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Winfield v. United States Probation & Pretrial Services

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Western Division

August 9, 2018

PAUL WINFIELD PETITIONER
v.
UNITED STATES PROBATION & PRETRIAL SERVICES and CHRIS COUNTS RESPONDENTS

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MICHAEL T. PARKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Petition of Paul Winfield for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the undersigned recommends that the Petition [1] be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner Paul Winfield is the former mayor of Vicksburg, Mississippi. On March 19, 2013, Petitioner, while serving as mayor, was indicted for theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B).[1] Following a guilty plea, Petitioner was convicted of this crime in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on or about November 19, 2013. See United States v. Winfield, 5:13-cv-5-DCB-FKB (S.D. Miss 2013). Petitioner was sentenced to a 25-month term of imprisonment and a three-year term of supervised release. Id. Petitioner completed his term of imprisonment.

         On January 16, 2018, Petitioner, while serving his term of supervised release, filed the instant Petition [1], arguing that his conviction is no longer valid in light of the Supreme Court's holding in McDonnell v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016). On March 21, 2018, Respondent filed a Response [9], arguing that this Court does not have jurisdiction to consider this § 2241 habeas petition.

         ANALYSIS

         The general rule is that a challenge to the validity of a conviction or sentence must be pursued in a motion filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. See Pack v. Yusuff, 218 F.3d 448, 451-52 (5th Cir. 2000); Tolliver v. Dobre, 211 F.3d 876, 877 (5th Cir. 2000). Petitioner, however, is proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which is generally used to attack the manner in which a sentence is executed. Id.[2] There is a savings clause in § 2255 which acts as a limited exception to these general rules and allows a § 2241 petition under certain limited circumstances. This savings clause provides as follows:

An applicant for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section, shall not be entertained if it appears that the applicant has failed to apply for relief, by motion, to the court which sentenced him, or that such court has denied him relief, unless it also appears that the remedy by motion is inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.

28 U.S.C. § 2255(e).

         Thus, “a section 2241 petition that seeks to challenge a federal sentence or conviction- thereby effectively acting as a section 2255 motion-may only be entertained when the petitioner establishes that the remedy provided for under section 2255 is inadequate or ineffective.” Pack, 218 F.3d at 452 (citations omitted). Petitioner bears the burden of establishing the inadequateness or ineffectiveness of the Section 2255 remedy. Id. To satisfy the requirements of the savings clause, Petitioner must demonstrate that (1) he raises a claim “that is based on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision, ” (2) the claim was previously “foreclosed by circuit law at the time when [it] should have been raised in petitioner's trial, appeal or first § 2255 motion, ” and (3) the retroactively applicable decision establishes that “the petitioner may have been convicted of a nonexistent offense” or, in other words, the petitioner may be actually innocent. Reyes-Requena v. United States, 243 F.2d 893, 904 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Petitioner argues that the Supreme Court's holding in McDonnell v. United States, 136 S.Ct. 2355 (2016) establishes that he was convicted of a nonexistent offense, that the United States employed an overbroad reading of Section 666, and that the United States breached the boundaries of federalism. Respondent argues that Petitioner has not met the requirements of the savings clause because he has failed to demonstrate that he was convicted of a nonexistent offense based on a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision. Specifically, Respondent argues that Petitioner's reliance on McDonnell is misplaced as McDonnell does not apply to Petitioner's conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B). The undersigned agrees.

         In McDonnell, the Supreme Court considered the proper interpretation of an “official act” under the federal bribery statute, 18 U.S.C. § 201(a)(3). In that case, the United States indicted former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and his wife on bribery charges, including honest services wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 and Hobbs Act extortion. McDonnell, 136 S.Ct. at 2365. The parties agreed that in the jury instructions they would define these crimes with reference to § 201 and its definition of “official act.” Id. The Supreme Court held that the jury instructions defined “official act” too broadly, and the Supreme Court adopted a “more bounded interpretation of ‘official act.'” Id. at 2368, 2375. Thus, the Supreme Court vacated McDonnell's convictions and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. Id. at 2375.

         In the case sub judice, Petitioner was convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 666, a statute which was not at issue in McDonnell. Acknowledging that § 666 was not specifically at issue in McDonnell, Petitioner argues that McDonnell “represents a sea change in federal public corruption prosecutions, and sets forth broad principles and concerns that touch on the ‘criterion of guilt' in such cases.” See Reply [11] at 1.

         At least one district court within this circuit has addressed whether McDonnell represents a retroactively applicable Supreme Court decision establishing that a conviction under § 666 may be a conviction of a “nonexistent ...


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