Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Stapleton

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

May 4, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RAY MERRILL STAPLETON, Defendant.

          Randy Ramseyer, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States; Nancy C. Dickenson, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge.

         The defendant, Ray Merrill Stapleton, has filed a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d)(2)(B), which the government opposes. After reviewing the record and applicable law, I will deny the defendant's motion.

         I. Factual Summary and Procedural History.

         On June 29, 1988, Stapleton pleaded guilty in an Arizona state court to one count of Attempted Child Molestation, pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 13-1410 and 13-1001. As a result of this conviction, he was required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 13-3821(A)(7). Stapleton was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. After being released on work furlough in October 1990, he was paroled on December 26, 1991. He subsequently registered as a sex offender in Arizona. Stapleton signed and initialed registration documents acknowledging that he understood that he was required to register as a sex offender, that this requirement was a lifetime requirement, and that if he chose to relocate to another state, he was obligated to comply with the registration requirements of that state. Gov't Ex. 3, Hr'g Feb. 28, 2017, ECF No. 35-4.

         Sometime around 2011, Stapleton relocated to Virginia. He did not register as a sex offender in Virginia. On September 30, 2016, a Criminal Complaint filed in this court charged Stapleton with failing to register as a sex offender pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2250, and he was subsequently arrested on October 3, 2016. On October 17, 2016, he waived his right to prosecution by Indictment and was charged by Information with one count of failure to register under 18 U.S.C. § 2250(a). The Information alleges that Stapleton “[i]n or about September 2016 . . . knowingly failed to register and update his registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, after having traveled in interstate commerce.” Information ¶ 1, ECF No. 17. He pleaded guilty to the Information that same day.

         At some point following his arrest, Stapleton attempted to register as a sex offender in Virginia. On November 3, 2016, the Virginia State Police sent a letter to the Superintendent of the Southwest Regional Jail, asserting that Stapleton was not required to register as a sex offender in Virginia. Def.'s Ex. 1, Hr'g Feb. 28, 2017, ECF No. 35-1. On January 6, 2017, the Virginia State Police sent an identical copy of the letter directly to Stapleton. Mot. to Withdraw, Ex. 1, ECF No. 29-1. In light of the contents of this letter, along with discovery material disclosed by the government, Stapleton filed his Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea on February 21, 2017. At a hearing on the motion held on February 28, 2017, the government requested and was granted a further thirty days to investigate the legal authority on the issue. It subsequently filed a written response opposing the motion on March 29, 2017. With its response, it submitted a copy of a letter to Stapleton from the Virginia State Police dated March 24, 2017, stating that the it had “re-evaluted your registration and determined that your conviction 13-1410 Molest a Child classifies you as a sexual offender. Therefore, your re-registration date has been changed to annually from the date of your initial registration. This letter supersedes any prior letter(s) you may have received regarding registration requirements.” Gov't's Resp. Opp'n Mot. to Withdraw, Attach. A, ECF No. 37-1.

         II. Parties' Arguments and Applicable Law.

         Stapleton seeks to withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d)(2)(B). The Rule provides that “[a] defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty . . . after the court accepts the plea, but before it imposes sentence if . . . the defendant can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B).

         The Fourth Circuit has set forth six factors a district court should consider in determining whether a defendant has met his burden of showing a “fair and just reason” supporting his motion to withdraw. These factors include:

(1) whether the defendant has offered credible evidence that his plea was not knowing or not voluntary, (2) whether the defendant has credibly asserted his legal innocence, (3) whether there has been a delay between the entering of the plea and the filing of the motion, (4) whether defendant has had close assistance of competent counsel, (5) whether withdrawal will cause prejudice to the government, and (6) whether it will inconvenience the court and waste judicial resources.

United States v. Moore, 931 F.2d 245, 248 (4th Cir. 1991).[1]

         Stapleton initially asserted that he was legally innocent of the offense charged in the Information because, pursuant to the November 3 and January 6 letters from the Virginia State Police, he was not actually required to register as a sex offender in Virginia. Def.'s Mot. to Withdraw 3, ECF No. 29. He further asserted that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because at the time he entered it, “he was unaware that he was not required to register as a sex offender in Virginia.” Id. Following the March 24 letter from the Virginia State Police stating that Stapleton is required to register as a sex offender, Stapleton contends that it was nevertheless a “legal impossibility for [him] to register as a sex offender” between November 3, 2016 and March 24, 2017, because during that time, the Virginia State Police “deemed it unnecessary for [him] to register.” Def.'s Reply Supp. Mot. to Withdraw 1, ECF No. 40. He asserts that he is “entitled to withdraw his guilty plea based on his legal innocence” and that he should be afforded “the full benefit of the knowledge that he now possesses about the specific law and facts of his case in determining whether to proceed to trial or not.” Id. at 2.

         The government contends that Stapleton was definitively required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Virginia state law. Gov't's Resp. Opp'n Mot. to Withdraw 1, ECF No. 37. It asserts that “[a] letter from the Virginia State Police erroneously interpreting the law is not a basis for a withdrawal of [his] guilty plea.” Id. at 2. Because ‚ÄúStapleton pled guilty believing, correctly, that he was required to register in Virginia and . . . failed ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.