UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
May 8, 2012
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF,
HAKEEM DICKSON DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Debevoise, Senior District Judge
Defendant, Hakeem Dickson, filed a motion seeking pursuant to 18 U.S.C.A. § 3585(b) to adjust his sentence of 24 months incarceration imposed upon him by this Court on June 25, 1992 by giving him credit for a total of 17 months he served on the same sentence in Lagos, Nigeria.
The facts are undisputed and present an unusual situation. On June 14, 1991 Defendant, a United States citizen, was arrested on a complaint charging him with bank and credit card fraud. On October 29, 1991 he pled guilty to Count One of a four count indictment which charged that from August 29, 1990 to September 10, 1990 he knowingly and willfully executed and attempted to execute a scheme to defraud a federally insured institution in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344 and 2.
On June 25, 1992 Defendant was sentenced to 24 months incarceration followed by a term of supervised release of 3 years. He was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $14,400. Voluntary surrender was ordered for August 3, 1992.
Intervening events, according to Defendant, caused him to fail to surrender. In the summer of 1992 violent clashes between Muslims and Christians occurred in Lagos, Nigeria. During these clashes two of Defendant's sisters were killed and the family home was burned to the ground. Following his sentencing Defendant returned to Lagos to bury his sisters, assess the damage to his father's house and to take his mother for treatment.
When Defendant arrived in Lagos, he was arrested at the airport and was told that since he was convicted in the United States he would also serve time in Nigeria. He was retained in custody until December 10, 1993, a total of 17 months.
Upon his release by the Nigerian authorities, Defendant apparently lived a constructive life in Nigeria, serving in public capacities. On December 4, 1998, he was elected Mayor of Surulere for a three year term. In 2004 he was appointed as Special Adviser to the Honorable Minister of Works, Senator Oluseye Ogunlewe for a period of four years with a focus on roads. He was also appointed as the special advisor to the then President of Nigeria. He served as a committee chairman of All Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) for the drafting of laws, regulations and punishments for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission. Considering the nature of Defendant's criminal activities in the United States, these are remarkable posts for Defendant to have held. Defendant now owns a factory which manufacturers concrete blocks, paving stones and kerbs, employing 20 people.
It is on the basis of these facts that Defendant seeks to credit the 17 months he served in Nigeria against the 24 months sentence imposed in the United States on June 25, 1992. Although Defendant's request has a certain common sense appeal, he has found no basis for it in the law.
The government has a slightly less benign account of the critical period. The government had urged at sentencing that Defendant be remanded forthwith or at least surrender to the Bureau of Prisons no later than the following Monday, June 29, 1992. The court noted that while on bail Defendant returned on three occasions after being given permission to leave the country. The Court also took account of Defendant's wish to spend more time with his one year old son, who suffered severe medical problems. Thus the August 3, 1992 surrender date.
Defendant made no request for leave to depart from the country, and on September 23, 1992 the government advised the Court that Defendant had failed to surrender as ordered, and attempts to locate him were unsuccessful. The Court entered an Order revoking Defendant's bail and issuing a warrant for his arrest. For the next 20 years Defendant successfully evaded all government efforts to locate and arrest him. The newly filed January 27, 2012 motion purports to fill the void. Defendant spent 17 months of the period in prison because of his United States conviction, and then went on to lead a successful political and business life.
18 U.S.C. § 3585(b), pursuant to which Defendant seeks credit for the 17 months he spent in prison in Nigeria, provides:
Credit for prior custody. 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 -
(1) as a result of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; or
(2) as a result of any other charge for which the defendant was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; that has not been credited against another sentence.
There is a serious question whether Defendant comes within the plain meaning of this provision. It is doubtful whether the 17 months imprisonment was "a result of the [scheme to defraud a federally insured institution] for which the [June 25, 1992] sentence was imposed" or "as a result of any other charge for which [Defendant] was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the [June 25, 1992 sentence] was imposed.
Regardless of the statutory construction, this Court does not have jurisdiction to grant the relief Defendant requests. The authority to grant credit pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3585 (b) rests solely with the Attorney General, acting through the Bureau of Prisons. United States v. Wilson, 503 U.S. 329, 334 (1992). The government cites in support of its position that § 3585 does not provide jurisdiction for the district court to adjust a sentence or grant credit in the manner requested by Defendant. Escribano v. Schultz, 330 Fed. Appx. 21, 24 (3d Cir. 2009); United States v. Kelly, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 121183 (W. D. Pa. 2009).
For 20 years, Defendant successfully evaded all United States government efforts to locate and arrest him. He has not served the 24 months sentence lawfully imposed upon him in June 1992. The law forbids granting the relief he seeks, and the equities of the situation point to no other outcome. The motion will be denied. The court will file an order consistent with the foregoing.
DICKINSON R. DEBEVOISE U.S.S.D.J.
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