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United States of America v. Ronald Evans

May 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Richard J. Arcara United States District Judge


Introduction Currently before the Court is defendant Ronald Evans' motion to withdraw his plea of guilty, which he entered before this Court on July 26, 2011. Defendant claims he is entitled to withdrawal of his guilty plea because it was not voluntary. Specifically, defendant argues that his counsel unduly pressured him to take a plea and told him that proceeding to trial would be futile. Defendant maintains that as a result of his counsel's insistence that he take a plea, his "will was overborne and [he] agreed to take the plea rather than go to trial with an attorney who [he] believed would not fight for him." The government opposes defendant's motion. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies defendant's motion to withdraw his plea of guilty.

Discussion Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a defendant be permitted to withdraw his plea of guilty before sentencing if "the defendant can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal." Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d)(2)(B). The defendant bears the burden of showing there is such a reason, and only if such a showing is made is the government required to show prejudice. United States v. Mather, 108 F.3d 1513, 1529 (2d Cir. 1997). In recognizing that a significant showing must be made by a defendant seeking to withdraw a guilty plea, the Second Circuit has opined that society has a strong interest in the finality of guilty pleas, and allowing withdrawal of guilty pleas not only undermines confidence in the integrity of our judicial procedure, but also increases the volume of judicial work, and delays and impairs the orderly administration of justice. United States v. Deacon, 413 Fed. Appx. 347, 349 (2d Cir. 2011); accord Mather, 108 F.3d at 1529 (alteration and internal quotation marks omitted).

Where a motion to withdraw a plea is premised on involuntariness, the defendant must raise a significant question about the voluntariness of the original plea. See Deacon, 413 Fed. Appx. at 349. Importantly, "bald assertions that merely contradict a defendant's clear statements at plea allocutions are not sufficient to meet the significant question requirement." United States v. Khammanivong, 357 Fed. Appx. 316 (2d Cir. 2009). Also, where a defendant moves to withdraw the plea on the ground that the plea was not knowingly made and voluntarily, the motion may be denied without a hearing where the allegations are inherently incredible, conclusory, or are contradicted by the statements made under oath at the plea proceeding. See United States v. Gonzalez, 970 F.2d 1095, 1100-01 (2d. Cir. 1992).

In United States v. Aine, the Second Circuit upheld the district court's conclusion that a defendant's plea was knowing and voluntary based primarily upon defendant's colloquy during the plea proceeding, during which the defendant stated that he had an opportunity to discuss the plea agreement with counsel and ask questions about it, that he had not been induced to accept the plea by any threat or promise not contained in the plea agreement, and that he was satisfied with his legal representation. 386 Fed. Appx. 16, 20 (2d Cir. 2010). The Second Circuit concluded that even though the defendant maintained later he had "little choice" but to plead guilty, "this assertion was contradicted by his sworn allocution that his plea was knowing and voluntary." Id. at 21.

Similarly here, the Court finds no reason exists to conclude that defendant Evans' plea was anything besides knowing and voluntary. During the plea proceeding, the Court explained, in careful and extensive detail, the contents of the plea agreement as well as the consequences of the guilty plea. At that time, defendant clearly indicated that he understood both the nature of the agreement and the meaning of his plea.

The Court: Well, sir, we've gone over the agreement in court; you indicated you understand it. Your lawyer says she's gone over it with you; she's satisfied that you understand it. You signed it indicating you understand it.

Any questions, sir?

The Defendant: No, sir.

The Court: Are these all the terms and conditions of the plea agreement which we just read here in court?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

The Court: No one's made any other promises to you, have they?

The Defendant: Not to my knowledge.

Later in the proceeding, the Court informed defendant that he had a right to plead not guilty and to proceed with a jury trial. The Court explained, in detail, how the trial would be conducted as well as defendant's right to counsel and the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court explained that defendant would have a right to see and hear all of the evidence against him, cross examine witnesses and subpoena records relevant to his defense. The Court informed defendant that by ...

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