United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Luis Riascos Valencia, FCI Fort Dix Fort Dix, NJ, Petitioner Pro se.
NOEL L. HILLMAN, District Judge.
Petitioner Luis Riascos Valencia is a federal inmate confined at FCI Fort Dix in Fort Dix, New Jersey. He has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 1). For the reasons set forth below, the court lacks jurisdiction over the instant habeas petition and this matter will be dismissed.
Petitioner was seized while on board a vessel at sea and found to be in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, ("MDLEA") 46 U.S.C. § 70501, et seq. In January, 2003, Petitioner was indicted by a federal grand jury in the Middle District of Florida on two charges: (1) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five (5) kilograms or more of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and (2) possession with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine while on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States; in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2, 21 U.S.C. § 960(b)(1)(B)(ii) and 46 U.S.C. § 1903(a), (g) and (j), the MDLEA [now at 46 U.S.C. §§ 70503(a), 70506(a), (b)].
At the conclusion of a jury trial conducted from July 14-23, 2003, Petitioner was found guilty of both counts of the indictment. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida sentenced Petitioner to 235 months' imprisonment. On appeal, Petitioner's convictions and sentence were affirmed by United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
In 2007 Petitioner filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. That motion was denied in June, 2009. In August, 2012, Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b)(4) in the sentencing court. The motion was dismissed as an unauthorized successive motion to vacate under § 2255.
Petitioner then filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. In his Petition, he asserts that "Congress does not have power under the offence clause to apply Drug Trafficking Law to conduct in the Territorial waters of another State." (Pet. 16, ECF No. 1). Petitioner relies on the recent decision of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Bellaizac-Hurtado, 700 F.3d 1245 (11th Cir. 2012) in support of his Petition. In essence, Petitioner argues that the Middle District of Florida lacked jurisdiction to impose a sentence and he requests that this Court vacate his conviction.
Respondent contends that Petitioner's reliance on Bellaizac-Hurtado is misplaced. Specifically, Respondent asserts that the holding in Bellaizac-Hurtado does not apply to a vessel in international waters. Respondent further contends that Petitioner's vessel was stopped in international waters and Respondent relies on determinations made by the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida during Petitioner's prosecution in support of this contention. (Resp. 10, ECF No. 5). Thus, Respondent states that Bellaizac-Hurtado is inapplicable to the facts of this case and Respondent concludes that Petitioner's claims fail and that the Petition must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
In his Traverse (ECF No. 7), Petitioner argues that his vessel was stopped in the territorial waters of Panama. He asserts, without support, that the Panamanian Government gave permission to United States authorities to board the vessel by issuing a Statement of No Objection ("SNO"). Finally, Petitioner states that his allegation that his vessel was in the territorial waters of Panama is supported by the fact that Panamanian officials had custody of Petitioner's personal belongings. Petitioner states that the United States had to request return of this property from Panamanian officials and Petitioner attaches documentation which he believes supports this assertion.
A. STANDARD FOR SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL
With respect to screening the instant petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2243 provides in relevant part:
A court, justice or judge entertaining an application for a writ of habeas corpus shall forthwith award the writ or issue an order directing the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted, unless it appears from the application ...