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Ozsusamlar v. United States

January 8, 2010

MUSTAFA OZSUSAMLAR, PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

Opinion & Order

In 2007, Petitioner Mustafa Ozsusamlar ("Petitioner") was convicted on six counts arising out of a scheme to provide fraudulent identification documents to illegal aliens. In April 2009, Petitioner filed the instant petition for habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Section 2255"), asking the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that: (1) Petitioner's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) his sentence was unreasonable; (3) his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial was violated; and (4) his Miranda rights were violated.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES Petitioner's habeas corpus petition.

I. Background

In late 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") was investigating Petitioner and his colleague, Rafat Ozoglu, on suspicion that the two men were running a scheme to provide illegal aliens with Washington D.C. drivers' licenses. As part of the scheme, Petitioner and Ozoglu would drive customers from New York to W.D.C., help them fill out applications for W.D.C. licenses, and then turn those applications over to an employee at the W.D.C. DMV.

Petitioner had bribed the employee to provide drivers' licenses without following normal DMV security procedures.

On December 5, 2001, Petitioner had driven a group of customers to W.D.C. in a van, and was parked near the DMV helping his customers fill out applications. A man who passed by the van informed W.D.C. Police Officer Justin Branson, who was standing nearby, that he thought something suspicious was taking place inside the van. Officer Branson approached the van and introduced himself to Petitioner. Petitioner was visibly nervous, and he and his passengers tried to conceal documents from Officer Branson and to escape the van. Officer Branson became suspicious and called for additional law enforcement assistance. The officers gathered physical evidence from the van and took statements from Petitioner and some of the passengers. Later that day, Petitioner and his customers were arrested.

Petitioner's trial took place in May 2005.*fn1 At trial, the Government introduced substantial evidence of Petitioner's involvement in the scheme. The Government called a number of witnesses, including Officer Branson; Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") Special Agent Mark Leeper, to whom Petitioner had confessed certain aspects of his participation in the scheme; and a number of witnesses who were cooperating with the FBI's investigation and had personal knowledge of Petitioner's involvement in the scheme. Significant documentary evidence was introduced, including a letter Petitioner had written while he was in prison that recounted details of the December 5 van trip to W.D.C; records of numerous van rentals by a person using Petitioner's alias; and hundreds of W.D.C. drivers' license applications filled out in Petitioner's handwriting. On May 14, 2005, the jury returned a verdict, finding Petitioner guilty on all six counts of the Indictment.

In advance of sentencing, the U.S. Probation Office calculated that pursuant to the Sentencing Guidelines, Petitioner had an offense level of thirty-five, which took into account, among other things, Petitioner's leadership role in the offenses (four levels), the value of the bribes exceeding $1 million (sixteen levels), and the fact that the scheme involved transporting more than 100 illegal aliens (nine levels). Petitioner had a previous federal conviction for harboring and transporting aliens, and had run the instant scheme while on supervised release. Accordingly, the Probation Office placed him in Criminal History Category III. Based on the offense level of thirty-five and the Criminal History Category III, Petitioner's Sentencing Guidelines range was 210 to 236 months.

At the sentencing proceeding, Petitioner's counsel objected to a number of the factors the Probation Office used to calculate the offense level. Counsel also informed the Court of relevant personal factors pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) that could provide a basis for mitigating Petitioner's sentence, including Petitioner's advanced age and charitable work. Petitioner made a statement to the Court, in which he emphasized his poor health and charitable work and professed his innocence. Petitioner argued that he deserved credit for assistance he provided the Government and for assistance he was providing the INS in a separate investigation.

The Government argued that Petitioner's sentence should not be reduced on the basis of information he provided the Government, noting that some of the information Petitioner had provided was false, and that no one had been prosecuted as a result of Petitioner's assistance. In addition, the Government contended that Petitioner's assistance to the INS was part of a separate deal and should not provide a basis for a reduced sentence.

The Court agreed with the Probation Office's Guidelines calculation, and made factual findings supporting it. The Court stated that there was no basis for crediting Petitioner's assistance to the Government. The Court considered the relevant sentencing factors laid out in 18 U.S.C. § 3553, and noted Petitioner's charitable work and age. The Court then sentenced Petitioner to a term of 235 months of incarceration to be followed by three years of supervised release.*fn2

Following his sentencing, Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Petitioner challenged his conviction on the grounds that the Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from his encounter with Officer Branson. On May 22, 2008, the Second Circuit issued a summary order affirming the Court's decision.

On March 6, 2009, the Petitioner filed the instant petition for habeas corpus, asking the Court to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that: (1) his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance; (2) his sentence was unreasonable; (3) delays in his trial violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial; and ...


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