United States v. Turner, CRIMINAL ACTION 17-55

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Louisiana)
Docket NumberCRIMINAL ACTION 17-55
Decision Date07 June 2022




United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

June 7, 2022



Before the Court are the following pro se motions filed by Defendant David Turner: (1) “Motion for Leave of the Court to Include a Claim of Covid-19 Infestion [sic], ” R. Doc. 666, and (2) “Motion for Recharacterized 18 USC 3624(c) ECF 599 as 28 USC 2241.” R. Doc. 664.[1]Having considered the briefing, the record, and the applicable law, the Court now rules as follows.


On May 2, 2019, Defendant David Turner pleaded guilty to Count 1 of a one-count Superseding Bill of Information, which charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. R. Doc. 245, 247. On September 19, 2019, Defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 60 months, to be served consecutively to the sentence imposed in criminal action 07-225 in the Eastern District of Louisiana, followed by four years of supervised release. R. Doc. 284. Turner is currently incarcerated at FCI Beckley, located in


Beaver, Wester Virginia, and is set to be released on February 17, 2024. See BUREAU OF PRISONS, http://www.bop.gov/inmateloc (last accessed May 23, 2022).


Although Defendant Turner's pro se motions are somewhat difficult to understand, as best the Court can discern, Defendant's “Motion for Leave of the Court to Include a Claim of Covid-19 Infestion [sic]” suggests that the spread of COVID-19 in the facility where he is incarcerated, FCI Beckly in West Virginia, warrants home confinement under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), Pub. L. No. 116-136, 134 Stat. 281, 516 (2020).[2] R. Doc. 666. Turner also asserts that the Warden of FCI Beckly and prison staff engaged in “arbitrary, capricious denials of access to remedy form[s]” and “intimidation of inmate[s] who seek to file grievances.” Id. As relief, he requests leave under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 to file an amended action and appointment of counsel. Turner further claims that he is challenging the execution, duration, and location of his sentence and suggests that the Court “consider . . . transferring this action” to the “United States District Court for West Virginia” under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[3]

Defendant's “Motion for Recharacterized 18 USC 3624(c) ECF 599 as 28 USC 2241 apparently seeks to have the Court reconstrue his prior “Emergency Motion for Recommendation Regarding Length of R.R.C. Placement, ” R. Doc. 599, as a habeas petition. Defendant's earlier motion sought an order recommending that the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) place him in a Residential Reentry Center or on home confinement. R. 661. The Court denied that motion,


explaining that the decision over Defendant's custodial placement is committed solely to the discretion of the BOP. R. Doc. 661 at 4.

In his present motion, Defendant states that he is “challenging the “length, duration, carr[y]ing out and location” of his sentence. R. Doc. 664 at 1. He also asserts that he has exhausted his administrative remedies and asks the Court to “issue F.B.O.P. non-compliances [sic] with its own” residential reentry policy. He also states that he has a liberty interest created by the Code of Federal Regulations or Acts of Congress and that unspecified substantive and procedural due process rights have been violated. As relief, he requests that his prior motion be recharacterized as a habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia or that the Court reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A).


Defendant first moves for leave to amend a complaint and second to have a past motion recharacterized as a habeas petition or to have his sentence modified. The Court considers the motions in turn.

A. “Motion for Leave of the Court to Include a Claim of Covid-19 Infestion [sic ], ” R. Doc. 666

As an initial matter, the Court notes that Defendant's motion requests that the Court provide leave to file a civil action related to COVID-19 issues at FCI Beckly-presumably, a civil rights action under Bivens[4]-but also references a request for habeas relief. Because a civil rights action and a habeas petition are distinct actions that must proceed separately, the Court must, as a threshold matter, determine the nature of the action here. In doing so, the Court looks


beyond labels supplied by the Defendant and instead considers the substance of the relief sought. See Hernandez v. Thaler, 630 F.2d 420, 426-27 (5th Cir. 2011).

Where a “prisoner challenges “condition[s] of confinement or prison procedure that affects the timing of his release from custody, ” the proper vehicle is a civil rights action if a determination in the prisoner's favor will not automatically result in his accelerated release. Lineberry v. United States, 380 Fed.Appx. 452, 453 (5th Cir. 2010); accord See Spencer v. Bragg, 310 Fed.Appx. 678, 679 (5th Cir. 2009) (case involving petition purportedly filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2241). On the other hand, the writ of habeas corpus is the appropriate federal remedy for a prisoner challenging the fact of confinement. Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484 (1973). The core issue in determining whether a prisoner must pursue habeas corpus relief rather than a civil rights action is to determine whether the prisoner challenges the “fact or duration” of his confinement or merely the rules, customs, and procedures affecting “conditions” of confinement. Braggs v. Dir., TDCJ-CID, No. 9:20CV164, 2020 WL 6479168, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 3, 2020), report and recommendation adopted, No. 9:20CV164, 2020 WL 6449311 (E.D. Tex. Nov. 2, 2020) (citing Spina v. Aaron, 821 F.2d 1126, 1128 (5th Cir. 1987)).

Here, the gravamen of Defendant's motion concerns his potential for exposure to COVID-19 at the BOP facility where he is housed. R. Doc. 666. He also mentions problems associated with the prison grievance procedure. Id. These are challenges to the conditions of his confinement. See Cureno Hernandez v. Mora, 467 F.Supp.3d 454, 463-64, No. 1:20-cv-104-H, 2020 WL 3246753, at *7 (N.D. Tex. Jun. 15, 2020) (collecting cases). Although Defendant appears ultimately to seek home confinement-and thus a shorter duration of confinement in prison-“[a] demand for release does not convert a conditions-of-confinement claim into a proper habeas request.” Duran v. Dir., TDCJ-CID, No. 9:18CV11, 2021 WL 818390, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 8, 2021),


report and recommendation adopted, No. 9:18CV11, 2021 WL 807260 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 3, 2021) (quoting Beltran v. Wolf, 473 F.Supp.3d 688, 2020 WL 4187912 (N.D. Tex. July 20, 2020)); see also Pierre v. United States, 525 F.2d 933, 935-36 (5th Cir. 1976) (“[H]abeas is not available to review questions unrelated to the cause of detention.”); cf. Melot v. Bergami, 970 F.3d 596, 599 (5th Cir. 2020) (explaining that “[w]hile an argument can be made that” a program permitting prisoners to be removed from a BOP facility and placed on home detention “allows for ‘release' from institutional custody, we determine that [the prisoner's] claim involves his conditions of confinement and is more properly brought as a Bivens action”). And even though Defendant makes the conclusory assertion that he is challenging the execution or duration of his sentence, the substance of his motion is directed solely to the conditions in his place of incarceration. See Hernandez v. Thaler, 630 F.2d at 426-27. Accordingly, a civil rights action, rather than a...

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