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Abdul-Sabur v. United States

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 27, 2019




         Petitioner, Wakeel Abdul-Sabur, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Abdul-Sabur challenges his future confinement under the sentence imposed by this court on May 31, 2000, No. 6:99CR30073. Federal authorities have lodged a detainer with the Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC"), based on Abdul-Sabur's federal sentence. Upon review of the record, the court concludes that the government's motion to dismiss the petition must be granted.


         Abdul-Sabur is serving state prison sentences totaling 57 years and four months for convictions under Virginia law. On March 8, 2000, Abdul-Sabur pleaded guilty in this court, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to Count One of an indictment, charging him with two counts of mailing a threatening communication, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 876, while incarcerated. The presentence investigation report ("PSR") described the offense conduct:

On June 1, 1999, Ms. Liz Taulane, a social worker in Charlottesville, Virginia, received a letter from the Amherst, Virginia, County Jail, postmarked May 25. 1999. The letter was profane and among other things, stated, "You can't stop an inevitable event, bitch. I know where you are, and I am going to see to it that you are confronted . . . No. court order can call off this inevitable event in regards to you. Don't you ever accuse me of anything, bitch, for the rest of your short life." The envelope bore a return address in the name of Wakeel [Abdul-] Sabur with the mailing address of the Amherst County Jail.
On June 4, 1999, a second letter, postmarked June 1, 1999, and bearing the same return address but no author's name on the envelope, was received by Ms. Taulane. This letter also was profane and among other things, stated, "I'm gonna have someone beat the shit out of you." Both letters were received at Ms. Taulane's work address. Neither letter was signed; however, Ms. Taulane believed that [Abdul-Sabur] had authored both letters.
On July 15, 1999, Mr. [Abdul-]Sabur was interviewed by a postal inspector at the Amherst County Jail. The defendant acknowledged authoring the letters. He stated that he wrote the letters after attempting to contact Ms. Taulane by telephone. He said he did not intend to cause Ms. Taulane any bodily harm but wrote her to get her attention and to scare her, because he believed Ms. Taulane was trying to prevent his contact with a juvenile female who was a client of Ms. Taulane's.

PSR ¶¶ 3-5, No. 6:99CR30073, ECF No. 45. Under Abdul-Sabur's plea agreement, in exchange for his guilty plea to Count One, the government agreed to dismiss Count Two and to forego an offense-level enhancement under § 3A1.2 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual ("USSG") because his victim was a government official. Id. at ¶ 5. Despite these beneficial provisions, Abdul-Sabur later moved to withdraw his guilty plea, but the court denied his motion.

         The PSR found that Abdul-Sabur qualified as a career offender under USSG § 4B1.1, because his instant offense qualified as a crime of violence, as defined by USSG § 4B 1.2(a), and he had at least two prior felony convictions for crimes of violence. The career offender designation increased Abdul-Sabur's offense level by four points, resulting in a USSG sentencing guideline range of 37 to 46 months in prison. Judge Norman K. Moon, to whom the case was originally assigned, sentenced him to 46 months in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence.

         Abdul-Sabur appealed the court's denial of his motion to withdraw the guilty plea and the enhancement of his sentence under the career offender guideline. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment. United States v. Sabur. 238 F.3d 417 (4th Cir. 2000) (unpublished), cert, denied. 532 U.S. 936(2001).

         In April of 2005, Abdul-Sabur filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The court summarily dismissed his § 2255 motion as untimely filed and without merit. Abdul-Sabur v. United States. No. 7:05-cv-00189 (W.D. Va. 2005). Abdul-Sabur did not appeal. He has also brought other unsuccessful post-conviction relief from his federal conviction and sentence.

         Abdul-Sabur filed this habeas petition under § 2241 in March of 2018. In his several submissions, he contends that neither 18 U.S.C. § 876, the statute under which he was convicted for mailing a threatening communication, nor either of the prior convictions used as predicates for the career offender enhancement, is categorically a crime of violence in light of Mathis v. United States. 136 S.Ct. 2243 (2016). Abdul-Sabur asks this court to vacate his sentence and to calculate a new sentence without the career offender enhancement. The government has filed a motion to dismiss, and Abdul-Sabur has responded,, making the matter ripe for disposition.


         The respondent first contends that this court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to address Abdul-Sabur's § 2241 petition, because he is currently in custody under a state court judgment and not under the federal criminal judgment he is challenging. It is well established that an inmate may file a habeas corpus challenge to the validity of a criminal sentence that he is not yet serving, but will be required to serve in the future, pursuant to a consecutive sentence or a detainer from another jurisdiction. See Whittlesey v. Cir. Ct. for Baltimore Cty., Md.. 897 F.2d 143, 148 (4th Cir. 1990) (holding that where Florida authorities held defendant under Maryland detainer, defendant is "in custody" under 28 U.S.C. § 2241(c)(3) for purposes of challenging Maryland conviction) (citing Braden v. 30th Jud. Cir. Ct. of ...

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