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United States v. Grimes

decided: February 2, 1981.



Before Adams and Sloviter, Circuit Judges, and Knox, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Adams


This appeal from a district court denial of a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate a criminal conviction and sentence involves a five-pronged attack on both the underlying conviction and twenty year sentence for armed robbery.*fn1 Appellant, Shahid Ali, has challenged his conviction and sentence on the grounds that (1) he was denied a fair trial because of insufficient access to an adequate legal library; (2) he was unable to conduct his defense competently on account of withdrawal from a prior narcotic addiction; (3) he was refused credit on his federal sentence for the time spent in state custody prior to the federal trial; (4) he was denied credit on his federal sentence for time spent in state custody serving various state sentences imposed after the federal sentence; and (5) successive state and federal prosecutions for the same armed bank robbery violated the Double Jeopardy Clause.

Although we are troubled by the double jeopardy issue, we cannot say that the district court erred in disposing of the appellant's motion, and therefore affirm.


Shahid Ali, formerly known as Iodis X Robinson, was arrested on February 24, 1974 for the robbery of the Llewellyn-Edison Savings and Loan Association of West Orange, New Jersey. It appears that FBI agents as well as Newark police officials interrogated him and that both federal and state authorities thereafter filed charges against him. On March 12, 1974 Ali and a co-defendant, Robert Grimes, were indicted by a federal grand jury for (a) robbing the savings and loan association and (b) putting lives in jeopardy with a dangerous weapon in the course of the robbery, all in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d).

Approximately a month later, on April 8, 1974, a state grand jury indicted Ali on a charge of armed robbery of a liquor store. The following week, two more state indictments were returned, charging Ali with the armed robbery of the savings and loan association, the same act which had formed the basis of the federal indictment, and with armed robbery of a second liquor store.

Ali first went to trial in federal court and was convicted by a jury on June 26, 1974 on both § 2113 counts. The district judge sentenced him to a blanket twenty year prison term, and this Court later affirmed the judgment. After imposition of the federal sentence, Ali on December 17, 1974 pleaded guilty to all three state robbery indictments. The state sentences resulted in an aggregate twenty-two and one-half to twenty-four year term of incarceration, with the savings and loan robbery sentence to run concurrently with one of the liquor store robbery sentences.*fn2

Persistent attempts have been made by Ali to have his state and federal sentences served concurrently or credited against each other. In May 1976 he wrote the United States Attorney General requesting confinement in a New Jersey state penal facility for service of his federal sentence and simultaneous credit on the federal sentence for time spent in the state institution. Ali also wrote to the district court, in July 1976, seeking similar relief; the district court responded that it had sentenced Ali to a consecutive term. On February 9, 1979, Ali filed a motion for reduction of his federal sentence pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 35, setting forth many of the same contentions raised here. After his Rule 35 motion was denied, Ali brought the present motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his federal sentence and conviction. Without conducting a hearing, the district court denied the request in a letter opinion dated January 9, 1979. This appeal followed.

Although we affirm the district court's order, we believe it is appropriate to address briefly the merits of Ali's various contentions as well as the underlying issue of the permissibility of successive state-federal prosecutions on which the convictions in question rest.


Ali's first claim, that as a pro se litigant he was denied a fair trial because of inadequate access to legal materials, was fully addressed by the district court. Before the trial the district judge had warned Ali of the hazards of proceeding pro se and had done everything within reason to insure that Ali had access to the lawbooks that were necessary for the preparation of his defense. As described by the district court in denying Ali's motion:

(prior) to trial, the Court ordered the United States Attorney to provide Ali with an entire set of Title 18 of the United States Code Annotated, including those volumes containing the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Court also arranged for Ali to have access to the courthouse library before each day's proceedings. Indeed, the Court offered to let Ali use books from the Court's own chambers. The Court also made inquiry into the books available to Ali at the Trenton State Prison where he had been held prior to trial and ordered the Federal Detention Center where he was held during trial to allow Ali ...

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