Roger Khan says warden’s objection to early release erroneous

Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan

Continuing his bid to have a few weeks shaved off his sentence, convicted Guyanese drug kingpin Shaheed ‘Roger’ Khan yesterday argued that an objection filed against his petition is “erroneous” and accused United States (US) prison authorities of trying to deliberately commingle two provisions of the law under which he is seeking early release.

In March, Khan, who is representing himself, filed an Emergency Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in which he sought an order from the court requiring “the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] to recalculate his good-conduct credits,” with the application of the retroactive section of the First Step Act.

However, last week Tuesday, Bryan Dobbs, Warden of the Federal Correctional Institution, Miami, through US Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan, said that BOP does not “presently have the authority to recalculate [the Petitioner’s] good time credit” until the relevant provisions of the amendment take effect in approximately mid-July.

Khan is slated to be released on July 8th.

Dobbs had asked for Khan’s petition to be denied and listed three cases which were filed this year and in which a Magistrate Judge ruled that the claims were premature in light of the delayed effective date of the amendment.

He had noted that Sub-section 102(b) of First Step Act of 2018 provides that a section of the Act be amended by striking out current language and inserting language that provides for good-conduct credits “of up to 54 days for each year of the prisoner’s sentence imposed by the court.”

The Prison Warden had also pointed out that Khan’s petition is dependent upon his argument that the amendment took effect immediately upon the passage of the First Step Act on December 21st, 2018. “The plain and unambiguous language of the First Step Act, however, belies Plaintiff’s argument,” Dobbs said in the response.

Further, Dobbs had said that the Act imposes the following “effective date” for subsection (b) of Section 102: “The amendments made by this subsection shall take effect beginning on the date that the Attorney General completes and releases the risk and needs assessment system…”  This amendment, according to the court document, must be completed 210 days after the December 21st 2018 date of the passage of the Act, which will take the date for it to become effective to July 25th, 2019.

Dismissing the above arguments, Khan, in a response filed yesterday and seen by this newspaper, said that the Attorney General’s directive in the Bill to complete a “risk and needs assessment” system is independent of, and separate from, a good-time fix.

It is Khan’s opinion that the directive was meant to be applied solely toward the separate “earned-time” credits, which has nothing to do with the “good-time” fix.

“The only part of the law that was supposed to have a delayed implementation was the first (earned-time); the other part of the law (good-time) was, by Congressional intent, to have immediate application,” Khan said in his response.

He also said that the cases listed by Dobbs are not precedents because they in fact go against the Eleventh Circuit’s directive to give effect to Congressional intent. According to Khan, Congressional intent in the matter is clear that the two provisions (earned-time vs good-time) were to be two separate considerations, independent of each other.

“Both provisions were only included under the same section 102 of the bill because they had to pigeonhole the new earned-time provision somewhere in the statutes, and now the Respondent is trying to purposefully miscommingle the two provisions as one, based solely on the bill’s set-up without consideration of the intent behind each provision,” Khan said.

On October 16th, 2009, Khan was sentenced by Judge Dora Irizarry to two 15-year and one ten-year prison terms, all of which were ordered to run concurrently. The sentencing had brought an end to Khan’s trial, which had riveted the country as explosive information linking the then Guyana government to the once powerful and violent drug lord was revealed. Khan’s now convicted lawyer’s trial had been similarly revealing. Among others, the revelations linked former Health Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy to Khan and implicated him as being the government official authorising the importation of spy equipment to Guyana. Ramsammy has repeatedly denied any links to Khan.

The petition is being heard by Magistrate Judge Lisette M. Reid.

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