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Sanchez-Hernandez v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

April 13, 2017


          Arnulfo Sanchez-Hernandez, Petitioner Pro Se



         This matter comes before the Court on Arnulfo Sanchez-Hernandez's Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Petition, Docket Entry 1.

         1. Petitioner is serving a sentence out of the Middle District of North Carolina after pleading guilty to conspiring to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, 21 U.S.C. § 826, and to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). Id. ¶ 4; Brief in Support at 23.

         See Judgment of Conviction, United States v. Sanchez-Hernandez, No. 1:08-0412-2 (M.D. N.C. June 18, 2009).[1]

         2. Petitioner challenged his conviction and sentence in two unsuccessful motions under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, one of which included a claim raised under Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Petition ¶¶ 7-8.

         3. Petitioner now appears to challenge the validity of his guilty plea, arguing he is actually innocent of the charges due to the Supreme Court's decisions in Watson v. United States, 552 U.S. 74 (2007) (holding “a person does not ‘use' a firearm under § 924(c)(1)(A) when he receives it in trade for drugs”) and McFadden v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2298 (2015) (holding government must prove defendant knew substance was a controlled substance under federal law in order to convict of distributing controlled substance). He also requests a writ of error coram nobis.

         4. Petitioner brings this Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus as a pro se litigant. The Court has an obligation to liberally construe pro se pleadings and to hold them to less stringent standards than more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Higgs v. Attorney Gen. of the U.S., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011), as amended (Sept. 19, 2011) (citing Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)).

         5. Nevertheless, a federal district court must dismiss a habeas corpus petition if it appears from the face of the petition that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 Rule 4 (made applicable through Rule 1(b)); see also McFarland v. Scott, 512 U.S. 849, 856 (1994); Siers v. Ryan, 773 F.2d 37, 45 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1025 (1989).

         6. “A § 2255 motion is the presumptive means by which a federal prisoner can collaterally attack the validity of his conviction or sentence.” Upshaw v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 634 F.App'x 357, 358 (3d Cir.) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e)), cert. denied sub nom Upshaw v. Ebbert, No. 15-9375, 2016 WL 2928201 (U.S. June 27, 2016). See also Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d 117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002). “A court may not entertain a habeas petition under § 2241 made by a federal prisoner ‘in custody under sentence of a [federal] court . . . unless it also appears that the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [the prisoner's] detention.'” Gardner v. Warden Lewisburg USP, 845 F.3d 99, 102 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255) (alterations and omission in original).

         7. To date, the Third Circuit has only applied the § 2255(e) exception “where the conduct that forms the basis for the conviction has since been deemed non-criminal by an intervening Supreme Court decision that was unavailable on appeal or during § 2255 proceedings.” Upshaw, 634 F.App'x at 358 (citing In re Dorsainvil, 119 F.3d 245, 251-52 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         8. Although somewhat unclear, Petitioner appears to argue that he falls within the Dorsainvil exception because his actions do not satisfy § 924(c)'s use element after the Supreme Court's Watson decision:

Petitioner arrest did not have him in POSSESS a Firearm or “USE” a Firearm during him Arrest or Trafficking Drug, [sic] the Government only argues Standard evidence in his Sentencing hearing, Petitioner asserts that, the Government did not has [sic] Sufficient Proof to he has in Possession [sic] a Firearm during and trafficking drug crime. Petitioner said the Government Obtaining all Firearms into of Brother house and not into of his house room, Petitioner during the arrest the Agents did not obtaining nothing of a Firearm in other house Owner's diferents [sic], Petitioner to Participate a minor role into the Conspiracy, the brother is who is the owner of all firearms and who manager and supervizer [sic] the drug and firearms.

         Brief in Support at 7. He further cites Bailey v. United States, which held that “§ 924(c)(1) requires evidence sufficient to show an active employment of the firearm by the defendant[.]” 516 U.S. 137, ...

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