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Sayedri v. Lynch

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 1, 2017

YOUNIS EL SAYEDRI, Petitioner,
v.
LORETTA LYNCH, et al., Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Anthony J. Trengay United States iDismct Judge.

         Petitioner Younis El Sayedri (“El Sayedri”) has filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 [Doc. No. 1] (the “Petition”). As his grounds for relief, Petitioner contends that he was improperly convicted based on evidentiary errors, he was denied effective assistance of counsel, he is actually innocent, and he has continued to be detained pending his removal to his native country of Sudan in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Because the Court has already adjudicated many of these claims in the form of Petitioner's prior motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and because the remaining count is without merit, the Court dismisses the Petition.

         I.BACKGROUND

         A. Conviction and Collateral Review

         On May 21, 2013, El Sayedri was convicted following a jury trial of conspiracy to commit immigration document fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, false or altered passport in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1543, false statements in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, and three counts of aggravated identity theft in violation of 19 U.S.C. § 1028A. On June 17, 2013, the Court granted Petitioner's renewed motion for a judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 on the three counts of aggravated identity theft. The Court denied Petitioner's motion as to all of the other counts and also denied Petitioner's motion for a new trial on the count of conspiracy to commit immigration document fraud. Petitioner was then sentenced on October 1, 2013 to concurrent terms of probation, totaling three years, and was assessed a $300 special assessment. The court also imposed the special condition of “sixty (60) days of intermittent confinement to be designated by the Bureau of Prisons through the United States Probation Office.” United States v. El Sayedri, No. 1:16-cv-0533, 2016 WL 4578145, at *2 (E.D. Va. July 6, 2016). Petitioner appealed his conviction on October 2, 2013, and on August 22, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an unpublished opinion affirming this Court's judgment on Petitioner's motions for a judgment of acquittal and for a new trial and determining that there was sufficient evidence to support convictions on all of the charges that remained. See United States v. El Sayedri, No. 1:12-cr-00290-AJT-1, Doc. No. 310 (E.D. Va. August 22, 2014).

         In May 2016, El Sayedri filed two motions to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (“Section 2255”), which were nearly identical; both contended that he was convicted based on unlawfully obtained evidence and argued that prosecutors failed to disclose inculpatory evidence during the trial, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and that he was never made aware of the immigration consequences of his conviction. El Sayedri, 2016 WL 4578145, at *3-4. This Court denied El Sayedri's Section 2255 motion on July 6, 2016 on several independent bases: (1) it was untimely; (2) it was meritless and “the claims raised therein consist[ed] of unsupported conclusory allegations that are contradicted by the record, ” id. at *3; and (3) Petitioner did not make a “substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, ” id. The Court also declined to issue a certificate of appealability. El Sayedri then appealed this Court's denial of his Section 2255 motion, and in an unpublished per curiam opinion entered October 18, 2016, the Fourth Circuit held that El Sayedri had “not made the requisite showing” that he was denied a constitutional right and, therefore, also declined to issue a certificate of appealability. United States v. El Sayedri, No. 16-7055, 2016 WL 6081373, at *1 (4th Cir. Oct. 18, 2016).

         B. Removal Proceedings

         Petitioner is a native and citizen of Sudan who was admitted to the United States on November 20, 2000 on a B-1 via. In 2001, El Sayedri was granted asylum, and on February 21, 2007, he adjusted his status and became a lawful permanent resident. After El Sayedri was convicted by this Court of the criminal violations referred to above, the Department of Homeland Security served El Sayedri with a notice to appear, which charged him with being inadmissible to the United States under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) as an alien convicted of acts involving moral turpitude and also under 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(6)(C)(i) as an alien who, by fraud or willfully representing a material fact, seeks to procure a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other immigration benefit. On or about March 31, 2015, El Sayedri was taken into the custody of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), where he has remained to this day.

         The immigration judge (“IJ”) then sustained the charges of inadmissibility, and throughout 2015 and 2016, El Sayedri sought a variety of forms of relief from removal including cancellation of removal, waivers under 8 U.S.C. §§ 1182(h) and 1182(i), asylum under 8 U.S.C. § 1158, withholding of removal under 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3), and protection under the Convention Against Torture. On June 8, 2016, the IJ denied all requests for discretionary relief and ordered El Sayedri removed to Sudan. On November 10, 2016, the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) affirmed the IJ's denial of discretionary relief and dismissed his appeal. Under 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(1), El Sayedri's order of removal became administratively final on the date of the BIA's decision.

         Although Petitioner has still not been removed to Sudan, a deportation officer has represented to the Court that the officer completed and submitted an application for a Sudanese travel document for El Sayedri to the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C. on December 10, 2016 and that once the travel document is issued, ICE will arrange for El Sayedri's removal to Sudan. Respondents' Response to Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus [Doc. No. 16] at 9.

         II. ANALYSIS

         In his Petition, El Sayedri claims that he was improperly convicted based on evidentiary errors, he was denied effective assistance of counsel, he is actually innocent, and he has continued to be detained for immigration reasons without removal in violation of the U.S. Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, each of these claims fails.

         A. Claimed Deficiencies in Petitioner's Criminal Conviction

         Petitioner claims that there were deficiencies in his criminal proceedings that led to his conviction including, inter alia, ineffective assistance of counsel, evidentiary issues, erroneous jury instructions, and actual innocence. The issue now before this Court is to what extent 28 U.S.C. § 2241 (“Section 2241”) is the proper vehicle to bring these claims regarding the validity of Petitioner's criminal conviction, particularly where the Court has already previously adjudicated a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition. A defendant convicted in federal court is generally “required to bring collateral attacks challenging the validity of their judgment and sentence by filling a motion to vacate sentence pursuant to . . . § 2255.” In re Vial, 115 F.3d 1192, 1194 (4th Cir. 1997) (en banc); see also Rice v. Rivera, 617 ...


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