United States District Court, D. New Jersey
Earl Watts, Petitioner pro se #16258-171 FCI Fort Dix Inmate
HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE JUDGE.
Earl Watts, a federal prisoner confined at FCI Fort Dix, New
Jersey, has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. [Docket Entry 3]. For the
reasons expressed below, this Court will dismiss the petition
for lack of jurisdiction.
a jury trial, Petitioner was sentenced in the United States
District Court for the District of South Carolina on February
5, 2010 to a custodial term of 360 months for conspiracy to
distribute narcotics, 21 U.S.C. § 846. [Docket Entry 3
at 16; United States v. Watts, No. 4:08-cr-00372
(D.S.C. Mar. 10, 2010)]. The United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the convictions and sentence
on appeal. United States v. Watts, 453 Fed.Appx. 309
(4th Cir. 2011).
filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 in May 2014, alleging trial
counsel “fail[ed] to inform Watts of the existence of
the ‘Proffer Statement of Watts's codefendant and
to hand it offer [sic] to Watts.'” [Docket Entry 3
at 19]. The § 2255 motion was denied by the sentencing
court. Order Denying § 2255 Motion, Watts, No.
4:08-cr-00372 (May 5, 2014 Docket Entry 998).
subsequently filed the instant petition under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2241 challenging the validity of his conviction.
[Docket Entry 3]. He raises four grounds for relief: (1)
ineffective assistance of counsel based on the district
court's finding that “Watts was culpable for 6.3
kilograms of Meth by the mere preponderance of the evidence,
using the unlawful proffer. . .”; (2) ineffective
assistance of counsel based on the district court's
finding that “Watts was the leader & or organizer
by the mere preponderance of the evidence low standard of
proof & deeming this substantial enhancement as a
‘Sentencing Factors' when in actuality it is a
‘element of a crime'”; (3) ineffective
assistance of counsel based on the government's failure
to turn over Petitioner's co-defendant's proffer
statement; and (4) ineffective assistance of counsel based on
the government's “constructive amendment” of
the indictment without returning to the grand jury. [Docket
Entry 3 at 21-23].
matter is now ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
brings this petition 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)). A pro se habeas petition and any supporting
submissions must be construed liberally and with a measure of
tolerance. See Royce v. Hahn, 151 F.3d 116, 118 (3d
Cir. 1998); Lewis v. Attorney Gen., 878 F.2d 714,
721-22 (3d Cir. 1989); United States v. Brierley,
414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969), cert. denied, 399
U.S. 912 (1970).
a federal district court must dismiss a habeas corpus
petition if it appears from the face of the petition that the
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).
2241 “confers habeas jurisdiction to hear the petition
of a federal prisoner who is challenging not the validity but
the execution of his sentence.” Coady v.
Vaughn,251 F.3d 480, 485 (3d Cir. 2001). A challenge to
the validity of a federal conviction or sentence must be
brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Jackman v.
Shartle,535 Fed.Appx. 87, 88 (3d Cir. 2013) (per
curiam) (citing Okereke v. United States, 307 F.3d
117, 120 (3d Cir. 2002)). “[Section] 2255 expressly
prohibits a district court from considering a challenge to a
prisoner's federal sentence under § 2241 unless the
remedy under § 2255 is ‘inadequate or ineffective
to test the ...