The opinion of the court was delivered by: GEORGE DANIELS, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
During his jury trial for mail fraud, defendant pled guilty to one
count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and making false
statements in connection with health care matters, and one count of mail
fraud. Defendant now moves to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant's
motion is denied.
On January 8, 2002, defendant Peter Corines ("defendant" or "Corines")
was charged, in a seven count indictment, with one count of conspiracy,
one count of health care fraud, one count of making false statements in
connection with health care matters, and four counts of mail fraud. A
superceding Indictment, filed by the government on September 30, 2003,
included four additional counts of mail fraud. Defendant pled not guilty
to the superceding indictment on November 3, 2003.
A trial date was set for December l, 2003. Prior to trial, the Court,
upon motion by the defendant, severed the counts of conspiracy, health
care fraud and making false statements in connection with health care
matters from the mail fraud counts. The December trial, therefore, was
limited to the eight mail fraud charges. On December l, 2003, the Court
conducted jury selection. Opening statements were given by the attorneys.
The government began presenting it's evidence on it's case in chief. On the second day of trial,
December 2, 2003, defense counsel interrupted the trial and informed the
Court that the defendant wished to withdraw his plea of not guilty and
plead guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement with the government.
The defendant then withdrew his plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to
Counts One (conspiracy) and Six (mail fraud) of the superceding
indictment pursuant to a written agreement with the government which the
defendant personally executed in open court. On or about February 12,
2004, this Court received a letter from new counsel indicating that he
had been retained to represent the defendant. On or about February 24,
2004, this Court received a second letter from new counsel requesting
that defendant's March 3, 2004 sentencing date be adjourned for at least
30 days. On or about March 29, 2004, this Court received, with an
accompanying letter by defense counsel, a courtesy copy of defendant's
motion to withdraw his guilty plea.
Under Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(d)(2), a district court may permit a
defendant to withdraw his guilty plea before sentencing if the defendant
"can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal." The
decision to allow a guilty plea to be withdrawn is committed to the
discretion of the district judge. United States v. Torres,
129 F.3d 710, 715 (2d Cir. 1997). Furthermore, it is well settled that a
defendant has no "absolute right to withdraw [his] plea of guilty."
United States v. Karro, 257 F.3d 112, 117 (2d Cir. 2001).
"Society has a strong interest in the finality of guilty pleas, and
allowing withdrawal of pleas not only undermines confidence in the
integrity of our judicial procedures, but also increase the volume of
judicial work, and delays and impairs the orderly administration of
justice." United States v. Maher, 108 F.3d 1513, 1529 (2d Cir.
1997) (citations and quotations omitted). This societal interest is
particularly significant when an ongoing trial is terminated by the defendant's expressed desire to
abruptly plead guilty.
In determining whether a defendant has demonstrated a "fair and just
reason" for withdrawing his plea, "the district court should examine the
amount of time elapsed between the plea and the subsequent motion to
withdraw, and whether the defendant's motion to withdraw his plea
asserted his innocence, as well as giving due regard to any prejudice the
government might suffer as a result." Karro, 257 F.3d at 117
(citations and internal quotations omitted). In order to obtain
withdrawal of a guilty plea, the defendant must "raise a significant
question about the voluntariness of the original plea."
129 F.3d at 715. A defendant's admissions during a plea proceeding, and
any findings made by the court in accepting the plea, "constitute a
formidable barrier" to challenging the validity of the plea.
Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 (1977). A motion to
withdraw a guilty plea may be denied without a hearing where the
defendant's allegations "merely contradict the record," are "inherently
incredible" or are "simply conclusory." United States v.
Williams. 23 F.3d 629, 635 (2d Cir. 1994).
Furthermore, in reviewing a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, the court
"must draw all permissible inferences in favor of the government and
against the defendant." Maher, 108 F.3d at 1530. "A defendant's
bald statements that simply contradict what he said at his plea
allocution are not sufficient grounds to withdraw the guilty plea."
Torres, 129 F.3d at 715. See also United States v.
Hernandez, 242 F.3d 110, 112-113 (2d Cir. 2001)(finding that the
district court properly denied a motion to withdraw a guilty plea because
allegations that his attorney failed to advise the defendant of
consequences of plea contradicted sworn representations made during the
plea proceedings that the defendant understood the consequences of his
plea and reviewed the plea agreement with his attorney). Defendant claims that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea
because during his allocution there was no "strict adherence" by the
Court to the requirements of Fed.R.Crim.P. 11. First, defendant argues
that the Court did not fully inform him of the nature of the charges to
which he was pleading guilty. Second, although the Court informed him
that his plea agreement contained a provision waiving his right to
appeal, he argues that he was not specifically informed by the Court of
the waiver of his right to collaterally attack his sentenced
Defendant argues that the Court's questioning of the defendant
regarding his understanding of the nature of the charges against him were
insufficient. "First, the Court merely informed Corines what the charges
were; it did not undertake in any way to inform him of the nature of
those charges." Defendant's Brief at 5. Defendant argues, therefore, that
"upon this record, it could not be determined that Corines truly
understood the nature of the charges to which he was pleading guilty."
Id at 6. Defendant further asserts that no "real notice of the
true nature of the charge" was given to him as "the relevant counts of
the indictment were not read to him nor were they even summarized for
him." Id. at 8. Instead, defendant asserts that he was "merely
informed as to how the charges that he was pleading guilty to were
Defendant's argument is simply without merit. During the defendant's
plea allocution, the Court clearly inquired as to the defendant's
understanding of the nature of the charges against him.
Court: Have you received a copy of the
Defendant: Yes sir.
Court: And have your read it?
Defendant: Yes sir.
Court: And have you discussed all the
charges in this indictment with your attorneys? Defendant: Yes sir.
Court: And do you understand that Count 1
of this indictment charges a conspiracy to commit
Healthcare fraud and to make false statements
relating to Healthcare matters in violation of
Title 18, United States Code, Section 371? Do you
understand the nature of that charge?
Court: Do you understand that Count 6
charges you with mail fraud [in] violation of
Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341? Do you
understand the nature of that charge?
Court: Do you understand that, as I have
indicated, the government would have to prove each
and every part or element of each one of those
offenses against you, that is charged against you
beyond a reasonable doubt at trial?
Defendant: Yes sir.
Transcript 84-85. The defendant testified that he read the indictment
and discussed the nature of these charges with his attorney. This alone
is sufficient to ensure that he was aware of the nature of the charges.
See United States v. Juncal, 245 F.3d 166
, 171 (2d Cir.
2001)(holding that defendant was adequately advised of the nature of the
conspiracy and wire fraud charges against him where ...