Eastwood v. United States of America
OPINION. Signed by District Judge John A. Gibney, Jr on 02/03/2017. (tjoh, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-00536-JAG
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
In 2009, this Court sentenced Yvette Eastwood, a citizen of Jamaica, to ninety months of
imprisonment and three years of supervised release on her conviction for drug trafficking. At her
sentencing hearing, the presiding judge told Eastwood that upon completion of her term of
imprisonment, she must surrender to immigration officials for deportation if the officials decide
deportation is appropriate at the time of her release. Near the end of her term of imprisonment,
immigration officials filed a detainer on Eastwood and notified her of their intent to initiate
removal proceedings based on her conviction. According to Eastwood, this notice was when she
first learned about the immigration consequences of her conviction.
Upon completion of her term of imprisonment, the Bureau of Prisons transferred
Eastwood to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE").
In June 2016,
Eastwood filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis asking the Court to vacate her conviction
and sentence based on ineffective assistance of counsel. While Eastwood titles her petition as a
writ of error coram nobis, it really asks for relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Because Eastwood
previously filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, this filing qualifies as a second or successive
motion over which the Court lacks jurisdiction. Even if the Court considers the filing under the
standard for a writ of error coram nobis, however, Eastwood lacks a valid reason for not
attacking her conviction on these grounds earlier.
Eastwood, a citizen of Jamaica, entered the United States in the mid-1990s. She was
removed in 2000, and then formally entered the United States in May 2003 as a permanent
In November 2009, Eastwood pleaded guilty to a drug trafficking crime.
pleading guilty, and throughout the representation, Eastwood's attorney never discussed any
potential immigration consequences of her guilty plea. Further, during the plea colloquy, the
presiding magistrate judge did not mention deportation as a possible consequence of pleading
After Eastwood pleaded guilty, the probation office prepared a presentence investigation
report ("PSR"), which Eastwood and her counsel reviewed. The PSR noted that Eastwood
became a permanent resident who could live and work in the United States in May 2003. The
PSR continued, however, "if [Eastwood] is convicted of a felony offense, she may be amenable
to removal proceedings for violations ofthe Immigration Act."^ (PSR ^ 24.)
In January 2010, the Court sentenced Eastwood to ninety months of imprisonment with
three years of supervised release to follow. At the sentencing hearing, as part of her sentence,
the presiding judge said:
[U]pon completion of your sentence you will surrender yourself
to a duly authorized immigration official of the Department of
Homeland Security for deportation if it's appropriate under U.S.
law at that time. The decision will be made upon your release.
But you will be required to surrender yourself and submit to that
' At the plea hearing, the presiding magistrate judge ensured that Eastwood understood "that this
involves a felony charge." (Plea Hr'g Tr. 8:17-19.)
process. And if ordered to—if you're removed from the United
States, you shall not return to the United States during the period
of time you're on supervised release without the authority of the
Attorney General of the United States, or the Secretary for the
Department Homeland Security.
(Sentencing Hr'g Tr. 26:5-18.) The judgment issued following the sentencing hearing confirmed
this ruling, mandating as a special condition to supervision:
Upon completion of her term of imprisonment, the defendant is to
be surrendered to a duly-authorized immigration official of the
Department of Homeland Security Bureau of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement for deportation in accordance with the
established procedures provided by the Immigration and
Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C. Section 1101 et seq. As a further
condition of supervised release, if ordered deported, the defendant
shall remain outside the United States.
(J. Jan. 28, 2010, at 4.) Eastwood did not directly appeal her conviction.
In 2011, Eastwood filed a motion to vacate her conviction under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 based
on ineffective assistance of counsel. This motion did not mention immigration consequences or
deportation. The Court denied the motion.
On January 29, 2016, ICE notified Eastwood that it was initiating removal proceedings to
deport her to Jamaica based on her conviction for an aggravated felony. According to Eastwood,
this was when she first learned of the immigration consequences of her conviction.
completion of her imprisonment, the Bureau of Prisons transferred Eastwood to the custody of
ICE. On November 30, 2016, ICE deported Eastwood to Jamaica.
In her filing, Eastwood asks the Court to vacate her drug trafficking conviction and
sentence based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The typical means for convicted defendants
in custody to collaterally attack a federal sentence is through 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Custody extends
from actual imprisonment through any term of supervised release. See Kusay v. United States,
62 F.3d 192, 193 (7th Cir. 1995). Section 2255 allows for one motion collaterally attacking a
sentence, and then requires the movant to obtain authorization from the court of appeals before
filing a second or successive motion.
Id. § 2255(h); see 28 U.S.C. § 2244.
defendant cannot avoid this requirement by labeling her filing as something else.
substance of the filing controls. See United States v. Winestock, 340 F.3d 200, 207 (4th Cir.
In this case, although Eastwood labels her filing as a petition for writ of error coram
nobis, the filing clearly falls within the realm of § 2255. Eastwood is in custody, attacks the
constitutionality of her conviction, and asks the Court to vacate her sentence. Accordingly, the
Court must construe her filing as a motion under § 2255. Because Eastwood previously filed a
motion under § 2255, this filing is an unauthorized successive motion that the Court must
dismiss for lack ofjurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(h).
