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El-Amin v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Bluefield

June 5, 2018

SALEEM EL-AMIN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DAVID A. FABER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court are petitioner's (1) petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, (ECF No. 1); (2) application to proceed in forma pauperis, (ECF No. 2); and (3) emergency motion for release, (ECF No. 12). By Standing Order, this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Omar J. Aboulhosn for submission of proposed findings and recommendations for disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1)(b). ECF No. 6. The magistrate judge submitted his proposed findings and recommendation (“PF&R”) on March 2, 2018. ECF No. 16. In the PF&R, Judge Aboulhosn recommended that the court dismiss petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus; deny petitioner's application to proceed in forma pauperis; and deny petitioner's emergency motion for release.

         In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), petitioner was allotted fourteen days, plus three mailing days, in which to file any objections to the PF&R. Petitioner timely filed objections to the PF&R on March 9, 2018. ECF No. 19. Because petitioner's objections are without merit, the court dismisses his petition.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In May 2014, Saleem El-Amin was indicted on charges of armed robbery in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In July, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment, charging him with a second count of assault with a deadly weapon (“ADW”). In September, a jury trial was held before Judge William M. Jackson in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. After the trial, Judge Jackson dismissed the ADW charge, determining that this offense was encapsulated within the offense of armed robbery. Additionally, Judge Jackson declined defense counsel's request to instruct the jury on the ADW charge.

         On November 14, 2014, petitioner was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to ten (10) years imprisonment. El-Amin v. United States, 2016 WL 2866862 (May 11, 2016); see also El-Amin v. Downs, 272 F.Supp.3d 147 (D.D.C. Aug. 9, 2017). On May 11, 2017, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. Elamin v. United States, 164 A.3d 118 (D.C. Ct. App. May 11, 2017).

         Petitioner filed the instant petition seeking relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 on September 11, 2017, [1] challenging the validity of his conviction. ECF No. 1. As grounds for relief, petitioner asserts that (1) the District of Columbia Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction because the government failed to file a “jurisdictional statement;” (2) “Conspiracy to deprive [petitioner] of due process of the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial;” (3) “Failure to prove beyond reasonable doubt the ADW element of armed robbery;” (4) “Violation of due process in violation;” (5) “Ineffective assistance” of counsel; and (6) lack of “[j]urisdiction.” ECF No. 1 at p.1. Petitioner also argues that D.C. Code § 23-110, a sister statute and functional equivalent to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 discussed infra, is ineffective to challenge the petitioner's conviction because (1) a federal court's jurisdiction is not defeated by state proceedings; (2) the District of Columbia Court of Appeals “lacked jurisdiction absent jurisdictional statement in appellant brief;” and (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Id. at pp. 11-12.

         II. PETITIONER'S OBJECTIONS

         The magistrate judge concluded that the claims raised by petitioner fail to demonstrate that D.C. Code § 23-110 is inadequate or ineffective to allow petitioner to claim relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Specifically, petitioner failed to allege any intervening change in the law that establishes his innocence. ECF No. 16 at p.8; In re Jones, 226 F.3d 328, 333-34 (4th Cir. 2000).

         Petitioner's only objection to the PF&R is that “the acquired rights doctrine grants me the Bill of Right Sec. 1 to writ of habeas corpus and cannot be reduced by legislation of [D.C. Code §] 23-110.” ECF No. 19 at p.2.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The acquired rights doctrine is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as “the principle that once a right has vested, it may not be reduced by later legislation.” Black's Law Dictionary 28 (10th ed. 2014). The basis of petitioner's objection is difficult to fully grasp, nevertheless, the court construes it as an objection to the application of D.C. Code § 23-110 instead of a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Even though petitioner makes no attempt to remedy his failure to assert any intervening change in the law establishing his innocence, as required by In re Jones in order to seek redress under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, the court briefly compares the protections embodied in D.C. Code § 23-110 and 28 U.S.C. § 2255.

         While federal criminal defendants may seek habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, a petitioner convicted under the laws of the District of Columbia may only seek to invalidate his conviction under D.C. Code § 23-110. D.C. Code § 23-110(g), written almost identically to 28 U.S.C. § 2255(g), [2] reads as follows:

An application for a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of a prisoner who is authorized to apply for relief by motion pursuant to this section shall not be entertained by the Superior Court or by any Federal or State court if it appears that the applicant has failed to make a motion for relief under this section or that the Superior Court has denied him relief, unless it also appears ...

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