Archive | guilty plea

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Factual basis for § 924(c) plea insufficient where proffer showed only that defendant “possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in [] drug trafficking” and did not establish “specific nexus” between gun and drug-trafficking offense necessary for “in furtherance” element

In United States v. Luis Rosario, a summary order, the Circuit vacated a guilty plea to a § 924(c) count, charging Mr. Rosario with possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-distribution conspiracy, on the ground that the factual basis for his plea was insufficient. The essential facts are that Mr. Rosario participated in a drug conspiracy for about two months; that he occasionally used a white van during this time frame; and that a gun was later found inside the van. After arrest, Mr. Rosario said that he “carries the gun for protection.”

These were the only facts on the record when Mr. Rosario pleaded guilty. But as the Court summarized, “th[is] evidence . . . established only that Rosario possessed the gun while simultaneously engaging in a drug-trafficking conspiracy” and did not show a ‘specific nexus’ between the gun and the drug-trafficking offense . . . [as] …

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Categories: 924(c), guilty plea, Rule 11, Uncategorized

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Monday, August 5th, 2019

Second Circuit Throws Out § 924(c) Conviction Linked to Conspiracy . . . And Does Other Good Things, Including as to Rehaif

In today’s United States v. Watkins, the Second Circuit (Jacobs, Pooler, Wesley) vacated a conviction for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) in relation to a conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery.  Because § 924(c)’s residual clause is “unconstitutionally vague,” United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319, 2336 (2019), a “crime of violence” under § 924(c) is limited to an offense that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another.”  Because a conspiracy never fits that bill, “Watkins’s section 924(c)(1)(A) conviction” — and all others based on conspiracy — “must be vacated.”

And in United States v. Prado, the court (Leval, Pooler, Hall) threw out more convictions, this time under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act.  The Coast Guard had intercepted a speed boat in international waters, found three men aboard with …

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Categories: Davis, guilty plea, jurisdiction, Rehaif

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Wednesday, July 11th, 2018

NACDL Report on the Trial Penalty

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) recently released a report that is somewhat provocatively, but fairly, titled: The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right to Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How to Save It.  The report, available here, offers a succinct assessment of the legal and institutional pressures that coerce 97% of state and federal defendants into plea bargains.

From the Executive Summary:

[O]ver the last fifty years, trial by jury has declined at an ever-increasing rate to the point that this institution now occurs in less than 3% of state and federal criminal cases. Trial by jury has been replaced by a “system of [guilty] pleas”3 which diminishes, to the point of obscurity, the role that the Framers envisioned for jury trials as the primary protection for individual liberties and the principal mechanism for public participation in the criminal justice system.

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Categories: guilty plea, Sixth Amendment

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Friday, February 23rd, 2018

Guilty Pleas Do Not Bar Appeals Challenging the Constitutionality of the Statute of Conviction

The Supreme Court held this week, in Class v. United States, that a guilty plea does not inherently bar a defendant from arguing on appeal that the statute of conviction violates the Constitution.  Amy Baron-Evans of the Sentencing Resource Counsel has the details:

The Supreme Court held in Class v. United States that a guilty plea does not inherently waive a constitutional challenge to the statute of conviction. Justice Breyer wrote for the majority of six (joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, Kagan, Roberts, Gorsuch), and Justice Alito wrote the dissent (joined by Kennedy and Thomas).

Class was indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia for possessing firearms in his locked jeep in a parking lot on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, in violation of 40 USC 5104(e)(1). He moved to dismiss the indictment, claiming that “the statute violates [1] the Second Amendment and [2] the …

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Monday, August 18th, 2008


United States v. Doe, No. 06-4124-cr (2d Cir. August 13, 2008) (Kearse, Pooler, CJJ, Cote, DJ)

Defendant John Doe, along with others, was charged with “an array” of drug and gun offenses, racketeering, robbery and two murders. He expressed an interest in trying to cooperate with the government, but the government declined. Two year later, he tried again, writing a letter to the government asking to explore the possibility of cooperating. The government again said no.

At a reverse proffer, the government revealed that it had a series of letters that Doe had written to his girlfriend; in them Doe confessed to a number of crimes and also repeatedly discussed his desire to cooperate. The government offered Doe a forty-five year plea agreement – he faced life after trial – and also told him that the government would give those letters to his co-defendants if he went to trial. A …

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Categories: guilty plea, Uncategorized, voluntariness

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