Eastwood makes two arguments in opposition to this holding, neither of which saves her
filing. First, Eastwood argues that she is not "in custody" because she completed her term of
imprisonment for her conviction, but has not yet begun her term of supervised release. This
argument ignores the plain language of 18 U.S.C. § 3624(e), which directs that "[t]he term of
supervised release commences on the day the person is released from imprisonment." The only
event that stops the term of supervised release from running is time spent imprisoned after
conviction of another crime. Id. This means that time spent in ICE custody or time spent in
^ See Melton v. United States, 359 F.3d 855, 857 (7th Cir. 2004) ("Prisoners cannot avoid the
[successive motion] rules by inventive captioning. Any motion filed in the district court that
imposed the sentence, and substantively within the scope of § 2255 ^ 1, w a motion under
§ 2255, no matter what title the prisoner plasters on the cover. Call it a motion for a new trial,
arrest of judgment, mandamus, prohibition, coram nobis, coram vobis, audita querela, certiorari,
capias, habeas corpus, ejectment, quare impedit, bill of review, writ of error, or an application for
a Get-Out-of-Jail Card; the name makes no difference. It is substance that controls." (emphasis
another country following deportation does not stop the clock on a term of supervised release.^
Indeed, a special condition of Eastwood's supervised release requires her to surrender to
immigration officials and, if deported, remain outside of the United States. (J, Jan. 28, 2010, at
4); see 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d). Second, Eastwood argues that § 2255 does not provide an avenue
for relief because the time limitations for motions pursuant to § 2255 would bar her motion. Her
inability to actually obtain relief under § 2255, however, does not mean that § 2255 is the
incorrect avenue to seek relief for persons in custody. Cf. United States v. Howze, 521 F. App'x
164, 165 (4th Cir. 2013).'' Accordingly, neither of Eastwood's arguments persuades the Court
from its holding that her filing qualifies as an unauthorized successive petition under § 2255.
Even if the Court considered Eastwood's filing as a petition for writ of error coram nobis,
however, the Court would deny the petition. A writ of error coram nobis is a remedy of last
resort. To succeed, a petitioner must show that (1) a more usual remedy is not available;
(2) valid reasons exist for not attacking the conviction earlier; (3) adverse consequences exist
from the conviction; and (4) the error is of the most fundamental character.
United States v.
^ See United States v. Gonzales, 418 F. App'x 191, 193 (4th Cir. 2011); Abimobola v. United
States, 369 F. Supp. 2d 249, 253 (E.D.N.Y. 2005). But see United States v. Zepeda-Dominguez,
545 F. Supp. 2d 547, 549 (E.D. Va. 2008). Nevertheless, because the Fourth Circuit has not
reached this issue in a published decision, and because reasonable jurists could debate, the Court
will grant a certificate of appealability on the issue of whether Eastwood is "in custody" as
required by § 2255. See Slack v. McDaniel, 529 U.S. 473, 484 (2000); 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c); Fed.
R. App. P. 22(b)(1).
^"A petitioner may not resort to a writ of error coram nobis simply because he cannot meet the
standards for filing a second or successive § 2255 motion." Howze, 521 F. App'x at 165 (citing
United States v. Rhines, 640 F.3d 69, 71-72 (3d Cir.2011)) (alterations omitted). Similarly, a
petitioner caimot resort to a writ of error coram nobis simply because he cannot meet the time
limitations for filing a § 2255 motion. Indeed, for claims based on certain meritorious triggers,
the time limitation would restart. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(f). For example, if the Supreme Court
had made its holding in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010), retroactive, Eastwood could
have challenged her conviction within one year of that decision. Unfortunately for Eastwood,
Padilla does not have retroactive effect. Chaidez v. United States,
, 133 S. Ct. 1103,
Akinsade, 686 F.3d 248, 252 (4th Cir. 2012). In this case, Eastwood does not provide a valid
reason for not attacking her conviction earlier on the ground that her counsel was ineffective
because he did not warn her of the potential immigration consequences of her guilty plea. She
claims that she could not bring this attack earlier because she "was unaware of the near-
mandatory effect of her plea until deportation proceedings were initiated against her." (Petition
14.) This completely ignores the fact that the presiding judge at sentencing required Eastwood to
surrender to immigration officials after she completed her term of imprisonment. Thus, no valid
reason exists why Eastwood did not challenge her conviction earlier, rendering relief through
writ of error coram nobis unavailable.
In summary, as properly construed, Eastwood has filed an unauthorized successive
motion under § 2255, leaving this Court without jurisdiction to consider the merits. Even if the
Court considered the petition for writ of error coram nobis, however, Eastwood does not provide
a valid reason for not attacking her conviction earlier.
The Court will enter an appropriate order.
Let the Clerk send a copy of this Opinion to all counsel of record.
JohnA. Gibney, Jr. /
Richmond, V rginia
United States District Judf
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