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United States v. Hussain

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 27, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SYED IBRAHIM HUSSAIN, Defendant.

          OPINION DENYING PETITIONER'S AMENDED MOTION TO VACATE SENTENCE (Doc. # 76)

          Victoria A. Roberts United States District Judge

         Syed Ibrahim Hussain, (“Hussain”), filed an amended motion for a writ of habeas corpus (“Amended Motion”) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Hussain pled guilty to extortion by interstate communication, 18 U.S.C. § 875(b), and possession of child pornography, 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(5)(B). Hussain now claims that his counsel was ineffective during the plea bargaining process. Specifically, Hussain contends that his counsel “did not explain the process of plea negotiation” to him and he did not realize that a “plea offer” indicated in an email from the Government would expire.

         For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         From December 2012 to April 2013, Hussain resided in various hotel rooms near Detroit, Michigan. In December 2012, he sent text messages to a female victim, demanding that she marry him or he would kidnap, rape, and assault her. The text messages were sent while Hussain was in Michigan, were transmitted over Sprint/Nextel's communication system through a service center in Kansas City, Missouri, and were received by the victim in Michigan. The victim refused Hussain's demands. With the thought of kidnapping her, Hussain purchased items such as handcuffs, GPS tracking devices that he placed on the victim's car, leg irons, a flashlight, and a shotgun. Hussain was arrested in April 2013 before he could carry out his plan.

         After Hussain's April 2013 arrest, images and videos of child pornography were found on his personal computer in his hotel room near Detroit, Michigan.

         The Government filed a two-count criminal complaint against Hussain in May 2013.

         During plea negotiations, the Government sent Sanford Schulman, counsel for Hussain, an email stating that if Hussain pled guilty to the charged offenses, the Sentencing Guidelines range would be 51-63 months with no mandatory minimum. The email stated that Hussain would be required to register as a sex offender, under the Sexual Offender Registration and Notification Act. The email also indicated that if Hussain did not accept this offer, the Government would charge him under a different child pornography statute which carried a mandatory minimum five years prison term. Mr. Schulman relayed this information to Hussain in December 2013.

         In October 2014, Hussain entered into a written plea agreement for the two charged offenses, but with a Sentencing Guidelines range of 63 to 78 months. In June 2015, Hussain filed a motion for a determination of ineffective assistance of counsel in the plea bargaining process, claiming that the December 2013 email was an offer, and that he was not told there was a deadline to accept or reject the offer. During a July 2015 hearing on the motion, the Government said that the email was not an offer because material terms were not addressed, and it did not bind the Government. The Court concluded that the email was not a formal offer; it denied Hussain's motion without prejudice. [Doc. 76, Ex. 1, Pg. ID 681-682, 685-686].

         In December 2015, the Court sentenced Hussain to 72 months imprisonment on both counts, to run concurrently.

         In this Amended Motion - much like the original motion - Hussain argues that the December 2013 email constitutes a plea offer. He says Mr. Schulman did not explain the plea negotiation process to him, and contends he did not realize the offer contained in the December 2013 email would expire if he failed to accept it or continue negotiations. Hussain says he was prejudiced. He requests an evidentiary hearing so that factual allegations may be established.

         In its response, the Government argues that Hussain's counsel was not ineffective because the Court determined that the email did not constitute a plea offer, and that Hussain suffered no prejudice. [Doc. 80, Pg. ID 707, 709-710].

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Ineffective ...


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