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Sanford v. United States

August 14, 2009

ELIJAH SANFORD, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert, District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND DECISION

Petitioner Elijah Sanford ("Sanford") has filed suit under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. For the foregoing reasons, Sanford's petition is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

On December 30, 2006, Sanford robbed a Stop And Shop Grocery Store located in Merrick, New York. On May 21, 2007, Sanford waived indictment and pled guilty to one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a), interference with commerce by threats or violence (hereafter, "the Hobbs Act"). On August 17, 2007, the Court accepted Sanford's guilty plea and sentenced him to 148 months imprisonment.

On May 1, 2008, Sanford filed this petition. Sanford's petition does not dispute that he robbed the Stop And Shop. Nor does Sanford's petition raise any of the typical § 2255 arguments -- such as his counsel's ineffectiveness in various aspects of trial strategy. Instead, Sanford contends that: (1) Congress somehow duped President Truman into signing the Hobbs Act without Congress ever actually passing it, depriving the United States of jurisdiction to enforce it; (2) the United States lacked "territorial jurisdiction" over the Stop And Shop because it did not own the property and New York State never ceded its jurisdiction over it; (3) counsel was ineffective for failing to raise these alleged jurisdictional defects; and (4) counsel was ineffective because the United States paid his fees, creating an alleged conflict of interest that counsel failed to disclose.

Sanford's arguments are not only without merit, they are delusional.

DISCUSSION

I. The Hobbs Act was Validly Passed by Congress and Signed by President Truman

As an initial matter, the Court finds that Congress validly passed the Hobbs Act and that, consequently, the Hobbs Act is an enforceable law of the land.

Petitioner appears to claim the House of Representatives lacked the necessary quorum to pass 80 Pub. L. 772, and that the Senate failed to pass it at all. This argument fails for several reasons.

First, the Hobbs Act actually became law through 60 Stat. 420 (codified at former 18 U.S.C. § 420a, et seq.), which passed on July 3, 1946. This act prohibited, in substance, same crimes that the modern § 1951 does -- making it a felony to "delay[], obstruct[] or affect[] commerce" by "robbery or extortion." Id. Thus, even if Congress never validly passed 80 Pub. Law 772 -- or any of the Hobbs Act's subsequent amendments -- Sanford would still have pled guilty to conduct that the original Hobbs Act expressly prohibited.

And second, Sanford's legal research notwithstanding, 80 Pub. L. 772 clearly sets forth that it was "Approved June 25, 1948, 12:23 p.m., E.D.T." See 62 Stat. 683, 868. Thus, the amendments to the Hobbs Act which Sanford contests were validly passed.

II. The Hobbs Act Provided the Government with Jurisdiction to Prosecute Sanford

Sanford also claims that the Government lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him, because he robbed a store that the United States lacked "territorial jurisdiction" over (i.e., land that the federal government does not own, and where New York State has not ceded jurisdiction). Sanford is in error. The Hobbs Act's jurisdiction does not depend upon the United States' power over federal lands. Rather, it derives from Congress' Constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. See, e.g., Scheidler v. Nat. Org. for Women, Inc., 537 U.S. 393, 408, 123 S.Ct. 1057, 154 L.Ed. 2d 991 (2003) (The Hobbs Act "manifest[s] a purpose to use all the constitutional power Congress has to punish interference with interstate commerce by extortion, robbery or physical violence") (internal citations and quotations omitted). Here, Sanford does not dispute that his robbery affected interstate commerce. Nor could he. Not only did he plead guilty to "interference with commerce by threats or violence," but -- to survive Constitutional muster -- a Hobbs Act violator's affect on interstate commerce need only be ...


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