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United States v. Jha

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 24, 2017




         Manoj Kumar Jha, who is now self-represented, has filed a petition to vacate his conviction and sentence, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (ECF 180), with exhibits. He has also filed a motion seeking my disqualification and recusal (ECF 182, “Recusal Motion”), supported by his “Good Faith Affidavit” (ECF 182-1) and “pertinent authorities.” See ECF 180-2. The Government filed a response to the recusal motion (ECF 184, “Response”), as well as a supplemental response. See ECF 186. Jha replied. ECF 187 (“Reply”).

         In addition, Jha filed a “Motion For Supplemental Discovery To Uncover Full Scope” of my alleged bias. ECF 189 (“Discovery Motion”). The Government responded at ECF 196 (“Discovery Response”), with an exhibit. See ECF 196-1; see also ECF 195. Although Jha's § 2255 Motion is 45 pages, plus exhibits, he has also filed a motion for leave to file an additional memorandum to support his § 2255 petition. See ECF 181. And, he has filed a motion for an extension of time to submit an additional memorandum to support his § 2255 petition. ECF 193.

         In addition, Jha has filed an “Objection to the Adjudication of ECF 190 By Judge Hollander.” ECF 197 (“Objection). ECF 190 is captioned “Motion For Release Or Home Confinement Pending Disposition Of The 2255 Motion.” In my Order of February 8, 2017 (ECF 194), in which I denied ECF 190, I said: “The Court is unaware of any authority that would permit the Court to grant the Motion.” See ECF 194.

         This Memorandum addresses Jha's Recusal Motion (ECF 182); his Discovery Motion (ECF 189); and the Objection (ECF 197). In addition, the Order addresses Jha's submissions in ECF 181 and ECF 193.

         No hearing is needed to resolve the motions. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons stated below, I shall deny ECF 182, ECF 189, and ECF 197. And, as set forth in the Order, I shall grant ECF 181 and ECF 193.

         I. Background

         Jha, a former engineering professor, was initially indicted on November 14, 2012, charged with wire fraud, mail fraud, and falsification of records. ECF 1. In a Superseding Indictment filed on August 21, 2013 (ECF 49), Jha was charged with wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343; mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341; falsification of records, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519; and federal program fraud, under 18 U.S.C. § 666. In addition, the Superseding Indictment contained a forfeiture count, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 982(a)(2)(A).

         Numerous pretrial motions were filed by defense counsel.[1] These included the following: ECF 12 (motion to suppress statements); ECF 19 (motion to dismiss indictment and motion to suppress evidence; ECF 52 (motion to quash indictment); ECF 53 (motion to suppress proffer statement and dismiss proffer agreement); ECF 54 (motion to dismiss counts One and Eight); ECF 55 (motion to inspect transcripts of grand jury testimony); ECF 56 (motion to suppress statements and tangible evidence); ECF 57 (motion to strike Government's Rule 404(b) Notice); ECF 58 (motion in limine); and ECF 65 (motion in limine).

         Motion hearings were held on February 14, 2014 (ECF 77; ECF 146); February 19, 2014 (ECF 83; ECF 147); and February 24, 2014 (ECF 89; ECF 148), at which evidence was presented. Thereafter, the Court denied the various defense motions, for the reasons stated. See ECF 78; ECF 87; ECF 96; see also ECF 146; ECF 147; ECF 148.

         Beginning on March 18, 2014, the Court presided over a nine-day jury trial. See ECF 100; ECF 101. At the trial, more than 200 exhibits were introduced and over 30 witnesses were called to testify. On April 1, 2014, the jury returned a verdict of guilty as to all counts. ECF 118; ECF 119.

         Sentencing was held on August 29, 2014. ECF 134. Numerous issues were contested in presentencing submissions with regard to the calculation of the advisory sentencing guideline range applicable to Jha. See ECF 124; ECF 131 (Defense); ECF 127 (Government). The Presentence Report (“PSR, ” ECF 123) reflected that Jha had an offense level of 27 and a criminal history category of I, with an advisory sentencing guidelines range of 70 to 87 months of imprisonment.

