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Austin v. Stewart

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 10, 2018

CHAD AUSTIN, Petitioner
v.
TIMOTHY STEWART, Warden, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Following a crime spree on February 11, 1998 that started in New Hampshire and ended in Massachusetts, Petitioner Chad Austin was indicted, convicted, and sentenced first in Massachusetts state court and then in federal court in New Hampshire of crimes arising out of his conduct that day. His federal sentence was, in part, concurrent to and, in part, consecutive to his state sentence. His state sentence was vacated in part on October 25, 2006, and he was resentenced on all counts in state court. In Austin's view, in light of the state court order vacating his state court sentence, his consecutive federal sentences began to run at soon as his concurrent federal sentences concluded, such that he should be released immediately. He has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on that basis. ECF No. 1. Respondent, the Warden of FCI-Cumberland, where Austin is confined, has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 4.[1] Because the state court never relinquished jurisdiction when it resentenced him, Austin's consecutive federal sentence did not begin until October 28, 2016, when he completed his state sentence and the State of Massachusetts released him to Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) custody. Accordingly, I will grant Respondent's Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, and deny Austin's Petition.

         Background

         On February 11, 1998, Austin stole a car in New Hampshire and robbed a New Hampshire bank at gunpoint. United States v. Austin, 239 F.3d 1, 2 (1st Cir. 2001). He fled by car into Massachusetts with two pillowcases full of cash, firing at the New Hampshire police officer and then Massachusetts police officers who pursued him in a high-speed chase. Id. at 2- 3. After crashing the car, he continued to flee on foot, eventually entering a house by force and holding the two 4-year-old boys in the home and their father hostage for hours before the Massachusetts police successfully took him into custody. Id. at 3.

         Austin was sentenced in Massachusetts state court on November 4, 1998 to a 30-40 year term of imprisonment for each of three counts of armed home invasion, and received concurrent, shorter sentences for other state crimes stemming from this course of events. Id.; Commonwealth v. Austin, No. 98-403, slip op. at 1-2 (Mass. Sup. Ct. Oct. 25, 2006), ECF No. 1-8. He was brought into federal custody on November 17, 1998 pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum while he was in state custody. Giddings Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 4-2. In the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire, he was convicted of bank robbery, use of a firearm during a crime of violence, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, and interstate transportation of stolen property and a stolen motor vehicle. Id. ¶ 5; Austin, 239 F.3d at 3. On November 12, 1999, the New Hampshire federal court sentenced him to 175 months of imprisonment for those crimes. Jmt., ECF No. 4-2, at 24-27; Austin, 239 F.3d at 4.

         At sentencing, the New Hampshire federal court stated that it was “the Court's intent to impose a sentence that will effectively require the defendant to serve an additional ten years of imprisonment consecutive to the term imposed by Massachusetts, which is a 30-year to 40-year sentence.” Hr'g Tr. Part 3, at 51:8-13, ECF No. 1-4. The court ruled:

The Court intends to impose sentence as follows: Pursuant to the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984, it is the judgment of this Court that the defendant, Chad E. Austin, is hereby committed to the custody of the Bureau of Prisons to be imprisoned for a term of 175 months on Count 1, 60 months to be served consecutively and 115 months to be served concurrently, and a term of 120 months on each of Counts 3, 4, and 5, all such terms as to Counts 3, 4, and 5 to be served concurrently with each other and effective this date with the Massachusetts state sentence now being served.
It is further ordered that the defendant is hereby committed to the Bureau of Prisons to be imprisoned for a term of 60 months on Count 2, said sentence to be served consecutively to the instant federal sentence and any other sentence being served by this defendant, particularly the Massachusetts sentence he's now currently serving.

