Robinson v. Phelps

Decision Date12 July 2021
Docket NumberC. A. 9:20-cv-02356-HMH-MHC
PartiesCarlos Demond Robinson, Petitioner, v. Warden Phelps, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Carolina


Molly H. Cherry, United States Magistrate Judge

Petitioner Carlos Demond Robinson (“Petitioner†), a federal inmate currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI†) Edgefield, petitions the Court for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Respondent filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 17, and Petitioner filed a Response in Opposition, ECF No. 20. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(1)(c) (D.S.C.) this matter was assigned to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation. For the reasons that follow, the undersigned concludes that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to entertain the petition and the matter should be dismissed.

A. Petitioner's conviction and sentence

On May 26, 2004, after a jury trial, Petitioner was found guilty of conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), two counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine and a quantity of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g), and two counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C.

With regard to the charges under § 922(g) (being a felon in possession), the jury was instructed as follows:

In order to convict [Petitioner] of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, the government must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt. First, that he had previously been convicted of a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year and his civil rights have not been restored; second, that he knowingly possessed a firearm; and third that the firearm was in or affected interstate commerce.
The first element requires proof that he had been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. And the defendant stipulates, and therefore you can accept it as having been proved, that the defendant was a felon, a convicted felon. And I instruct you in this connection that the prior conviction is an element of this charge is -- as an element of this charge it's only to be considered by you for the fact that it exists and for nothing else.

ECF No. 1-2 at 5-6 (emphasis added). At trial, the government, Petitioner, and Petitioner's trial counsel stipulated, in pertinent part:

Number one, Carlos Demond Robinson on or about October thirtieth, two thousand and two, and also on or about February second, two thousand and three, had previously been convicted of a crime punishable for a term exceeding one year and that the defendant, Carlos Demond Robinson, had not been pardoned for the above referenced conviction, nor has the conviction been expunged, nor have his civil rights to possess a firearm or ammunition been restored.

United States v. Robinson, Case No. 6:03-cr-616-HMH (D.S.C. terminated Dec. 12, 2004), ECF No. 106-2 at 10.[1]

Petitioner was ultimately sentenced to 960 months' imprisonment (including a 360-month sentence on the drug charges, 120-month concurrent sentence on the felon in possession charges, and two consecutive 300-month sentences on the § 924(c) convictions). He appealed his convictions and the Fourth Circuit remanded pursuant to United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 245 (2005). See United States v. Robinson, 221 Fed.Appx. 236, 244 (4th Cir. 2007). Petitioner was again sentenced to a 960-month sentence based on the advisory sentencing guidelines, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed Petitioner's convictions and sentences on February 14, 2008. See United States v. Robinson, 264 Fed.Appx. 332, 333-34 (4th Cir. 2008)

B. Petitioner's prior post-conviction motions

Petitioner subsequently filed his first motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The District Court summarily dismissed Petitioner's motion on October 27, 2008. See United States v. Robinson, No. CR. 6:03-616-HMH, 2008 WL 4833015, at *5 (D.S.C. Oct. 27, 2008). Petitioner appealed, and the Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal. See United States v. Robinson, 350 Fed.Appx. 837, 838 (4th Cir. 2009).

On August 5, 2010, Petitioner filed a motion for relief from judgment pursuant to Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which the District Court denied. See United States v. Robinson, Cr. No. 6:03-616-HMH (D.S.C. Aug. 11, 2010), ECF No. 238. Petitioner appealed, and the Fourth Circuit dismissed the appeal, explaining that Petitioner's Rule 60 motion directly attacked his convictions and therefore was an unauthorized and successive § 2255 motion. See United States v. Robinson, 416 Fed.Appx. 317, 317-18 (4th Cir. 2011).

Petitioner filed two other motions in 2011 and 2014, which were dismissed as successive § 2255 motions. See United States v. Robinson, No. CR 6:03-616-HMH, 2011 WL 13238748, at *1 (D.S.C. Aug. 8, 2011); United States v. Robinson, No. CR 6:03-616-HMH, 2014 WL 12634793, at *1-2 (D.S.C. Dec. 1, 2014).

More recently, on July 13, 2016, the Fourth Circuit granted Petitioner's application requesting permission to file a second or successive § 2255 motion in light of Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). However, Petitioner's § 2255 motion was dismissed for lack of merit. See United States v. Robinson, No. CR 6:03-616-HMH, 2016 WL 7496167, at *3 (D.S.C. July 18, 2016). The Fourth Circuit dismissed his appeal. See United States v. Robinson, 672 Fed.Appx. 330, 330-31 (4th Cir. 2017).

Petitioner recently filed a motion for sentence reduction pursuant to § 404 of the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, December 21, 2018, 132 Stat. 5194, and motion for compassionate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). On June 10, 2020, the District Court denied his motion for compassionate release and reduced Petitioner's sentence to a total of 601 months' imprisonment followed by an 8-year term of supervised release. United States v. Robinson, No. CR 6:03-616-HMH, 2020 WL 3071939, at *3-5 (D.S.C. June 10, 2020). Petitioner's appeal of the court's denial of his motion for compassionate release under § 3582(c)(1)(B) is pending.

C. Petitioner's current § 2241 petition

Petitioner filed the present § 2241 habeas petition in June 2020. ECF No. 1. He contends that his felon-in-possession conviction under § 922(g)(1) should be vacated in light of Rehaif v. United States, 139 S.Ct. 2191 (2019) because the jury instructions were defective. ECF No. 1 at 7, ECF No. 1-1 at 3.


Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of this petition pursuant to the Rules Governing Section 2254 Proceedings for the United States District Court, [2] the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), and other habeas corpus statutes. Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys. Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978). A federal court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).

Summary judgment is appropriate if a party “shows there is no genuine dispute as to any issue of material fact” and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Under the framework established in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), the party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the Court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. Once the movant has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist which give rise to a genuine issue. Id. at 324.

Under this standard, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). However, although the Court views all the underlying facts and inferences in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party nonetheless must offer some ‘concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict in his [or her] favor.' Williams v. Genex Servs., LLC, 809 F.3d 103, 109 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256). That is to say, the existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position is insufficient to withstand the summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory or speculative allegations or denials, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of the summary judgment motion. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002). “Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. To survive summary judgment, the non-movant must provide evidence of every element essential to his action on which he will bear the burden of proving at a trial on the merits. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322.


Petitioner contends in this § 2241 petition that the jury instructions failed to describe an essential element of the offense under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), in violation of his due process rights as outlined in Rehaif v....

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