Archive | plea agreement

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Second Circuit vacates and remands for fact-finding on claim the government breached a plea agreement by its oral representations during plea negotiations, despite the agreement’s “merger clause” (saying the written agreement is “the total agreement” between the parties). United States v. Feldman, Nos. 17-2868-cr, 17-2869-cr,  __F.3d__, 2019 WL 4419378  (Sept. 17,  2019). 

In United States v. Feldman, an opinion authored by Judge Pierre Leval, the Circuit addresses the government’s obligations under a plea agreement based on oral representations “made by the government to the defendant in the course of plea negotiations[.]” 2019 WL 4419378 at *1.

The defendant in this case wasn’t seeking vacatur of his guilty plea. He sought rather to vacate and stay a writ of execution that the government obtained to seize his retirement account and use for restitution. But the government had made representations during plea negotiations indicating the retirement account would be safe. The district court denied the defendant’s motion to vacate and stay the writ of execution on the account. The Circuit, however, vacated the district court’s order denying the defendant’s motion, and remanded for “factfinding and reconsideration of Feldman’s motions.” The Opinion provides an important discussion of the government’s obligations concerning plea agreements.


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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Circuit affirms sentence despite district court’s application of Guideline range that differed from parties’ plea agreement

In United States v. Byrd, the Second Circuit affirmed a sentence despite the District Court finding an applicable guideline range different from the one agreed to by the parties in a written plea agreement.  The Circuit held that although “district courts have the discretion to give effect to Guidelines calculations in plea agreements that result in downward departure from the correct Guidelines range,” there is no affirmative obligation that the district court give effect to such calculations.  Unless the district court misunderstood its authority to depart, the decision not to depart is generally unreviewable.…

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Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Rejection Letter

United States v. Negron, 06-3614-cr (2d Cir. April 24, 2008) (Jacobs, Kearse, Pooler, CJJ) (per curiam)

Defendant Silverio, who was sentenced to 272 months (22 years, 8 months) in prison, had been offered, and rejected, a plea agreement with a binding sentencing recommendation of 17 years. On appeal, he argued that district court erred in refusing to consider the terms of the rejected agreement at sentencing.

Not surprisingly, the appellate court disagreed. There is nothing in § 3553(a) – or circuit precedent – that requires a district court to do so. Accordingly, finding no substantive or procedural defect with the sentence, the court affirmed.

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Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Breach Baby

United States v. Griffin, No. 05-4106-cr (2d Cir. December 21, 2007) (Pooler, Sack, Wesley, CJJ)

In this case, a divided panel concluded that the government breached its plea agreement in a child pornography case by twice suggesting that the defendant might not be entitled to a downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility.

Facts: Defendant Michael Griffin pled guilty to possessing child pornography by using the file-sharing service Kazaaa. His plea agreement left open a number of disputed Guidelines issues, which were the subject of a lengthy evidentiary hearing, but stipulated that the government would not oppose a three-level acceptance of responsibility adjustment. Before sentencing, Griffin filed numerous objections to the Guidelines calculations in the presentence report; most pertinently, he denied knowingly possessing a particularly disturbing video known as “BabyJ,” and also denied telling the FBI, in a post-arrest statement, that he knew that the video had been on his computer.…

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Saturday, September 29th, 2007

Double Trouble, But Not Double Jeopardy

United States v. Dionisio, Docket No. 06-0908-cr (2d Cir. September 17, 2007) (Calabresi, Wesley, CJJ, Oberdorfer, DJ)

This case presented a question open that the Circuit has never addressed: does jeopardy attach to counts that were dismissed with prejudice by the government pursuant to a plea agreement? Reviewing the framework set by a line of Supreme Court cases, the Circuit concluded that the answer to this question is “possibly, but not here.”

Dioniso pled guilty in 2001 under plea agreement in which the government agreed to dismiss certain racketeering charges with prejudice, and ultimately did so. In 2004, despite its promise, the government indicted him on suspiciously similar charges, and he moved to dismiss the new indictment as a violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause. The district court held that, per se, jeopardy never attaches to a pretrial dismissal.

The Circuit disagreed with this ruling, although not the ultimate outcome, …

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