Hr'g Tr. Part 2, at 46:20-47:13, ECF No. 1-3 (emphasis added). It reiterated that the sentence “would be ten years consecutive, the rest concurrent with each other and with the other federal sentences on the different counts and with the state sentence.” Hr'g Tr. Part 3, at 52:8-11 (emphasis added). The court then “impose[d] the sentence as announced.” Id. at 52:15; see also Jmt., ECF No. 4-2, at 24-27. Thus, 60 months of the sentence imposed for Count 1 were to be consecutive to the state sentence, and 60 months of the sentence imposed for Count 2 were to be consecutive to the federal sentence on the other counts, as well as consecutive to the state sentence, for a total of 120 months (ten years) to be served consecutive to the federal sentence. Hr'g Tr. Part 2, at 46:20-47:13; Jmt. Five days after his federal sentencing, on November 17, 1999, Austin returned to state custody to serve the remainder of his state sentence. Giddings Decl. ¶ 6.

         Austin appealed his federal sentence, and the First Circuit affirmed in part, concluding that the enhancements to Count One (which Austin challenged as duplicative) were appropriate. Id. at 4-5. It also concluded that “the district court did not err in applying U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(c), ” which allowed the court to impose a partially-consecutive sentence, unlike U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(b), which would have required a sentence that ran “concurrently with his undischarged state term” if the “federal sentence fully took into account conduct that formed the basis of his Massachusetts sentence.” Id. at 4-5, 7. The First Circuit also vacated in part and remanded for resentencing, holding that the sentencing court erred in aggregating the value of the stolen car and the stolen cash pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2B3.1(b)(7) and applying a one-level enhancement. Id. at 8.

         The New Hampshire federal court resentenced Austin and, on April 2, 2001, it issued an Amended Judgment, modifying the total months of imprisonment to 222. Am. Jmt., ECF No. 4-2, at 35-38. The Amended Judgment stated that, “[o]n Count 1, 102 months, ” as opposed to the 115 months originally imposed, “shall be served concurrently with” the state sentence; it did not modify any other terms. Id. Thus, even as amended, 60 months of the sentence imposed for Count 1 were to be consecutive to the state sentence, and 60 months of the sentence imposed for Count 2 were to be consecutive to the federal sentence on the other counts, as well as consecutive to the state sentence, for a total of 120 months (ten years) to be served consecutive to the federal sentence. Id.

         Austin also challenged his state court sentence, and the state court ruled on October 25, 2006 that the relevant state statute pertaining to armed home invasion, in effect at the time Austin was convicted and sentenced, provided for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 20 years of imprisonment, whereas Austin was sentenced to 30-40 years of imprisonment on each of the three armed home invasion counts, under an outdated provision. Austin, No. 98-403, slip op. at 1-2, 4. The court stated that, with regard to the home invasion counts, Austin's “sentences must be vacated and he must be re-sentenced, ” and that it would “not limit Austin's re-sentencing to the armed home invasion convictions” because “[t]he governing sentences imposed for these lead charges influenced this court's decision as to both the length and the concurrent nature of the sentences imposed on the other convictions.” Id. at 4. The state court resentenced Austin on December 27, 2006 to a total of 19 to 20 years of imprisonment on one of the home invasion counts and to shorter, concurrent sentences on each of the other counts, with credit for 3, 241 days served. Id. Nos. 159-67.

         Thereafter, Austin filed an unsuccessful motion to correct illegal sentence in the New Hampshire federal court, seeking a reduction in his federal sentence based on the reduction in his state court sentence. Order (D.N.H. Apr. 29, 2013), ECF No. 4-2, at 45. He also filed a letter, seeking an explanation of how his federal sentence was calculated, and the Deputy Chief Probation Officer, at the court's request, provided a response. Apr. 4, 2014 Mem., ECF No. 4-2, at 50. He stated that “the Court intended that the defendant serve a period of 10 years incarceration in federal prison that was consecutive to the sentence the defendant received in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” Id. (citing Am. Jmt.; Hr'g Tr. 52). He also explained that “the reduction of the defendant's sentence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts does not alter his federal sentence; he will commence service of his federal term of imprisonment upon completion of his state sentence. Id.

         Austin completed his state sentence on October 28, 2016, and the State of Massachusetts released him to Federal BOP custody to serve the 120 months of his federal sentence that were to run consecutive to his state sentence. Giddings Decl. ¶ 14. He ...


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