The opinion of the court was delivered by: STEWART
Petitioner, Andrew Walker, Jr., seeks a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and 28 U.S.C. § 2254,
claiming a violation of federal statutory rights created by the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act
[hereinafter the Act]. He seeks relief from an order of Judge Raymond E. Aldrich, Jr., District Judge of Dutchess County, New York, denying his petition for dismissal of an indictment filed against him in New York and vacatur of the subsequent conviction under that indictment. He has exhausted his state remedies.
The Act provides a means for a prisoner who has a detainer lodged against him, notifying prison authorities of pending criminal charges in another jurisdiction, to request prompt disposition of the charges. A state must respond to the prisoner's request by taking temporary custody of the prisoner and trying him within 180 days of his request (Art. III(a)); if the prisoner is returned to the original place of imprisonment without having been tried the underlying charges must be dismissed (Art. III(d)).
Petitioner was serving a sentence under a federal conviction when a detainer was lodged against him by the state of New York. He was sent to New York, pursuant to procedures established under the Act, to resolve charges under an indictment pending in that state. He pleaded guilty to the New York charge, but was returned to federal custody before being sentenced. He claims that the Act required New York to finally resolve all pending indictments against him while he was in the state's custody, and that by returning him to federal prison after he pleaded guilty, but before sentencing, the state violated the Act, requiring dismissal of the indictment.
We must decide whether a state which has assumed temporary custody of a prisoner, in order to resolve an indictment pending against the prisoner, is required by the Act to sentence the prisoner prior to returning him to the original place of imprisonment.
In April, 1976, Petitioner pleaded guilty in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to two counts of mail fraud [in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341] and was sentenced to two years on each count, the sentences to run concurrently. Petitioner was serving that sentence when he instituted the instant writ.
On July 7, 1976, Petitioner was notified by the prison authorities at the federal penitentiary where he was incarcerated that Respondent King, the District Attorney of Dutchess County, had lodged a detainer with the prison authorities, based on a New York indictment.
On July 12, 1976, Petitioner requested disposition of that indictment pursuant to Art. III of the Act, and N.Y.Crim.Proc. Law § 580.20.
On August 18, 1976, with Respondent Vincent, Senior Administrative Assistant of the Dutchess County jail assuming temporary custody of Petitioner, Petitioner was transferred, pursuant to the Act, to the Dutchess County jail in Poughkeepsie. On August 25, 1976, Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to a reduced charge and was remanded to the Dutchess County jail pending sentence. Two days later, on August 27th, Petitioner was interviewed by a probation officer for the purpose of preparing a presentence report and following that interview was transferred by the state back to federal prison. Petitioner was not sentenced while he was in New York (nor has he ever been sentenced). Petitioner claims that Respondents' failure to sentence him while he was in Respondents' temporary custody constituted a violation of Art. III of the Act and of his federal statutory rights created under that Act -- requiring dismissal of his indictment.
Art. III(d) provides, in relevant part, "If trial is not had on any indictment . . . prior to the return of the prisoner to the original place of imprisonment, such indictment . . . shall not be of any further force or effect, and the court shall enter an order dismissing the same with prejudice." The issue before this court is whether this section requires a state to pronounce sentence prior to the return of the prisoner to the original place of imprisonment in order to comport with the spirit and purpose of the Act.
The Act does not include a definition of the word trial, nor for that manner is any other term used in the Act defined. We turn to the history of the Act, and to Congressional statements of purpose in its enactment, for guidance in deciding this issue.
The Agreement on Detainers was enacted into law by Congress in 1970, and was designed to combat abuses which had existed with respect to detainers. Detainers are notifications lodged with prison authorities advising that there are indictments, informations or complaints pending in another jurisdiction against a prisoner. The purpose of filing a detainer is to request that the prison authorities detain the prisoner at the conclusion of his present sentence so that he may be taken into custody by authorities of the state lodging the detainer. The filing of a detainer adversely affects both the terms and conditions of a prisoner's present incarceration and is likely to have a destructive impact on the prisoner's attitude. An excerpt from the 1947 Handbook on Interstate Crime Control
focused on the abuse of detainers.
We know now that the prison administrator's task is to rehabilitate the offender and to make plans for him to return to the community as a self-respecting, lawabiding citizen. However, this task is difficult to accomplish in many cases because we have allowed the detainer, inherited from medieval thinking, to remain in our law enforcement system ...