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United States v. Williams

decided: February 14, 1980.



Before Adams, Rosenn and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Rosenn


In this appeal from an unsuccessful collateral attack on his sentence brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1976),*fn1 Ronald Alfred Williams asks us to reverse an order of the district court, denying without an evidentiary hearing, his motion to vacate sentence. The motion to vacate was based principally on Williams' claims that (1) the Government had violated the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, 18 U.S.C. App. pp. 1395-98 (1976), and (2) he had been denied his sixth amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. We agree that Williams' claim of ineffective assistance of counsel should not have been denied without an evidentiary hearing and we remand for further proceedings on this claim only. Accordingly, the order of the district court will be vacated and the case remanded for an evidentiary hearing limited to that issue.


Appellant Williams was convicted by a federal jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 2, 1976, on one count of bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a), and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d). The indictment charged Williams and two accomplices with robbing the Dravosburg, Pennsylvania, office of the Equibank, N.A. bank on May 6, 1976. At the time of the robbery, Williams was on a pre-release program from the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, where he was serving a sentence of six to twelve years for voluntary manslaughter arising out of a 1973 state conviction.

Upon his robbery arrest, Williams was returned to the state correctional facility. Although it does not appear in the record, Williams asserts that a federal detainer against him was lodged with the state prison officials on May 7, 1976. Subsequently, Williams' presence before the federal court was secured on several occasions through the use of writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. Writs were issued to the State Correctional Institution to compel Williams' presence on May 19, 1976, for an initial appearance; on May 27, 1976, for a preliminary examination; on June 18, 1976, for arraignment; and on August 30, 1976, for trial.

Williams' presence in the federal court for sentencing purposes was obtained on December 2, 1976, by a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum, at which time he was committed to the custody of the Attorney General for a parole study under 18 U.S.C. § 4205(d) (1976)*fn2 on the assault with a deadly weapon verdict. Sentencing on the bank robbery charge was suspended. Williams was thereupon transferred to a federal institution at Petersburg, Virginia for the parole study. Upon completion of the study, he was returned to the State Correctional Institution. He again appeared in federal court for final sentencing on March 21, 1977, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of twelve years. Williams was transferred to the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania to begin serving his sentence.

Williams did not appeal from the district court's imposition of sentence. However, on January 22, 1979, he filed a pro se motion to vacate sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The district court denied the motion on March 28, 1979, without requiring the Government to respond and without requiring an evidentiary hearing. Williams timely appealed and this court appointed appellate counsel to represent him.


At the outset, we note that we are not asked on this appeal to review the merits of Williams' motion for collateral relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The sole issue before us is whether the district court properly denied Williams' motion to vacate sentence without holding an evidentiary hearing. The motion was based principally on two separate but related theories. Williams claimed first that the sentence should be vacated because the Government violated the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act (IADA or the Act), thereby requiring that the federal indictment against him be dismissed.*fn3 Second, Williams claimed that the failure of trial counsel to raise the IADA defense constituted a deprivation of his sixth amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel, thereby requiring that his sentence be vacated. It is apparent that the nature of Williams' claimed IADA defense is central to both theories he asserted as bases for collateral relief. However, in accordance with well-settled principles, we will first examine the statutory IADA claim and then, if necessary, turn to the constitutional ineffective assistance of counsel claim. See Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 543, 94 S. Ct. 1372, 1382, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577 (1974); Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 347, 56 S. Ct. 466, 483, 80 L. Ed. 688 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

Congress enacted the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act in 1970, Article II(a), 18 U.S.C. App. at 1395 (1976), to authorize the United States to join with many of the States in eliminating problems associated with the transfer of prisoners currently serving a sentence in one state or territorial jurisdiction to another jurisdiction seeking to prosecute him on different or related charges. When a detainer is lodged against the prisoner while he is serving a sentence in another jurisdiction, the Act sets forth limitations on the transfers that may be made to the demanding jurisdiction. For example, under Article IV of the Act, if the prisoner's presence is obtained in a jurisdiction lodging a detainer against him, that jurisdiction must try the prisoner within 120 days of his arrival in that jurisdiction. Further, if the requesting jurisdiction obtains custody of the prisoner, it must try him before he is returned to the custody of the original jurisdiction. Failure to do so requires a dismissal of the charges against the prisoner. Article IV(e). The basic goal of the Act is to prevent transfers back and forth between competing jurisdictions, its theory being that such transfers undermine the right to a speedy trial and the rehabilitative process of the system in which the prisoner is currently serving a sentence.

The Supreme Court in United States v. Mauro, 436 U.S. 340, 98 S. Ct. 1834, 56 L. Ed. 2d 329 (1978), considered the scope of IADA when a federal jurisdiction secured the presence of a state prisoner through the use of writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum. The Court held that such writs are not detainers for purposes of the Agreement, id. at 360-61, 98 S. Ct. at 1846-47, but did hold that a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum was a " "written request for temporary custody' within the meaning of Article IV of the Agreement," id. at 361, 98 S. Ct. at 1847.

Once the Federal Government lodges a detainer against a prisoner with state officials, the Agreement by its express terms becomes applicable and the United States must comply with its provisions. . . . It matters not whether the Government presents the prison authorities in the sending state with a piece of paper labeled "request for temporary custody" or with a writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum demanding the prisoner's presence in federal court on a certain day; in either case the United States is able to obtain temporary custody of the prisoner. Because the detainer remains lodged against the prisoner until the underlying charges are finally resolved, the Agreement requires that the disposition be speedy and that it be obtained before the prisoner is returned to the sending state.

Id. at 361-62, 98 S. Ct. at 1848. Thus, after Mauro, transfers back and forth between competing jurisdictions through the use of writs of habeas corpus ad prosequendum are brought ...

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