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United States v. Ahmed

United States District Court, D. Utah

February 20, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
TOHEED AHMED, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA

          Jill N. Parrish United States District Court Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This is a criminal case. Toheed Ahmed pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. After doing so, he moved to withdraw his guilty plea. Mr. Ahmed contends that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because his former counsel failed to explain to him various aspects of the plea agreement. Specifically, Mr. Ahmed claims he was led to believe that he would receive credit for time served when, in fact, he would not. The Government opposes Mr. Ahmed's motion.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         1. The Arrest

         Mr. Ahmed was arrested on August 26, 2015, when South Salt Lake City police officers found cocaine and methamphetamine in his car. See Hearing Tr. 42:7-11 (Sep. 13, 2017). The State of Utah did not file new charges. Id. at 42:12-13. But at the time of his arrest, Mr. Ahmed was on parole from two state court convictions. Id. at 39:20-40:9. And Mr. Ahmed admitted to technical parole violation: not having a job, staying out past curfew, and associating with a felon. Id. at 40:10-41:7, 43:17-20. Because of this, the State of Utah revoked Mr. Ahmed's parole and placed him in primary state custody. Id. at 40:10-13.

         2. The Federal Indictment

         On January 13, 2016, while Mr. Ahmed was in state custody, the United States charged him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. ECF No. 1 at 1. Because Mr. Ahmed was in state custody, this court issued a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum to the U.S. Marshals Service, ordering it to bring Mr. Ahmed to court for his arraignment on the pending federal charges. ECF No. 10 at 1.

         Mr. Ahmed was arraigned on February 4, 2016. At the arraignment, he elected to remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, pursuant to the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. ECF No. 23 at 1. According to Mr. Ahmed, he elected to stay in the custody of the U.S. Marshals because he believed that this would allow him to receive credit for time served: “I [wanted] to go into federal custody, you know, get my federal time started so I can get credit time served [sic].” Hearing Tr. 44:17-45:5 (Sep. 13, 2017). More precisely, Mr. Ahmed believed that the Bureau of Prisons would credit the time he spent in the custody of the U.S. Marshals to his yet-to-be-imposed federal sentence. See Id. But he was mistaken. Id.

         Mr. Ahmed was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals pursuant to a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. And “[p]roducing a state prisoner under writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum to answer federal charges does not relinquish state custody.” Chambers v. Holland, 920 F.Supp. 618, 622 (M.D. Pa. 1996). As such, Mr. Ahmed remained in state primary custody, even though he was “on loan” to the U.S. Marshals. See Sinito v. Kindt, 954 F.2d 467, 469 (7th Cir. 1992) (per curiam) (“The issuance of the writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum did not alter [the defendant's] custody status. It merely changed the location of his custody for the sentence he was already serving.”). Because Mr. Ahmed was (and is) in primary state custody based on parole violations, the Bureau of Prisons is statutorily prohibited from crediting him the time served on those violations to his yet-to-be-imposed federal sentence. See 18 U.S.C. § 3585(b) (“A defendant shall be given credit toward the service of a term of imprisonment for any time he has spent in official detention prior to the date the sentence commences . . . that has not been credited against another sentence.” (emphasis added)). In sum, the time Mr. Ahmed was (and is) serving is on account of state parole violations, and thus the Bureau of Prisons cannot credit it to a federal sentence.

         At some point when he was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals, Mr. Ahmed learned that the Bureau of Prison could not credit the time he was serving to his yet-to-be-imposed federal sentence. Hearing Tr. 44:17-45:5 (Sep. 13, 2017). According to Mr. Ahmed, his attorney at the time, Audrey James, told him that “it didn't matter where [he] did the time[;] it would be up to the Judge to give [him credit for time served].” Id. After learning this, Mr. Ahmed filed a motion asking the court to transfer him from the custody of the U.S. Marshals back into state custody. ECF No. 23 at 1. The court granted Mr. Ahmed's motion on May 11, 2016. ECF No. 25.

         3. The Motion to Suppress

         On July 7, 2016, Mr. Ahmed filed a motion to suppress. ECF No. 30. On July 19, 2016, he amended the motion to include more detail. ECF No. 33. But on July 27, 2016, the court ordered Mr. Ahmed to refile the motion because he had not stated with particularity and in summary form a list of the issues raised as grounds for the motion. ECF No. 36 at 1 (citing D.U. Civ. R. 12-1(e)).

