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Winters v. Kreuger

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

May 31, 2018



          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Court Chief Judge

         Petitioner Michael Winters is an inmate currently housed at the United States Penitentiary, located in Terre Haute, Indiana. He brings this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. For the following reasons, Winters' habeas petition must be denied.

         I. Factual Background

         Winters was indicted in the Western District of Michigan and pleaded guilty to one count of armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d). United States v. Winters, 1:05-cr-99-JTN-1 (W.D. Mich. Jan. 26, 2006) (“Crim. Dkt.”). Under the terms of his written plea agreement, Winters agreed that the court would make the final determination of the Guideline range that applies in his case, and may impose a sentence within, above, or below the guideline range, subject to the statutory maximum penalties. Crim. Dkt. 40. No. Guidelines were identified in the plea agreement.

         At sentencing, Winters' offense level under the Guidelines was adjusted in a number of ways. At issue here is the enhancement for being found to be a career offender. Because Winters has three prior convictions for breaking and entering, he was determined to be a career offender within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 and his total offense level became 34. PSR ¶ 58. These felonies included three convictions in Michigan for Breaking and Entering a Building with Intent - on November 13, 1992, December 18, 1992, and January 8, 1993. Dkt. 1 at 14.

         Based on a total offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of VI, Winters' Guideline range for imprisonment was 262 to 327 months, but pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5G1.2(c)(1), the Guideline range became 262 to 300 months. PSR ¶ 120. At the hearing, the sentencing judge recognized that the Guidelines “are presumed to be of guidance only” and that he could “go up and down anywhere you want to under [§] 3553.” Crim. Dkt. 58 at 57; e.g., Crim. Dkt. 58 at 29 (recognizing that the Guidelines are “advisory”). The judge noted the Guideline calculation and stated that the “Court's duty is to impose a sentence sufficient but not greater than is necessary to comply with the purposes of [§] 3553 (a).” Crim. Dkt. 58 at 63. After discussing the appropriate factors, the judge sentenced Winters to 264 months' imprisonment, concluding that the sentence was “not greater than necessary to comply with the purposes of Section 3553 (a)” and was consistent with the Guideline range. Crim. Dkt. 58 at 66; Crim. Dkt 54.

         Winters raised two sentencing issues on direct appeal. Winters argued that he should have received a reduction for acceptance of responsibility and that the enhancement for use of a dangerous weapon was improper. The Sixth Circuit disagreed and affirmed Winters' sentence. See United States v. Winters, 247 Fed.Appx. 665 (6th Cir. 2007).

         On June 30, 2008, Winters filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. Crim. Dkt. 68. Winters' § 2255 motion was denied, and he was denied a certificate of appealability. On August 14, 2014, the Sixth Circuit granted Winters authorization to file a successive habeas motion in the district court pursuant to Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). In light of Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 889, 895 (2017), Winters' § 2255 motion was denied. Winters v. United States, No. 1:16-cv-986 (W.D. Michigan 2016).

         Winters now seeks relief pursuant to § 2241 arguing that under Mathis v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), his sentence should not have been enhanced based on his state burglary convictions.

         II. Standard

         To succeed on a motion for relief under § 2241, a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 must be “inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(e). Section 2255 is inadequate or ineffective if the following three requirements are met: “(1) the petitioner must rely on a case of statutory interpretation (because invoking such a case cannot secure authorization for a second § 2255 motion); (2) the new rule must be previously unavailable and apply retroactively; and (3) the error asserted must be grave enough to be deemed a miscarriage of justice, such as the conviction of an innocent defendant.” Davis v. Cross, 863 F.3d 962, 964 (7th Cir. 2017).

         III. Discussion

         The parties agree that Winters has met the first two requirements to bring a § 2241 case.[1]But the parties disagree regarding whether Winters' petition satisfies the third requirement for relief under § 2241 - that the error is grave enough to be a miscarriage of justice. The respondent argues that Mathis does not apply to Winters' claims. The respondent argues that there was no error in sentencing Winters and therefore no manifest injustice. Winters argues that his burglary convictions are not sufficient to enhance his sentence and his sentence was therefore improperly enhanced. For the following reasons, the Court finds that Mathis does apply to Winters' claims, but that Winters has not demonstrated a miscarriage of justice as required to warrant relief.

         The Supreme Court held in Mathis that a crime counts as “burglary” under the Armed Career Criminal Act (“ACCA”) only “if its elements are the same as, or narrower than, those of the generic offense.” Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2248. “But if the crime of conviction covers any more conduct than the generic offense, then it is not an ACCA ‘burglary'-even if the defendant's actual conduct (i.e., the facts of the crime) fits within the generic offense's boundaries.” Id. The generic offense of burglary contains “the following elements: an unlawful ...

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