Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

District Court Committed No Plain Error in Setting Plea Deadline for “Acceptance Points” or Imposing Restitution Beyond Amount in Plea Agreement

United States v. Doyle, No. 11-5265-cr (2d Cir. Nov. 26, 2013) (Kearse, Jacobs, and Straub) (summary order), available here

Doyle pled guilty to wire fraud and was sentenced to 72 months of imprisonment and $880,000 in restitution. On appeal, he argued that the district judge violated Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1) by participating in plea discussions. He noted that the court warned him that there would be a deadline for “acceptance of responsibility points” and that, if he intended to plead guilty, he should do so “before June 21” so that the could receive the extra third point for acceptance of responsibility.

The panel found no reversible plain error because the defendant could not show that, but for the alleged remarks, he would not have pled guilty. The Court noted that the defendant pled guilty nearly three weeks after the announced June 21 “deadline” and had not shown a reasonable probability that he would have gone to trial but for the challenged comments.

The panel also found no reversible error in the government seeking, and the district court ordering, $880,000 in restitution even though the plea agreement indicated only $105,000 in restitution. The Court noted that the plea agreement stated a forfeiture amount of $880,000, and that, in raising the restitution figure to match the forfeiture amount, the district court made clear that the defendant’s combined financial obligation under the forfeiture and restitution orders was capped at $880,000, a forfeiture amount the defendant did not challenge. Accordingly, the district court merely chose to channel the $880,000 the defendant owed to the government to the victim. “Changing to whom he owed it did not affect Doyle’s substantial rights or the fairness of the proceeding.”

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