         On August 3, 2016, Alexander Ramos entered a substitution of counsel, replacing Ms. James as counsel for Mr. Ahmed. ECF No. 37. On the same day, Mr. Ahmed filed his second amended motion to suppress. ECF No. 38. Mr. Ahmed argued that the cocaine and methamphetamine found in his car should be suppressed as the fruit of an illegal search. ECF No. 38 at 3-4. Adam Bridge filed a notice of appearance as co-counsel on behalf of Mr. Ahmed on October 26, 2016. ECF No. 43.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing on November 21, 2016. ECF No. 58. Two South Salt Lake City police officers testified at the hearing. ECF No. 52 at 6. The first officer testified that, on the day of the arrest, he saw Mr. Ahmed driving on the shoulder of the road. Hearing Tr. 11:25-13:18 (Nov. 21, 2016). According to the officer, Mr. Ahmed entered an intersection from the shoulder and later “swerve[d]” out of the shoulder without signaling. Id. at 12:21-15:7.

         After observing these traffic violations (i.e., improper use of lanes and changing lanes without signaling), the officer stopped Mr. Ahmed's car. Id. at 15:8-15. As he approached the car, the officer saw that the license plate and registration information were not visible because the license plate was “fixed high inside the license-plate bracket.” Id. at 19:22-20:4. The officer saw Mr. Ahmed in the car with two female passengers. Id. at 23:11-16. As the officer moved closer, he saw one of the female passengers “dousing herself in cologne.” Id. at 23:17-22. She then opened the back-right door and tried to exit the car. Id. at 23:23-24:15. The officer recognized the female passenger as a known drug user and told her to stay in the car; she complied. Id. at 24:6-24.

         As the officer approached the driver-side widow, Mr. Ahmed rolled up the window and spoke to the two female passengers. Id. at 24:25-25:9. Mr. Ahmed finished the conversation and then rolled down the window to speak to the officer. Id. at 25:3-11. Mr. Ahmed told the officer that he had just purchased the car and he had not yet registered it. Id. at 25:20-26:14. Mr. Ahmed gave his license to the officer, who ran it and found that Mr. Ahmed did not have any outstanding warrants. Id. at 27:3-28:12. But the officer discovered that the license plate on the car belonged to someone else and that Mr. Ahmed had not begun the process of registering the car. Id. at 28:13-16.

         When the officer first made contact with the car, he had observed that one of the female passengers was not wearing a seat belt. Id. at 28:17-29:1. Because of this, the officer decided to issue her a citation. Id. at 29:2-4. When the officer asked for the female passenger's name, she gave a false name. Id. at 32:9-33:25. After discovering this, the officer arrested her for giving false information to a police officer. Id. at 33:15-34:11. It took the officer almost half an hour to determine the female passenger's actual name. Id. at 34:6-11.

         While the first officer was trying to figure out the female passenger's identity, the second officer on the scene ran a drug dog around the car. Id. at 36:3-37:14. The dog alerted to the presence of drugs. Id. at 37:15-20. After the dog alerted, the officers searched the car. Id. at 38:5-7. One of the officers found drug paraphernalia in the center console. Id. at 38:8-18. The officer also found syringes in the front pocket of a backpack located behind the driver's seat. Id. at 39:4-24. In the backpack, the officer found cocaine, methamphetamine, and about $6, 400 in cash. Id. at 40:8-41:1. After discovering the drugs, the officers arrested the occupants of the car and obtained a search warrant. Id. at 43:19-24. The car was towed to the South Salt Lake Police Department, and once there, one of the officers searched the trunk of the vehicle, discovering about 2, 000 grams of methamphetamine. Id. at 43:13-44:23.

         After the evidentiary hearing, the parties briefed the motion to suppress. ECF Nos. 61, 62, 66. On March 23, 3017, the court denied the motion. ECF No. 76 at 1. The court held that the traffic stop was justified at its inception and that the officers' actions were reasonably related to the circumstances justifying the stop. Id. Specifically, the initial stop was justified at because Mr. Ahmed committed at least two traffic violations. Id. The officers reasonably extended the stop based on the license-plate and seatbelt violations. Id. And the officer reasonably extended the stop again when one of the female passengers gave a false name. Id. The dog sniff was performed during the course of the investigation and did not extend the stop. Id. When the dog alerted to the presence of drugs, the officers had probable cause to search the vehicle, which they did. Id. at 16.

         4. ...


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