the sentence now presents an error sufficiently grave to be deemed a fundamental defect.

Wheeler. 886 F.3d at 429.[4] If any one of the requirements is not met, the court is deprived of jurisdiction and may not "entertain [the petition] to begin with." Id. at 425. Ledezma-Rodriguez bears the burden of proving subject matter jurisdiction. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982).

         In evaluating the substantive law in a § 2255(e) savings clause analysis, the court must "look to the substantive law of the circuit where a defendant was convicted." Hahn v. Moseley, 931 F.3d 295, 300-01 (4th Cir. 2019). The Iowa district court where Ledezma-Rodriguez was convicted is within the Eighth Circuit. 28 U.S.C. § 41. Accordingly, while the court must apply the procedural standard in Wheeler, it must do so using Eighth Circuit substantive law. Id.

         Ledezma-Rodriguez relies exclusively on Simmons as substantive law to support his argument. However, Simmons is a Fourth Circuit decision that is not binding upon courts within other circuits.[5] See Williams v. Ziegler, No. 5:12-0398, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 183854, at *14, 2014 WL 201713, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. Dec. 30, 2013) (citing Goodwin v. United States, No. I:12cv430; l:08crl04, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 80093, at *9, 2013 WL 2468365, at * 3 (E.D. Term. June 7, 2013)). Ledezma-Rodriguez has failed to identify any retroactive Eighth Circuit case that would substantively change the law applicable to his conviction. ...


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