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Rodriguez v. Warden

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

June 18, 2019

WARDEN, Respondent.





         Petitioner Ricky Lee Rodriguez, a federal inmate currently housed at the U.S. Penitentiary - Terre Haute, located in Terre Haute, Indiana, seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. He argues that he is entitled to relief because: (1) he is innocent based upon newly discovered evidence and the government failed to prove the essential elements necessary to convict him under 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(8); and (2) based upon a new United States Supreme Court decision, his two prior convictions do not support his conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 117. For the reasons explained below, his petition is denied.

         I. Section 2241 Standard

         A motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is the presumptive means by which a federal prisoner can challenge his conviction or sentence. See Shepherd v. Krueger, 911 F.3d 861, 862 (7th Cir. 2018); Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1124 (7th Cir. 2015) (en banc). Under very limited circumstances, however, a prisoner may employ section 2241 to challenge his federal conviction or sentence. Webster, 784 F.3d at 1124. This is because “[§] 2241 authorizes federal courts to issue writs of habeas corpus, but § 2255(e) makes § 2241 unavailable to a federal prisoner unless it ‘appears that the remedy by motion [under § 2255] is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of [the] detention.'” Roundtree v. Krueger, 910 F.3d 312, 313 (7th Cir. 2018). Section 2255(e) is known as the “savings clause.” The Seventh Circuit has held that § 2255 is “‘inadequate or ineffective' when it cannot be used to address novel developments in either statutory or constitutional law, whether those developments concern the conviction or the sentence.” Roundtree, 910 F.3d at 313 (citing e.g., In re Davenport, 147 F.3d 605 (7th Cir. 1998); Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2013); Webster, 784 F.3d at 1123). Whether § 2255 is inadequate or ineffective “focus[es] on procedures rather than outcomes.” Taylor v. Gilkey, 314 F.3d 832, 835 (7th Cir. 2002).

         The Seventh Circuit construed the savings clause in In re Davenport, holding:

A procedure for postconviction relief can be fairly termed inadequate when it is so configured as to deny a convicted defendant any opportunity for judicial rectification of so fundamental a defect in his conviction as having been imprisoned for a nonexistent offense.

In re Davenport, 147 F.3d at 611. “[S]omething more than a lack of success with a section 2255 motion must exist before the savings clause is satisfied.” Webster, 784 F.3d at 1136.[1] Specifically, to fit within the savings clause following Davenport, a petitioner must meet three conditions: “(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); Brown v. Caraway, 719 F.3d 583, 586 (7th Cir. 2013).[2]

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 30, 3014, Rodriguez was charged in a two-count Information with assaulting his intimate and dating partner by strangulation or attempted strangulation within Indian country, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(8), 1151 and 1152 (count one); and domestic assault by a habitual offender, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 117 and 1151 (count two) in the Eastern District of Michigan. United States v. Rodriguez, No. 1:14-cr-20260-TLL-PTM-1 (E.D. Mich) (hereinafter “Crim. Dkt.”).

         On May 8, 2014, the United States and Rodriguez entered into a plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, wherein Rodriguez waived indictment by a grand jury and pleaded guilty to counts one and two of the Information. Dkt. 17-1 at ¶ 1A. The parties agreed that there were no sentencing guideline disputes, and the defendant's sentencing guideline range was a term of 70 to 87 months' imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 2B. On May 28, 2014, the district court accepted Rodriguez's guilty plea and took the parties' plea agreement under advisement. Crim. Dkt. 22.

         On September 23, 2014, Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of 82 months' imprisonment on count one and 60 months on count two, to run concurrently. Crim. Dkt. 25. Rodriguez did not appeal his conviction and sentence, nor did he seek relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         On August 14, 2018, Rodriguez filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, and a ...

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