By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Imprisoned Columbus businessman Hamzah Ali Ahmed may get a chance to convince a federal court he was wrongly convicted.
Ahmed was one of 11 indicted in a 2006 convenience store sting in North Mississippi. The defendants were accused in an alleged conspiracy to illegally sell black market cigarettes and over-the-counter drugs as ingredients to make methamphetamines.
He pleaded guilty to one count and the other 38 were dismissed. Senior U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson sentenced him to 138 months in prison, which he entered in August 2008.
Since 2011, various attorneys for Ahmed have been asking the court to vacate his sentence and conviction.
Davidson denied his appeal amendment motion on Jan. 10, saying it was not filed in time. But Thursday, the judge granted his motion, noting the deadline problem was caused by his Texas counsel Jeremy Gordon’s difficulties in getting court permission to work in this case.
The judge also accepted the motion to amend the appeal.
Gordon asks the court for a hearing on his client’s claims.
Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen, says he has limited understanding of English and insists his original counsel, Rodney Ray of Columbus, lied to him about avoiding prison time.
Gordon’s amended appeal claims Ray asked Ahmed to lie to the court that Ray made promises to him to enter a guilty plea. He also criticized Ray for not talking to his client about an appeal.
Ahmed’s second set of attorneys also are blamed for poor work.
Friday, Ray told the Daily Journal he never lied to Ahmed or made him any promises about his sentence. He termed “bogus” Ahmed’s claims he did not understand what was happening in court.
The judge set a 60-day deadline for government prosecutors to respond to Ahmed’s amended appeal.