United States District Court, D. New Jersey
B. KUGLER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Santo Islaam, is a federal prisoner currently incarcerated at
the Federal Correctional Institute Allenwood Medium in White
Deer, Pennsylvania. He is proceeding pro se with a
motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the reasons set forth below,
Petitioner's motion will be denied and a certificate of
appealability shall not issue.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
direct appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
succinctly described the underlying circumstances as follows:
On February 24, 2012, Camden City Police arrested Appellant
after observing him providing cash to another individual in
exchange for certain small items. The police officers who
stopped him found a loaded revolver, two zip-lock bags of
heroin, and a bag of cocaine on his person. Appellant was
arrested and subsequently indicted for unlawful possession of
a firearm as a felon, unlawful transportation of firearms,
and possession of heroin and cocaine. Appellant was
represented by an Assistant Federal Public Defender and
entered a plea of guilty on September 16, 2013 to Possession
of a Weapon by a Convicted Felon. In exchange for this plea,
the Government agreed to dismiss his other two counts at his
Subsequently, [Appellant] filed a pro se letter to
the District Court, which it interpreted as a Motion for New
Counsel and Motion to Withdraw his Guilty Plea. In the
letter, Appellant asserted that his counsel coerced him to
plead guilty by advising him that he was potentially facing a
penalty of 25 years to life if convicted at trial, and that
he had no realistic chance of being found not guilty. The
District Court appointed him new counsel, who represented in
the hearing on his withdrawal motion that, if called to
testify, Appellant would state that the firearm was not his,
was not in his possession at the time of arrest, and that he
was not aware of its existence at the time of his arrest.
Appellant's new counsel also stated that Appellant would
testify that the officers who arrested him lied when they
stated that they found the firearm on his person, and that it
was in fact recovered from the wheel well of a nearby car.
The District Court denied Appellant's motion to withdraw
his plea, finding that he had not met his burden of showing
sufficiently strong reasons to justify the withdrawal. The
Court credited his sworn testimony of his guilt from his
prior court appearances over his unsworn recantations of his
plea through his attorney, and found that he had not
demonstrated that his original counsel had given him
incorrect legal advice, or coerced him to plead guilty.
United States v. Islaam, 615 Fed.Appx. 69, 70-71 (3d
was sentenced to a term of ten years imprisonment and three
years supervised release. (See ECF No. 10-1 at 4-8.)
Petitioner thereafter filed a notice of appeal to the Third
Circuit challenging this Court's denial of his motion to
withdraw his guilty plea. (See ECF No. 10-3.) The
Third Circuit denied Petitioner's appeal on June 22,
2015. See Islaam, 615 Fed.Appx. 69.
timely filed the instant motion in June 2016. (See
ECF No. 1.) Respondents submitted a response on January 27,
2017. (See ECF No. 10.) Petitioner filed a traverse
thereafter. (See ECF No. 14.)
28 U.S.C. § 2255, a motion to vacate, set aside or
correct a sentence of a person in federal custody entitles a
prisoner to relief if “the sentence was imposed in
violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States,
or that the court was without jurisdiction to impose such
sentence, or that the sentence was in excess of the maximum
authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral
attack.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). When considering a
§ 2255 motion, a district court “‘must
accept the truth of the movant's factual allegations
unless they are clearly frivolous on the basis of the
existing record.'” United States v.
Tolliver, 800 F.3d 138, 141 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting
United States v. Booth, 432 F.3d 542, 545 (3d Cir.
2005)). Additionally, a district court must hold an
evidentiary hearing on the motion if “‘the files
and records do not show conclusively that [the movant] was
not entitled to relief.'” United States v.
Tolliver, 800 F.3d 138, 141 (3d Cir. 2015) (alteration
in original) (quoting Solis v. United States, 252
F.3d 289, 294 (3d Cir. 2001)).
raises several claims in his motion. He argues that he was
denied his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial, that he
was compelled to be a witness against himself in violation of
his Fifth Amendment rights, that his federal public defender
was ineffective, and there was not sufficient evidence to
convict him of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon,
in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1).
(See ECF No. 1.) This Court will address each claim
Speedy Trial Violation
asserts that he was deprived of his Sixth Amendment right to
a speedy trial. (See ECF No. 3 at 7; ECF No. 3-3 at
9-10.) Petitioner argues that he was arrested on February 24,
2012, on state charges, and was “warehoused” in a
county jail for nine months without ever being indicted.
(See ECF No. 3 at 7.) Petitioner claims that the
Camden County Prosecutor was in “collusion” with
the United States Attorney's Office to keep him in jail
until federal prosecutors were ready to arrest and indict
him. (See Id. at 7; ECF No. 3-3 at 9.) Petitioner
states that once he was indicted on federal charges,
continuances on his case were granted without his consent and
that federal prosecutors engaged in “stall
tactics” to postpone his trial. (See ECF No.
3-3 at 9-10.)
determine whether a speedy trial violation has occurred,
courts employ a “balancing test, in which the conduct
of both the prosecution and the defendant are weighed.”
