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8th Circuit upholds district court ruling in 2015 North Dakota drug case

8th Circuit upholds district court ruling in 2015 North Dakota drug case

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A federal judge was right to deny an Arizona man’s request for a rehearing of his appeal of drug convictions in North Dakota, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol in late 2014 found 4 ½ pounds of heroin in the car driven by Charles Ahumada of Tucson, Arizona, and Frank Anthony Villa, 47, of Tempe, Arizona. Ahumada was convicted of two drug crimes in 2015.

The appeals court in 2017 upheld Ahumada’s conviction and alerted his attorney to a 14-day deadline for rehearing. The attorney did not notify Ahumada of the deadline or explain the rehearing process. Ahumada was later granted a motion to extend the deadline. He filed a petition for rehearing but missed the new deadline. The appeals panel denied the petition.

Ahumada sought to vacate the ruling, arguing that his attorney had abandoned him by failing to communicate and provide requested documents. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in November 2019 denied the motion.

The appeals panel recently agreed with Hovland, saying there is no constitutional right to counsel for a rehearing and as such Ahumada could not claim he had ineffective counsel.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or


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