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Simeonov v. Wojdylo

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 26, 2019

TSVETOMIR SIMEONOV, Petitioner,
v.
JASON WOJDYLO, Acting United States Marshal for the Northern District of Illinois, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN J, THARP, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before this Court is Petitioner Tsvetomir Simeonov’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Following a hearing, the presiding magistrate judge certified Simeonov for extradition to Bulgaria for multiple firearms offenses and committed him to the custody of the U.S. Marshal. In his petition, Simeonov challenges the magistrate judge’s order on three separate grounds. Simeonov’s challenges, however, are without merit and the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         The events underlying the present petition began nearly twenty years ago in Bulgaria. On December 20, 2001, Bulgarian authorities searched Simeonov's home and found four partially disassembled firearms, as well as bullets and other supplies necessary to operationalize the firearms as Makarov pistols. Matter of Extradition of Simeonov, 2019 WL 2994521, at *1 (N.D. Ill. July 9, 2019). Simeonov was arrested and charged with (1) unlawfully manufacturing and repairing gas pistols into Makarov pistols, in violation of Article 337, paragraph 1 of Bulgaria's Criminal Code and (2) unlawfully acquiring and holding remanufactured Makarov pistols and ammunition, in violation of Article 339, paragraph 1 of Bulgaria's Criminal Code. Id.

         After attending his first five court hearings, Simeonov left Bulgaria and came to the United States. Id. Ultimately, he settled in Chicago. The criminal proceedings continued in Bulgaria in his absence, with Simeonov represented by defense counsel. On November 19, 2004 the Bulgarian court convicted Simeonov of both charges in absentia and sentenced him to a total of seven years and six months of imprisonment. Id.

         Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3184 and the relevant Treaty between the countries, the government of Bulgaria submitted a request to the United States for Simeonov's extradition in 2017. See Ex. A, EXT-SIMEONOV 00001, ECF No. 11-5; see also Extradition Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, and the Agreement on Certain Aspects of Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria (collectively, the “Treaty”). U.S.-Bulg., Sept. 19, 2007, S. Treaty Doc. No. 110-112 (2008). After receiving additional information from Bulgaria in early 2019, the United States government filed an extradition complaint (No.19 CR 344) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and obtained a warrant for Simeonov's arrest. See Ex. A, EXT-SIMEONOV 00001, ECF No. 11-5; see also Simeonov, 2019 WL 2994521, at *1. Shortly thereafter Simeonov was arrested and committed to federal custody pending the extradition decision. Simeonov, 2019 WL 2994521, at *1. The magistrate judge held an extradition hearing and issued an order granting the government’s request for a Certification of Extraditability. See Id . at *6. Seeking review of the order, Simeonov filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in this Court.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Habeas Corpus Review in Extradition Proceedings

         Orders certifying extradition are not appealable as of right under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, but parties seeking review may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in district court. See Burgos Noeller v. Wojdylo, 922 F.3d 797, 803 (7th Cir. 2019) (“Courts have long recognized an alternative path for appellate review, through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.”). The judicial role is limited throughout the extradition process, however, and habeas corpus review of extradition certification is no exception. See Id . at 802–803 (“[T]he judicial role is narrow . . . The discretion in the process belongs to the executive branch, not the judiciary.”).

         A deferential standard of review follows from the court’s limited role. District and appellate courts review factual findings by the magistrate judge for clear error and legal rulings de novo. Id. at 804. The standard ensures that habeas corpus review does not become a re-litigation of the extradition hearing. See Eain v. Wilkes, 641 F.2d 504, 508 (7th Cir. 1981) (“The district judge is not to retry the magistrate’s case.”).

         District court review is not only deferential, but also circumscribed. See Burgos Noeller, 922 F.3d at 803. In 1925, the Supreme Court first articulated the limited scope of review in Fernandez v. Phillips, stating, “habeas corpus is available only to inquire whether the magistrate had jurisdiction, whether the offense charged is within the treaty and, by a somewhat liberal extension, whether there is any evidence warranting the finding that there was reasonable ground to believe the accused guilty.” 268 U.S. 311, 312 (1925). Fernandez’s “reasonable ground” language is equivalent to the more common “probable cause” standard used in federal preliminary hearings. Burgos Noeller, 922 F.3d at 803.

         While still limited, the scope of habeas corpus review in extradition cases expanded after Fernandez to match the general expansion of habeas corpus review. Previously confined to jurisdictional questions, habeas corpus review now allows consideration of potential constitutional violations. See Matter of Burt, 737 F.2d 1477, 1484 (7th Cir. 1984) (“Only subsequent to Fernandez did the Supreme Court substantially redefine the scope of habeas corpus review, which previously had been tied to an examination of jurisdictional defects, to include an evaluation of whether the petitioner is being held in violation of any of his or her constitutional rights.”). As a result, in addition to the inquiries outlined in Fernandez, courts reviewing habeas petitions in extradition proceedings have “the authority to consider not only procedural defects in the extradition procedures that are of constitutional dimension, but also the substantive conduct of the United States in undertaking its decision to extradite if such conduct violates constitutional rights.” Id.

         In sum, four categories of argument are available to petitioners seeking review of extradition proceedings. The three inquiries articulated in Fernandez remain open: whether the magistrate had jurisdiction, whether the offense charged is within the treaty, and whether there is any evidence warranting the finding of probable cause that the petitioner is guilty of the offenses charged. In addition, petitioners may bring challenges alleging constitutional violations.

         II. ...


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