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Chazen v. Williams

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

November 28, 2017

TODD RICHARD CHAZEN, Petitioner,
v.
LOUIS WILLIAMS, II, Respondent.

          OPINION & ORDER

          JAMES D. PETERSON DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se petitioner Todd Richard Chazen, a federal prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin, seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Chazen challenges his sentence from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, arguing that the Supreme Court's decisions in United States v. Mathis, 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016), and Samuel Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015), invalidate his sentence, which was enhanced under the Armed Career Criminal Act of 1984 (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).

         Before the court issued an order screening his petition, Chazen filed a motion to supplement his petition to add a new habeas claim. Dkt. 4. I will screen Chazen's original and supplemental habeas claims together under Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases, which apply to Section 2241 petitions. For the reasons discussed below, I will allow Chazen to proceed beyond screening and appoint counsel for him.

         BACKGROUND

         I draw the following facts from Chazen's petition, his criminal proceeding, and his prior habeas proceedings. Dkt. 2; United States v. Chazen, No. 10-cr-332 (D. Minn. filed Nov. 2010); United States v. Chazen, No. 13-cv-1850, 2013 WL 4504295 (D. Minn. Aug. 23, 2013); Chazen v. United States, No. 16-2231, Dkt. 2 (8th Cir. filed May 18, 2016).

         In March 2011, a jury found Chazen guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), and he was sentenced on July 11, 2011. The sentencing court concluded that Chazen was an armed career criminal under the ACCA, which requires a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years for a criminal defendant with three prior convictions of “violent felonies” or “serious drug offenses.” In Chazen's case, he had five predicate offenses:

1. a September 11, 1995 second-degree assault conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.222;
2. a December 3, 2002 second-degree controlled substance conviction under Minn. Stat. § 152.022;
3. a June 3, 2003 second-degree burglary conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.582;
4. a June 3, 2003 second-degree burglary conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.582; and
5. a June 3, 2003 escape-from-custody conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.485.

Chazen, 2013 WL 4504295, at *1. The third and fourth burglary convictions occurred on the same day but at different places. “Specifically, Chazen pled guilty to commandeering a golf cart and using it to steal items from a golf course concession stand. Chazen and his accomplices then abandoned the golf cart, stole a truck, and drove the truck through the front doors of a convenience store, intending to tow away the ATM inside.” Id. The sentencing court concluded that Chazen was an armed career criminal and sentenced him to 252 months of incarceration.

         Chazen then filed two § 2255 motions to challenge his sentence. He filed his first § 2255 motion in 2013, raising two challenges. First, he argued that the sentencing court incorrectly applied the modified categorical approach to his escape-from-custody conviction. Second, he argued that the sentencing court erred in counting his two burglary convictions as predicate offenses when the government had conceded that those convictions did not qualify. See generally Chazen, No. 10-cr-332, Dkt. 85 (D. Minn. July 10, 2013). The sentencing court denied his motion. Chazen, No. 10-cr-332, Dkt. 89 (D. Minn. August 23, 2013).

         Chazen sought authorization from the Eighth Circuit to file a second § 2255 motion in May 2016. Chazen v. United States, No. 16-2231, Dkt. 2 (8th Cir. May 18, 2016), and before obtaining authorization, he filed a second § 2255 motion with the sentencing court, Chazen, No. 10-cr-332, Dkt. 92 (D. Minn. June 27, 2016). He argued that he was no longer an armed career criminal under Samuel Johnson, which held that the ACCA's residual clause was unconstitutional. The Eighth Circuit summarily denied authorization, and the sentencing court dismissed his second § 2255 motion. Chazen, No. 10-cr-332, Dkt. 93 and Dkt. 95 (D. Minn. June 27, 2016).

         ANALYSIS

         Numerous courts have already concluded that a petition relying on Mathis satisfies the procedural requirements for a savings-clause § 2241 petition. See e.g., Pulliam v. Krueger, 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.

         Chazen contends that he is no longer an armed career criminal under the ACCA. He has five prior convictions that could qualify him as an armed career criminal, so he needs to eliminate at least three of these convictions to obtain habeas relief.

         Here are the components of Chazen's habeas claim: (1) both of his second-degree burglary convictions no longer qualify as predicate offenses after Mathis; (2) his escape-from-custody conviction no longer qualifies as a predicate offense after Samuel Johnson; (3) his controlled substance conviction no longer qualifies as a predicate offense after Mathis; and (4) his second-degree assault conviction no longer qualifies as a predicate offense after Mathis.

         A. 2003 Minnesota burglary ...


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