         At sentencing, the Court spent considerable time addressing the various issues, including loss calculation. Ultimately, I agreed with the Government and the PSR that, as a result of the actual loss and the intended loss, 14 levels were to be added to the base offense level of 7, under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(1)(H). See ECF 158 (Sentencing Transcript) at 11-41. I also determined to award a two-level upward adjustment under U.S.S.G. § 2B1.1(b)(10)(C), for use of sophisticated means. See ECF 158 at 46-50. And, I awarded another two-level upward adjustment for abuse of a position of trust, under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.3. See ECF 158 at 58-60. However, contrary to the PSR, and contrary to the Government's position, I declined to award a two-level upward adjustment for obstruction of justice under U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1. Id. at 64-67.

         Therefore, I concluded that Jha had a final offense level of 25, and not an offense level of 27, as urged by the Government. Based on a final offense level of 25 and a criminal history category of I, the advisory sentencing guidelines range called for a period of incarceration of 57 to 71 months.[2] The Government sought a sentence of 65 months. See ECF 158 at 78.[3]

         Despite my characterization of the Government's recommendation as “reasonable” (id.), and notwithstanding the defendant's reprehensible conduct (id. at 88), I awarded a substantial downward variance to Jha. Id. at 90-92. In particular, I sentenced him to concurrent terms of 36 months' incarceration and ordered restitution in the amount of $105, 726.31. That term of incarceration was obviously well below the advisory guidelines range and well below the 65-month sentence that the Government requested.

         At sentencing, I set forth my rationale for a below-guidelines sentence. Id. at 85-92. I recounted the serious and prolonged nature of the crime. Yet, I also identified several factors in mitigation to justify the substantial downward variance. These included “a very heavy price” that was “paid by the Defendant” (id. at 90), which included the profound adverse impact to Jha's career as a professor, the damage to his reputation, his contributions to science, and recognition that federal prosecution itself is punishment. I described my sentence as “really generous.” Id. at 92.

         Judgment was entered on September 11, 2014. See ECF 137. In the Statement of Reasons (ECF 183), I again explained my variance, stating that Jha is “an immigrant, a scholar and a professor [who] has helped many minority students . . . to his credit.” Id. at 3. I also pointed out that Jha's “career is ruined, ” noting that he “had to resign in disgrace.” Id.

         Thereafter, the defendant noted an appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 135. He raised several issues. See ECF 163. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the defendant's convictions on June 4, 2015, in an unpublished, per curiam opinion. Id. The mandate issued on June 26, 2015. ECF 164.

         On September 1, 2015, Jha filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court. See ECF 162-2. According to both Jha and the Government, on September 16, 2015, the Solicitor General waived the Government's right to file a response. See ECF 166 at 9; ECF 171 at 2. The Supreme Court denied Jha's certiorari petition on October 13, 2015. ECF 166 at 9; ECF 171 at 2. On November 6, 2015, Jha filed a petition for rehearing in the Supreme Court. See ECF 166-4. That petition was denied on December 7, 2015. ECF 166 at 9; ECF 171 at 2.

         On February 25, 2016, Jha filed “Fed. R. Crim. P. 33 Motion To Vacate The Judgment of Conviction, Sentence And Restitution, And Order A New Trial” (ECF 166, “Rule 33 Motion”), along with numerous exhibits. The Government responded at ECF 171 and Jha replied at ECF 172. By Memorandum and Order of June 13, 2016 (ECF 173; ECF 174), I denied the Rule 33 Motion. In ECF 174, I also denied Jha's motion for reconsideration (ECF 170) of my Order (ECF 168) granting the Government's request (ECF 167) for an extension of time in which to respond to Jha's Rule 33 Motion.[4]

         Jha noted an appeal to the Fourth Circuit. ECF 175. In a per curiam opinion issued December 5, 2016, the Fourth Circuit affirmed. ECF 185. Thereafter, on January 24, 2017, the Fourth Circuit denied Jha's petition for rehearing. ECF 191. The mandate issued on February 1, 2017. ECF 192.

         II. Allegations

         Jha filed his Recusal Motion (ECF 182) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 144. He maintains that recusal is required based on “a clear and obvious pattern of deep seated favoritism or antagonism” on my part. ECF 182 at 2. In his view, the record “conclusively shows” such bias. Id.; see also ECF 182 at 6. Moreover, Jha argues that because he has ...

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