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Hoover v. United States

United States District Court, D. Vermont

October 15, 2019

Frankie Hoover, Petitioner,
v.
United States of America, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER (DOC. 18)

          John M. Conroy United States Magistrate Judge

         In 2017, Defendant Frankie Hoover was convicted in this Court following his plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and 28 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846; 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B). United States v. Hoover, No. 5:16-cr-58-gwc, Docs 57, 62 (D. Vt. Apr. 21, 2016) (Hoover I). Hoover had pleaded guilty in that case pursuant to a binding plea agreement under Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). See Id. Doc. 38. That binding agreement called for a sentence of between 60 to 84 months in prison. Id. at 5, ¶ 13. On October 26, 2017, Hoover was sentenced to a 70-month term of imprisonment-within the agreed upon range-to be followed by a four-year term of supervised release. Id. Doc. 57. No. direct appeal was taken by Hoover.

         On April 11, 2019, Hoover, proceeding pro se, commenced postconviction relief proceedings in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and that action is now before this Court. Hoover v. United States, No. 5:19-cv-52-gwc, Doc. 1 (D. Vt. Apr. 15, 2019) (Hoover II).[1] A brief summary of that action and its road to this Court is helpful to understand the present posture of both cases. In its response to Hoover's filings in Hoover II, the government accurately describes the path Hoover's petition has taken to reach this Court:

On April 10, 2019, Hoover mailed a pleading to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania styled as a “Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Under 28 U.S.C. § 2241” (hereafter “Petition”). The Petition asserted that this Court incorrectly applied U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1)'s dangerous weapon enhancement when sentencing Hoover. In summary, the Petition contended that the Court's decision was wrong because Hoover never possessed a firearm, never knew an accomplice possessed a firearm, and that the evidence of gun possession was circumstantial and speculative. Hoover's Petition also stated that he appealed this Court's application of the firearm enhancement to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), beginning in August 2018, and that he escalated his appeal up the BOP chain of authority. Doc. 1, at 2-4.
Hoover also filed with the Middle District of Pennsylvania a Petition to Transfer Section 2241 Motion to Sentencing Court. Doc. 3 (hereafter “Transfer Motion”). In the Transfer Motion, Hoover argued that the Petition “attacks aspects of the 70[-]month sentence imposed upon him by the United States District Court for Vermont.” Doc. 3, at 1. Hoover also argued in the Transfer Motion that 28 U.S.C. § 2241 provided him with an avenue for the relief he seeks because “the remedy under § 2255 relief would be ‘inadequate or ineffective to test the legality of his detention.'” Doc. 3, at 1 (quoting United States v. Brooks, 230 F.3d 643, 647 (3d Cir. 2000)).
In an April 15, 2019 Memorandum Opinion granting the Transfer Motion, United States Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania explained that 28 U.S.C. § 2255 relief is not inadequate or ineffective merely because a § 2255 motion will not succeed for procedural or substantive reasons. Doc. 5 at 4. Therefore, “Hoover may not avoid the necessity of pursuing relief under § 2255, ” and if Hoover were to pursue relief under § 2241, “the petition must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.” Id.

(Doc.13 at 2-3.)

         After the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania transferred Hoover II to the District of Vermont, the government, assuming that the petition was one filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 challenging the sentence imposed in Hoover I, sought dismissal of Hoover's petition. (Doc. 13.) The government argues that relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 is unavailable to Hoover because he attacks the sentence itself, and that relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is similarly unavailable to Hoover because (1) his motion was filed more than one year after the date his judgment became final and is therefore barred by the one-year statute of limitation governing § 2255 motions, (2) Hoover did not pursue his sentencing arguments on a direct appeal, and (3) Hoover's bargained-for, below guideline, 70-month sentence does not constitute a miscarriage of justice. (Id. at 3-4.)

         The government argues that Hoover should be afforded an opportunity to withdraw his petition under the authority of Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 383 (2003), in the event of the Court's intent to recharacterize his petition as one filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, together with notice that any subsequent petition will be subject to the restrictions on second or successive motions, and to permit him an opportunity to present all of his claims. (Id. at 6.)

         The government is correct in that current law prohibits the court from converting the motion into a § 2255 motion without giving notice and opportunity to withdraw the motion. See Adams v. United States, 155 F.3d 582, 584 (2d Cir. 1998). This is because the enactment of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) of 1996, codified at 28 U.S.C. § 2244, “places stringent limits on a prisoner's ability to bring a second or successive application for a writ of habeas corpus under either 28 U.S.C. § 2254 or § 2255.” Id. at 583.

If a district court receiving a motion under some other provision of law elects to treat it as a motion under § 2255 and then denies it, that may cause the movant's subsequent filing of a motion under § 2255 to be barred as a “second” § 2255. Thus a conversion . . . may result in a disastrous deprivation of a further opportunity to have a well-justified grievance adjudicated.

Id. Therefore, the Second Circuit has held that:

district courts should not recharacterize a motion purportedly made under some other rule as a motion made under § 2255 unless (a) the movant, with knowledge of the potential adverse consequences of such recharacterization, agrees to have the motion so recharacterized, or (b) the court finds that, notwithstanding its designation, the motion should be considered as made under § 2255 because of the nature of the relief sought, and offers the movant the opportunity to withdraw the motion rather than have it so recharacterized.

Id. at 584. The Supreme Court has adopted this rule and when a district court considers recharacterizing a motion as one brought ...


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