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Garcia v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

May 23, 2019

MANUEL GARCIA, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JEROME B. SIMANDLE U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on two motions from Petitioner Manuel Garcia (“Petitioner”). The first motion, filed in the original criminal docket of Crim. No. 93-536, purportedly requests relief from his sentence pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). The second motion, docketed as the new civil case of Civil No. 16-3576, seeks to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in light of the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). For the reasons explained below, Petitioner's first motion will be construed as a successive § 2255 petition and dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, while the Johnson petition will be transferred to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit for consideration under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h). The Court finds as follows:

         1. Following a jury trial before this Court on September 29, 1994, Petitioner was convicted of using interstate commerce facilities to commit a murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on October 4, 1994. United States v. Garcia, Crim. No. 93-536-03 (D.N.J.). Petitioner appealed, see United States v. Garcia, App. No. 94-5647 (3d Cir.), and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction on July 29, 1996. United States v. Garcia, 92 F.3d 1173 (3d Cir. 1996).

         2. On June 2, 1997, Petitioner filed his initial petition to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in this Court. [Garcia v. United States, Civ. No. 97-2861 (D.N.J.), Docket Item 1.] The Court denied his petition in an Opinion and Order dated July 29, 1998. [Id. at Docket Items 8 & 9.] Petitioner sought to appeal that ruling [id. at Docket Item 12], but this Court denied his request for a Certificate of Appealability [id. at Docket Item 14], and the Third Circuit did the same. [Id. at Docket Item 16.]

         3. On August 13, 2001, Petitioner filed a motion seeking a reduction of his sentence pursuant to an amendment to United States Sentencing Guidelines § 2E1.4, which the Court construed as a motion arising under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) and denied on the merits. United States v. Garcia, 204 F.Supp.2d 790 (D.N.J. 2002).

         4. On June 27, 2005, Petitioner filed a second § 2255 petition in this Court, seeking relief under Rules 15 and 60(b), Fed. R. Civ. P., as well as Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004), and United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005). [Garcia, Civ. No. 97-2861 (D.N.J.), Docket Item 17.] This Court denied that petition as untimely [id. at Docket Item 18], and Petitioner did not seek further review.

         5. On April 17, 2007, Petitioner filed a motion to reopen and supplement his originally-filed petition for habeas corpus and to vacate his sentence pursuant to § 2255, Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b), and “The All Writs Act, ” 28 U.S.C. § 1651. [Id. at Docket Item 23.] For the reasons explained in a Memorandum Opinion dated April 9, 2008, the Court construed this motion as a successive § 2255 petition and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. Garcia v. United States, 2008 WL 1375571 (D.N.J. Apr. 9, 2008). Petitioner requested a Certificate of Appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1), see Garcia v. United States, App. No. 08-2249 (3d Cir.), which the Third Circuit denied. [Garcia, Civ. No. 97-2861, Docket Item 31.]

         6. On May 11, 2009, Petitioner filed in his criminal case a motion to “set aside judgment and dismiss the indictment for void judgment, and lack of jurisdiction.” [Garcia, Crim. No. 93-536 (D.N.J.), Docket Item 22.] Although Petitioner styled this motion as a Rule 60(b)(4) attack on a void judgment, the Court found that he was in fact offering new collateral attacks on the underlying conviction, construed this motion as a successive § 2255 petition, and dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. Garcia v. United States, 2009 WL 3068390 (D.N.J. Sept. 22, 2009).

         7. Petitioner subsequently filed two more motions seeking to reopen his § 2255 proceedings pursuant to Rules 60(b)(6) and (d), Fed. R. Civ. P., and Hazel-Atlas Glass Co. v. Hartford-Empire Co., 322 U.S. 238 (1944). [Garcia, Civ. No. 97-2861, Docket Item 32; Garcia, Crim. No. 93-536, Docket Item 52.] On May 10, 2011, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order, construing these motions as successive § 2255 petitions and dismissing them for lack of jurisdiction. Garcia v. United States, 2011 WL 1792277 (D.N.J. May 10, 2011). Alternatively, the Court held that Petitioner had not met his burden to bring a successful independent action under Hazel-Atlas. Id. Petitioner appealed and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed on August 25, 2011. See United States v. Garcia, App. No. 11-2413 (3d Cir.).

         8. On July 17, 2012, Petitioner filed an application with the Third Circuit requesting leave to file a second or successive petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b) and 2255(h). In re: Manuel Garcia, App. No. 12-2977 (3d Cir.). The Third Circuit denied this application under § 2255(h) because Petitioner did not claim to rely upon a new rule of constitutional law and because the purported “new evidence” that Petitioner raised in his proposed habeas petition had already been considered and rejected by the Third Circuit in In re: Manual Garcia, App. No. 00-5013 (3d Cir.). To the Court's knowledge, Petitioner has not since sought leave from the Third Circuit to file any second or successive petitions pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2244(b) and 2255(h).

         9. Currently pending before the Court are a “motion” purportedly requesting relief from Petitioner's sentence pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) and a § 2255 petition seeking to vacate, set aside, or correct Petitioner's sentence in light of the U.S. Supreme Court cases of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015) and Welch v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 1257 (2016). The Court addresses each in turn.

         10. Petitioner first filed a “motion” under Rule 60(b)(6), Fed. R. Civ. P., which was docketed on the criminal docket. [Garcia, Crim. No. 93-536 (D.N.J.), Docket Item 71.] In this motion, Petitioner argues, inter alia, that he is entitled to relief from his conviction and/or sentence because: (1) his Indictment under the RICO Statute did not charge an offense against the United States; and (2) the Indictment failed to charge 18 U.S.C. § 2 aiding or abetting and to charge the proper mens rea for that charge. [Id.] Notably, in his “opening statement to this Honorable Court, ” Petitioner states that this motion “is not to be Construed as a Second, or Successive Motion, under Title 28 U.S.C. 2255, ” and that “[t]his Motion is being filed under Rule 60-B-6.” [Id. at 2.] But Petitioner does not explain why this is so.

         11. The Third Circuit has held that:

[I]n those instances in which the factual predicate of a petitioner's Rule 60(b) motion attacks the manner in which the earlier habeas judgment was procured and not the underlying conviction, the Rule 60(b) motion may be adjudicated on the merits. However, when the Rule 60(b) motion seeks to collaterally attack the petitioner's ...

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