Vermont v. Brillon, 556 U.S. 81, 90 (2009) (citing
Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530 (1997)). In
Barker, the Supreme Court set forth the factors
courts should consider when determining whether a
defendant's right to a speedy trial has been violated.
See Barker, 407 U.S. at 530. The four
Barker factors are: “(1) the length of the
delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the extent to which
the defendant asserted his speedy trial right; and (4) the
prejudice suffered by the defendant. No one factor is
controlling, and any violation depends on the peculiar
circumstances of the case.” United States v.
Sodano, 592 Fed.Appx. 114, 115 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal
citations omitted) (citing Barker, 407 U.S. at
Length of Delay
the first factor, “[t]he speedy trial clock, for Sixth
Amendment purposes, begins to run from either the date of the
arrest or indictment, whichever is earlier, and ends with the
commencement of trial.” Id. However,
“[w]hen an arrest on state charges is followed by a
federal indictment, the right to a speedy trial in the
federal case is triggered by the federal indictment, and the
time period under consideration commences on that
date.” United States v. Battis, 589 F.3d 673,
679 (3d Cir. 2009); see also United States v.
MacDonald, 456 U.S. 1, 10 n.11 (1982) (“an arrest
or indictment by one sovereign would not cause the speedy
trial guarantees to become engaged as to possible subsequent
indictments by another sovereign”). Thus, an
“arrest on state charges does not engage the speedy
trial protection for a subsequent federal charge.”
United States v. Costello, 720 Fed.Appx. 120, 122-23
(3d Cir. 2018); see also Jones v. United States,
Civ. No. 13-3748, 2016 WL 81253, at *9 (D.N.J. Jan. 7, 2016).
how long of a delay is sufficient to trigger a review of the
remaining Barker factors is unclear; however, the
Supreme Court has noted that lower courts generally engage in
a Barker analysis when the delay “approaches
one year.” See United States v. Velazquez, 749
F.3d 161, 174 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Doggett v. United
States, 505 U.S. 647, 652 n.1 (1992)). “[O]nce
that [one-year] threshold has been passed, ‘the state,
not the prisoner, bears the burden to justify the
delay.'” Id. (quoting Hakeem v.
Beyer, 990 F.2d 750, 770 (3d Cir. 1993)).
Petitioner was initially arrested on state charges on
February 24, 2012. See Islaam, 615 Fed.Appx. at 70.
Petitioner was not indicted or arrested on federal charges
until November 28, 2012. See Crim. No. 12-7766, at
ECF Nos. 1, 2 (D.N.J.). Petitioner's scheduled trial date
- and ultimately the date on which he accepted a guilty plea
-was September 16, 2013. (See ECF No. 10-1 at 42-43
(stating date Petitioner was scheduled for trial).) Thus, the
relevant period of delay is the almost ten months between the
federal indictment on November 28, 2012, and Petitioner's
scheduled trial date September 16, 2013. See Judge v.
United States, 119 F.Supp.3d 270, 293 (D.N.J. 2015)
(“Although Petitioner argues as to both his state and
federal periods of detention, Battis makes clear
that the period to be considered for his speedy trial claim
would have begun when he was indicted on federal
charges.”). Since Petitioner's period of
pre-indictment delay was less than one year, the first
Barker factor weighs against Petitioner.
Reason for Delay
second Barker factor considers the reason for the
delay between a petitioner's indictment and his trial.
The possible reasons for delay on the part of the Government
comprise three categories: “deliberate effort by the
Government to delay the trial ‘in order to hamper the
defense'”; “negligence or overcrowded
courts”; and “a valid reason, such as a missing
witness[.]” See Battis, 589 F.3d at 679
(quoting Barker, 407 U.S. at 531). While each of
these factors weighs against the Government,
“‘delay caused by the defense weighs against the
defendant,' including ‘delay caused by the
defendant's counsel.'” See Id. at
679-80 (quoting Vermont, 556 U.S. at 90-91).
“[T]he attorney is the [defendant's] agent when
acting, or failing to act, in furtherance of the
litigation.” See Vermont, 556 U.S. at 90
(quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 753
(1991)). In evaluating the second Barker factor,
delays caused by the petitioner must be subtracted from
delays caused by the Government. See Battis, 589
F.3d at 680.
instant case, Petitioner, through his counsel, requested
three sixty-day continuances. United States of America v.
Islaam, Crim. No. 12-7766, at ECF Nos. 9, 10, 11
(D.N.J.). Although Petitioner contends that he “never
consented to any continuance”, these requests for
continuances by defense counsel are still attributable to
Petitioner. See Battis, 589 F.3d at 679-80.
Consequently, the almost six-month delay caused by the
requests for continuances must be subtracted from the ten
months it took to bring Petitioner to trial.
after the last continuance request expired in July 2013,
several pre-trial motions were filed by both Petitioner and
the Government, including a motion by Petitioner for a change
of counsel. See United States of America v. Islaam,
Crim. No. 12-7766, at ECF Nos. 12, 14, 19, 20, 23, 24
(D.N.J.). The pendency of these motions constituted most, if
not all, of the “delay” between July 2013 and
Petitioner's scheduled trial date in September 2013.
(See id.) Accordingly, there is simply no evidence
here that the Government induced any delay. Rather, the