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Williams v. Williams

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

November 9, 2017

LARRY WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
LOUIS WILLIAMS, II, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

         Pro se petitioner Larry Williams, a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Williams challenges his sentence from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, arguing that the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), invalidates his sentence, which was enhanced by his career-offender status under the United States Sentencing Guidelines § 4B1.1.

         The petition is before the court for preliminary review under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, which the court may apply to Section 2241 petitions. See Rule 1(b), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases. Under Rule 4, a district court will dismiss the petition only if it plainly appears that the petitioner is not entitled to relief. For the reasons discussed below, I will dismiss Williams's petition.

         BACKGROUND

         I draw the following facts from Williams's petition, Dkt. 1, his criminal proceeding, United States v. Williams, No. 04-cr-967 (N.D. Ill. filed Nov. 4, 2004); United States v. Williams, No. 07-3004 (7th Cir. filed Aug. 23, 2007), and his prior habeas proceeding, United States v. Williams, No. 11-cv-607 (N.D. Ill. filed Jan. 24, 2011).

         In 2004, Williams was charged with one count of possession of cocaine base with the intent to distribute under 21 U.S.C. § 841(1)(1). He orally waived his right to a jury trial in 2007 and proceeded to a bench trial. The court found him guilty and sentenced him in July 2007.[1] Williams had two prior convictions that qualified him as a career offender under § 4B1.1:

(1) a December 23, 1993 conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver under 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 570/401; and
(2) a December 23, 1993 conviction for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance under 720 Ill. Comp. Stat. 570/401.

         In 2011, Willaims filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 with the sentencing court, contending that he had ineffective assistance of counsel and that he was entitled to resentencing under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The court denied his motion.

         ANALYSIS

         Numerous courts have already concluded that Mathis satisfies the procedural requirements for a savings-clause § 2241 petition. See e.g., Pulliam v. Krueger, Case No. 16-cv-1379, 2017 WL 104184, at *2 (C.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 2017); cf. Holt v. United States, 843 F.3d 720, 722 (7th Cir. 2016) (“[S]ubstantive decisions such as Mathis presumptively apply retroactively on collateral review.”). I have done the same. See Edwards v. Williams, No. 17-cv-114, Dkt. 3 (W.D. Wis. May 11, 2017). So I will screen the merits of Williams's petition.

         Under Taylor v. United States, and its successors, Descamps v. United States and Mathis, a district court must first apply the categorical approach when enhancing sentences under § 924(e) and compare elements of each prior offense with elements of a generic offense. 495 U.S. 575, 602 (1990); 133 S.Ct. 2276, 2281 (2013); 136 S.Ct. at 2248. The elements of the offenses govern, and district judges generally disregard the actual facts of the underlying offense conduct. Yates v. United States, 842 F.3d 1051, 1052 (7th Cir. 2016).

         This rule has one exception, which Mathis clarified. When the relevant statute has a “more complicated (sometimes called ‘divisible') structure, ” listing “multiple elements disjunctively, ” the court may apply the modified categorical approach and examine “a limited class of documents . . . to determine what crime, with what elements, a defendant was convicted of.” Mathis, 136 S.Ct. at 2249. But when the statute lists multiple “means” to satisfy just one element-as opposed to listing alternative elements of the crime-the court cannot apply the modified categorical approach. Id. at 2253.

         Williams contends that Mathis invalidates his career criminal status under § 4B1.1. Under § 4B1.1, a criminal defendant is a career ...


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