United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Francis M. Gonzales, Petitioner,
Carl Manis, Respondent.
Matter comes before the Court on respondent's Motion to
Dismiss this petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254, which was filed pro se by Francis M.
Gonzales, a Virginia inmate. Petitioner challenges the
constitutionality of his conviction of abduction entered upon
a plea of guilty pursuant to North Carolina v.
Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970) in the Circuit Court of
21, 2012, Gonzales was indicted for abduction with intent to
defile, subsequent offense. Case No. CR-740. He entered a
plea of not guilty and requested a jury trial. After a
two-day trial, the jury notified the judge during
deliberations that it was unable to reach a verdict.
Following a lunch recess, the parties informed the court that
they had reached a plea agreement. The Commonwealth amended
the indictment to the lesser-included offense of simple
abduction, and petitioner entered an Alford plea to
the reduced charge. The judge ordered a presentence report
and set a date for sentencing.
sentencing, during his right to allocution, petitioner stated
that his counsel had failed adequately to cross-examine the
victim and a detective, that the plea agreement was
unexpected, and that his decision to accept the plea was
improper. He then requested to withdraw the Alford
plea and to have a new trial. The judge asked, "Is that
everything, Mr. Gonzales?" and petitioner replied,
"Yes." Defense counsel stated that he was unaware
that petitioner was going to seek to withdraw the plea and
requested a continuance, and the judge responded,
"I'm certainly willing to consider the motion."
After the trial judge reviewed the events of the trial and
the plea hearing, petitioner's motion to withdraw his
Alford plea was denied. The court noted that the
defense had been ready for trial, that defense counsel's
cross-examination of the victim was "superlative, "
and that the case went exceptionally well for petitioner. The
judge also stated that petitioner was not
"shortchanged" in any way and that she had
questioned petitioner at length about his decision to change
his not guilty plea to an Alford plea. Lastly, the
judge noted that petitioner had heard all of the
prosecutions's evidence and thus had all necessary
information when he decided to change his plea, and that he
had received exceptional representation at trial. The court
then denied both the motion to withdraw the plea and the
motion for a continuance. See Gonzales v.
Commonwealth. R. No. 0793-13-4 (Va. Ct. App. Dec. 20,
2013), slip op. at 1-2. Petitioner was sentenced to ten years
incarceration. Pet. at 1.
took a direct appeal, raising the following claims:
1. The trial court erred in denying his request to withdraw
the guilty plea because the request was made in good faith
and premised upon a reasonable basis for a substantive
2. The trial court abused its discretion in denying his
motion for a continuance because it prejudiced his ability to
prepare a proper motion to withdraw the plea and ensured he
would not have a trial.
Court of Appeals denied the petition for appeal on December
20, 2013. Id. Petitioner sought second-tier review
by the Supreme Court of Virginia, and his petition was
refused on November 14, 2014. Gonzales v.
Commonwealth, R. No. 140554 (Va. Nov. 14, 2014). The
Court denied petitioner's motion for rehearing on January
filed no application for state habeas corpus relief.
petitioner turned to the federal forum and timely filed this
petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 2254
on November 5, 2015.Petitioner raises the following
1. The state courts erred in rejecting his motion to withdraw
his guilty plea.
2. His right to the assistance of counsel at sentencing was
violated because he was not allowed to confer with his
3. The state courts erred in denying his motion for
continuance at sentencing and in finding that he did not
suffer prejudice as a result.
4. The Court of Appeals erred in making the factual
determination that his motion to withdraw the plea was not
made in good faith when the trial ...