United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division
ORDER SCREENING AND DISMISSING § 2255
ROBERTO A. LANGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
4, 2016, Sylvan Godfrey filed a Motion Under 28 U.S.C. §
2255 to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence. Doc. 1.
Godfrey raises four interrelated grounds for relief: 1)
"The statutes charged are beyond Congress's
constitutional power to enact, under a strict construction of
the Constitution; 2) "Under the strict construction of
the judicial article, the district courts cannot be vested
with criminal jurisdiction over cases to which the U.S. is a
party to;" 3) "The Commerce Clause cannot license
Congress to enact criminal prohibition, much less the Major
Crimes Act;" and 4) "Without amendments to the
legislative and judicial articles of the Constitution, the
Federal Government is precluded from reaching the conduct
charged." Doc. 1.
Court has conducted the required preliminary review under
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings, and
"it plainly appears from the motion, any attached
exhibits, and the record of prior proceedings that [Godfrey]
is not entitled to relief." Thus, Godfrey's §
2255 motion is dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b) and
Rule 4 of the Rules Governing Section 2255 Proceedings.
facts surrounding the conviction of Godfrey are set forth in
United States v. Godfrey, 611 Fed.Appx. 364 (8th
Cir. 2015), and need not be repeated at length here in order
to address the grounds in the § 2255 motion. In brief,
Godfrey was indicted, pleaded not guilty, had a jury trial,
and was found guilty on one count of aggravated sexual abuse
of a child. The count of conviction was based on 18 U.S.C.
§§ 1153, 2241(c), and 2246(2)(D). Godfrey received
a sentence of 360 months in prison followed by five years of
supervised release. Godfrey appealed his conviction, and the
United States Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction on May
4, 2015. Docs. 98, 99 in 13-CR-30118. The mandate from the
Eighth Circuit issued on June 16, 2015, after the Eighth
Circuit denied Godfrey's request for rehearing en banc.
Docs. 101, 102 in 13-CR-30118. Godfrey did not appeal to the
Supreme Court of the United States, but timely filed his
§ 2255 motion within one year of when his time to file a
petition for writ of certiorari ran.
four grounds in his § 2255 motion challenge the
constitutional, congressional, and in turn judicial authority
to charge and convict him of this crime. Godfrey believes
that there is no constitutional or valid congressional
authorization for federal judicial authority over him.
Godfrey is mistaken in that belief.
III, § 2 extends federal judicial power "to all
Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution,
[and] the Laws of the United States . . . ." Article
III, § 2, clearly contemplates criminal jurisdiction in
federal courts by continuing: "The Trial of all Crimes,
except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such
Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crime shall
have been committed . . . ." Nothing in the Constitution
debars district courts from jurisdiction in cases involving
the United States, and the Constitution contemplates that
occurring in Article III and in the Bill of Rights. Portions
of the Bill of Rights-the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment,
Sixth Amendment, and Eight Amendment-were designed to protect
defendants in federal court criminal prosecutions, making it
all the more obvious that the Constitution extends federal
judicial power to criminal cases brought by the United
related to federal jurisdiction over Godfrey and his
particular crime, the Government charged crimes under 18
U.S.C. §§ 1153, 2241(c), and 2246(2)(D). Section
1153 of Title 18 is known as the Major Crimes Act and extends
federal criminal jurisdiction in cases involving
"Indians" in "Indian country" over
certain listed crimes, including "a felony under chapter
109A." 18 U.S.C. 1153. Chapter 109A in turn outlaws
sexual abuse in federal enclaves and contains 18 U.S.C.
§ 2241 through § 2248, the statutes defining the
crime of aggravated sexual abuse of a child for which Godfrey
was charged and convicted. The Supreme Court of the United
States initially upheld the constitutionality of the Major
Crimes Act in 1886, and it has consistently been upheld
since. United States v. Kagama. 118 U.S. 375 (1886);
see also United States v. Antelope. 430 U.S. 641
(1977). After all, Article I, § 8 of the Constitution of
course vests broad legislative authority in Congress,
including the power "[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign
Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian
tribes, " and "[t]o make all Laws which shall be
necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the
foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this
Constitution in the Government of the United States."
Godfrey stipulated that he is an "Indian" and that
the places where the alleged crimes occurred were in
"Indian country, " so application of § 1153 to
provide federal criminal jurisdiction over Godfrey and his
crime has never been in question.
it plainly appears that the grounds in Godfrey's §
2255 motion do not entitle him to any relief, it is hereby
that the § 2255 motion be and is dismissed on initial
screening under 28 U.S.C. §2255(b) and Rule 4 of the