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Mordi v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

June 19, 2017



          STACI M. YANDLE United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Uche Phillip Mordi's 28 USC § 2255 Petition seeking withdrawal of his guilty plea (Doc. 5). For the following reasons, the Petition is DENIED.


         On October 20, 2009, Petitioner Uche Phillip Mordi pleaded guilty to a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and was sentenced to 120 months in prison. United States v. Uche P. Mordi, Case No. 09-cr-40026, Doc. 26. Judith Kuenneke of the Federal Public Defender's office represented Mordi throughout the proceedings. Id.

         Mordi initially filed a Petition to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2255 on Oct 21, 2010 (No. 10-cv-828-GPM, Doc. 1). The Court subsequently granted his motion to withdraw his Petition without prejudice and noted that a future § 2255 petition would likely be time barred (No. 10-cv-828-GPM, Doc. 12).

         Mordi filed the instant § 2255 Petition on July 2, 2014, attacking his conviction and seeking to withdraw his plea. The Government responded (Doc. 13) and Mordi replied (Doc. 16). Mordi filed a Motion to Supplement on September 11, 2015 (Doc. 18).[1]

         Mordi's Petition raises five grounds: (1) police misconduct and misrepresentation; (2) prosecutorial misconduct for breach of plea agreement, violation of right to effective counsel, and compelled self-incrimination; (3) that his plea and conviction were based on inadmissible evidence; (4) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (5) that his plea agreement was (a) unknowing and (b) involuntary. Specifically, in support of ground (1), Mordi alleges that Illinois State Police Trooper Todd Zeigler falsified and concealed a police report in order to justify a prolonged traffic stop of Mordi's vehicle. As to ground (2), Mordi asserts that the government failed to abide by the rules of discovery by not producing the concealed police report, thereby breaching the plea agreement and compelling him to incriminate himself. For ground (3), Mordi claims that the interrogating officers searched his cellphone without his consent, thereby compelling him to incriminate himself because he assumed that the officers had seen photos of him with large amounts of cash. As to ground (4), Mordi alleges that his attorney advised him that, “absent a finding that the search of his vehicle was unlawful, there were no grounds on which his [incriminating] statements would be inadmissible.” (Doc. 5, p. 3). Finally, in support of ground (5), Mordi contends that the concealed police report and his attorney's statement that his incriminating statements were admissible, rendered his plea and plea agreement “unknowing and involuntary.”

         Timeliness of the Petition

         Initially, Mordi relies on § 2255(f)(4) to toll the statute of limitations for grounds 1, 2 and 5(a). Under § 2255(f)(4) the one year statute of limitations begins to run on “the date on which the facts supporting the claim or claims presented could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence.”

         Facts supporting Mordi's claim could have been discovered on February 22, 2013, when he received the partial draft of Trooper Zeigler's March 12, 2009 report from Effingham County Jail. He therefore had until February 22, 2014 to timely file his Petition. However, the Petition was filed on July 2, 2014.

         Mordi argues that the statute of limitations should be tolled because the March 12, 2009 report was similar to Zeigler's March 13, 2009 report and, as a result, he was misled and prevented from discovering the true facts until April 2014. Although the reports were facially similar, at a minimum, due diligence required that Mordi read the March 12, 2009 report when he received it. If he did, he should have discovered the relevant facts at that time. If he didn't, due diligence was lacking.

         In his Reply, Mordi also asserts tolling arguments under § 2255(f)(2), which provides that the limitations period begins to run, “the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action[.]” Mordi argues that Trooper Zeigler's failure to disclose the partial report to him, ISP or Counsel created an impediment to his ability to file a timely Petition. Even if Trooper Zeigler's failure to disclose the report initially impeded Mordi from filing his Petition, the impediment was removed when the report was disclosed to Mordi on February 22, 2013. Thus, the statute of limitations was not tolled and grounds 1, 2 and 5(a) are time barred.

         Mordi further argues that the Government should be estopped from raising the statute of limitations defense because Trooper Zeilger's deliberate conduct caused him to miss the statutory deadline. Specifically, Mordi alleges that Trooper Zeigler consciously decided to not “make his superiors aware that he had prepared an ISP document that the ISP did not have a record of.” (Doc. 16, p. 10).

         Equitable estoppel is applicable when a party takes active steps to prevent the other party from suing in time. Angiulo v. United States, 867 F.Supp.2d 990, 999 (N.D. Ill. 2012). It may be invoked to prevent a party from obtaining a benefit from inequitable conduct. Id. However, equitable estoppel against the government is generally “disfavored and rarely successful.” Gibson v. West, 201 F.3d 990, 994 (7th Cir. 2000). “When equitable estoppel is invoked against the government, the misconduct required is more than mere negligence and must be ...

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