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O'Connor v. United States

June 18, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Norman A. Mordue, Chief U.S. District Judge


I. Background*fn1

Petitioner Michael O'Connor was arrested in May, 2002 following the robbery of a bank located in Warren County, New York. At the time he was arrested, O'Connor was in possession of clothing and a wig that resembled the attire that was worn by the perpetrator of other unsolved bank robberies in the area. A subsequent search of O'Connor's house pursuant to a warrant the night of his arrest resulted in the discovery of various other articles of clothing that appeared to resemble clothing used by the perpetrator of several other bank robberies in the preceding twelve months. During the ensuing criminal investigation, tellers from banks that had recently been robbed informed law enforcement agents that an individual resembling O'Connor, wearing clothing similar to the type seized by the police, had robbed the Schoharie Fleet Bank on August 17, 2001, the Trustco Bank in Hudson, New York on September 10, 2001, the Adirondack Bank in Utica on January 14, 2002, and the Charter One Bank in Worcester, New York, on January 29, 2002.*fn2

During the commission of these offenses, the perpetrator had also brandished a pistol.

As a result of the foregoing, on June 26, 2002, a grand jury sitting in the Northern District of New York returned a four count indictment against O'Connor, charging him with: i) committing the robberies at the Trustco Bank on September 10th, the Adirondack Bank on January 14th and the Charter One Bank on January 29th; and ii) criminal use of a firearm during a crime of violence. See No. 02-CR-0238, Dkt. No. 7 ("Indictment"). Thereafter, on November 15, 2002, a criminal information was filed against O'Connor by Assistant United States Attorney Edward P. Grogan, Esq. ("AUSA Grogan") which charged O'Connor with committing the August 17th robbery of the Fleet Bank in Schoharie. See No. 02-CR-0436, Dkt. No. 2 ("Information").

On November 15, 2002, following negotiations between O'Connor's counsel and AUSA Grogan, O'Connor entered into a plea agreement wherein he agreed to plead guilty to the charges brought against him in the Indictment and the Information. See Plea Agreement (02-CR-0238, Dkt. No. 15) ("Plea Agreement") at ¶ 1(a). That agreement contained a provision which noted that, if O'Connor's guilty plea were accepted by the Court, he would be sentenced to a term of 240 months imprisonment. Id. at ¶ 4. The parties also agreed that, to the extent that such sentence exceeded the term suggested under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the upward departure in his sentence was nevertheless justifiable under U.S.S.G. § 6B1.2(c)(2) for the following reasons:

[T]o hold the defendant accountable for an egregious series of armed bank robberies during and in relation to which he carried and brandished a firearm in each of the bank robberies. In addition to the four robberies that are the subject of the instant federal charges, two other armed robberies committed by [O'Connor] are being prosecuted in Warren County, New York, the district attorney for which has agreed to a sentence that is concurrent to the sentence imposed in this case.

See Plea Agreement at ¶ 4.

At the proceeding over which this Court presided wherein O'Connor formally entered his change of plea, he admitted to the Court that he had engaged in the conduct alleged in the Information. See Transcript of Change of Plea (11/15/02) (No. 05-CV-0818, Dkt. No. 5-2) ("Plea Tr.") at p. 9.*fn3 He then admitted to having engaged in the conduct specified in the Indictment. Id. at pp. 9-11. AUSA Grogan then discussed in detail the legal bases for the criminal charges brought against O'Connor. See id. at pp. 15-17. Following that discussion, AUSA Grogan discussed the agreed upon sentence in the Plea Agreement. Specifically, the transcript of O'Connor's change of plea reflects the following discussion concerning his sentence:

THE COURT: .... Mr. Grogan, would you inform the defendant and the Court what the maximum penalty is for the counts involved here?

MR. GROGAN: Your Honor, the plea agreement refers to an agreed upon sentence.

THE COURT: Paragraph four?

MR. GROGAN: Would you like me to address that?

THE COURT: Yes, address paragraph four.

MR. GROGAN: Your Honor, pursuant to paragraph four of the plea agreement, the defendant and the U.S. Attorney both have agreed to a specified period of incarceration of 240 months, a period of supervised release following a period of incarceration of five years.... And that's the maximum penalty in this case, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. Now, you understand that, Michael O'Connor, if I agree with this, that's going to be your sentence, 240 months, do you understand that?


THE COURT: And you talked that out with ...

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