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Ragnoli v. J. Hollingsworth

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 5, 2018



          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         On or about August 1, 2016, Petitioner Joseph Ragnoli, a prisoner currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, New Jersey, filed this writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, challenging the calculation of his sentence. (ECF No. 1.) For the reasons stated below, the Petition will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Third Circuit provided the following summary of the procedural history of Petitioner's criminal case:

On April 29, 2005, law enforcement agents searched Ragnoli's home pursuant to a search warrant and found over two kilograms of methamphetamine. On August 12, 2005, Ragnoli pled guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, and one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The District Court sentenced him to 84 months' imprisonment and 10 years of supervised release. After serving his term of imprisonment, Ragnoli was released and began serving his term of supervised release on January 26, 2011.
Three months later, the Pennsylvania State Police learned Ragnoli was engaging in multiple methamphetamine transactions via wiretaps that were part of a larger methamphetamine trafficking investigation. Ragnoli was arrested on November 27, 2012. On January 30, 2013, Ragnoli and 27 other individuals were charged with multiple offenses related to the distribution of methamphetamine.
On April 25, 2013, while Ragnoli was in state custody on his pending state charges, he was brought before the District Court pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum for violating his supervised release. Ragnoli stipulated that he had violated his supervised release and was sentenced to the maximum statutory penalty of 60 months' imprisonment. The Court did not specify if the 60-month term was to run consecutively or concurrently with the sentence that would be imposed in Ragnoli's pending state case, nor did Ragnoli's counsel raise the issue. Ragnoli did not appeal the District Court's judgment. He was immediately returned to state custody, and the federal judgment was filed as a detainer.
On May 30, 2013, Ragnoli pled guilty to two of his pending state charges. He was sentenced to 24 to 48 months' incarceration, which the State Court ordered “to be served concurrent and coterminous to the Federal Sentence he is currently serving.” Ragnoli served his state sentence, and was released to federal custody on December 3, 2014.
In a letter dated March 26, 2015, Jose A. Santana, the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) Regional Inmate Systems Administrator, sent a letter to the District Court regarding Ragnoli. The letter explained that Ragnoli had requested that the BOP run his federal sentence concurrently with his state sentence. The BOP could accomplish this by retroactively designating the state prison as the institution for service of Ragnoli's federal sentence. This retroactive designation would reduce the total amount of time Ragnoli spent in custody, as the State Court had ordered. The letter indicated that it is the BOP's “preference” to obtain the federal sentencing court's position on any such retroactive designations, but that the BOP would make its own decision if it had not heard back from the District Court within 60 days. If the District Court stated its position within 60 days, the BOP would designate Ragnoli's place of imprisonment according to the District Court's position.
On May 7, 2015, the District Court held a conference call with counsel for the government, Ragnoli's counsel, and a probation officer. Ragnoli was not present on the call, and no one objected to his absence. Later that day, the District Court issued a letter that read:
Joseph Ragnoli's sentence by this Court on April 25, 2013, to a 60- month term of confinement for violation of his supervised release is to run consecutive with his state term of imprisonment. See U.S.S.G. § 7B1.3, comment. Nn. 3, 4.

United States v. Ragnoli, 646 Fed.Appx. 189, 190-91 (3d Cir. 2016). Petitioner thereafter filed an appeal of the district court's “ruling” that the sentences should be consecutive, which was denied by the Court Appeals for lack of jurisdiction. Id. Specifically, the court found that:

when the District Court wrote the letter, it lacked the authority to issue an order modifying Ragnoli's sentence. In May 2015, approximately two years after the District Court had sentenced Ragnoli, only the BOP had the authority to credit Ragnoli for his time in state custody by retroactively designating his state institution for service of his federal sentence.
Since the District Court had no authority to modify its earlier sentencing order, and the BOP had independent authority to decide whether to credit Ragnoli for his time in state custody, the District Court's letter was only a non-binding recommendation to the BOP, not an appealable order.

Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         After challenging the calculation of his sentence administratively, Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition. (ECF No. 1.) ...

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