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William v. United States

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

August 10, 2016

Sunday Williams
United States of America Opinion No. 2016 DNH 132

          Seth R. Aframe, Esq., Jonathan Cohen, Esq., Paul F. O’Reilly, Esq., Jacob Max Weintraub, Esq.


          Joseph DiClerico, Jr. United States District Judge

         Sunday Williams filed a petition for a writ of coram nobis, seeking relief from his conviction in 2004 on a charge of making a false statement on an application for a passport. In support of his petition, Williams alleged that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by changing Williams’s plea without his consent and by misrepresenting and failing to advise Williams of the immigration consequences of the plea. Williams’s second claim, based on the immigration consequences of his guilty plea, was dismissed in response to the government’s previous motion to dismiss. The government now moves to dismiss the first claim, that counsel changed Williams’s plea without his consent, and Williams objects.

         Standard of Review

         “[C]oram nobis is an extraordinary remedy, which is available ‘only under circumstances compelling such action to achieve justice.’” Murray v. United States, 704 F.3d 23, 28 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting United States v. Morgan, 346 U.S. 502, 511 (1954)). To show that he is eligible for a writ of coram nobis, “the petitioner must first adequately explain his failure to seek relief earlier through other means; second, he must show that he continues to suffer a significant collateral consequence from the judgment being challenged and that issuance of the writ will eliminate the consequence; and third, he must demonstrate that the judgment resulted from a fundamental error.” Murray, 704 F.3d at 29 (internal footnotes omitted). “Even if the petition meets all three of the conditions in the coram nobis eligibility test, the court retains discretion to grant or deny the writ, depending on the circumstances of the individual case.” Id. 29-30.

         Background [1]

         Williams was born in Nigeria and entered the United States on a visa in 1992. He has lived in the United States since that time. In March of 1996, he married Nadine Williams, who was born in Jamaica. The Williamses have three children who were all born in the United States.

         Williams was indicted on a charge of passport fraud in February of 2004 based on a misrepresentation of his citizenship in his passport application. See United States v. Williams, 04-cr-51-JD (D.N.H. February 19, 2004). During the change of plea hearing in that case held on July 29, 2004, the court acknowledged that the First Circuit had recently changed the law with respect to venue for cases charging passport fraud and that the case should not have been brought in the District of New Hampshire. The court asked Williams if, in light of the change in the law, he freely and voluntarily waived his right to be tried in one of the Districts in New York rather than the District of New Hampshire.

         In response to the court’s question, Williams consulted with his attorney, Richard Monteith. After discussing the issue with Williams outside the courtroom, Monteith reported to the court that Williams “would like to withdraw that waiver and not go through with this proceeding today.” Transcript, doc. no. 31, at 9. The court asked if Williams wanted the case dismissed, and Monteith responded, “He does, Judge.” Id. Monteith moved to dismiss the case.

         In response, Assistant United States Attorney Rubega asked the court to delay ruling on the motion to dismiss to give the government time to file a superseding indictment to charge Williams with making a false statement in a passport application in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. After a discussion about whether a superseding indictment or a new indictment would be necessary to bring the charge under § 1001, Monteith said: “Time is important to Mr. Williams regarding immigration, what’s going to happen with that, so I suppose we don’t have an objection to a superseding indictment.” Id. at 12. Monteith also noted that a superseding indictment, as opposed to a new indictment, would avoid having Williams arrested on the new charge.

         The court agreed to stay any ruling on Williams’s motion to dismiss to allow time for the government to file a superseding indictment. The government filed a superseding indictment on August 5, 2004, charging Williams with making a false statement on a passport application in violation of § 1001.

         Williams pleaded guilty to the charge of making a false statement on October 14, 2004. During the hearing, Williams admitted the factual allegations read by the court to support the charge against him. Rubega then read the facts the government would prove if the case went to trial. Monteith did not object to the facts as read, and Williams also accepted the facts as read by Rubega.

         When asked by the court if he had any questions about the proceedings, Williams said that he had no objection but noted that “the Immigration matter is pending.” Monteith explained that Williams had immigration hearings pending in New York. Williams agreed that the New York hearings were the immigration matter to which he referred. The court then accepted Wiliams’s plea. Williams was sentenced on January 14, 2005, to three years of probation.

         Williams’s wife became a United States citizen in 2010. When Williams applied for lawful permanent resident status based on his marriage to a citizen, his application was denied based on the facts underlying Williams’s guilty plea in 2004, which included a false claim of United States ...

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