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United States v. Snyder

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

December 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
NANCY ELLEN SNYDER, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Hon. Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.

         Nancy Ellen Snyder has moved to vacate, set aside, or correct her federal sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The government has filed a motion to dismiss, to which Snyder has responded, making the matter ripe for consideration. For the reasons that follow, the government's motion to dismiss will be granted and Snyder's motion to vacate will be denied.

         Background

         On April 3, 2014, a grand jury in the Western District of Virginia returned an indictment against Snyder and eleven codefendants. Count One charged Snyder with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), and 846. Count Sixteen charged her with distribution of fifty grams or more of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B).

         Snyder entered a plea of guilty to Count One of the indictment on September 15, 2014. Under the terms of the written plea agreement, the parties stipulated that Snyder should be held responsible for at least five but less than fifteen kilograms of methamphetamine. For its part, the government agreed to move to dismiss the remaining count of the indictment in which Snyder was charged. The government also agreed to recommend a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility under § 3E1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, if Snyder, in fact, accepted responsibility for her actions and complied with her obligations under the plea agreement. In exchange, Snyder agreed to waive her right to appeal her sentence "on any ground" except "as to any issue which cannot be waived, by law." Plea Agreement 7, Docket No. 251. Snyder also agreed to "waive any right [she] may have to collaterally attack, in any future proceeding, any order issued in this matter, unless such attack is based on ineffective assistance of counsel." Id. at 7-8. Additionally, Snyder acknowledged that the government was retaining all of its rights to seek a reduction of sentence on the basis of substantial assistance, that the government was under no obligation to make such motion, and that "[n]o promises [had] been made" in that regard. Id. at 4.

         Snyder initialed every page of the plea agreement, including the page containing the waiver of collateral-attack rights. By signing the plea agreement, Snyder affirmed that she had carefully reviewed every section of the agreement with her attorney, that she understood the agreement, and that she was voluntarily agreeing to its terms. Id. at 12. Snyder further acknowledged that she had "not been coerced, threatened, or promised anything other than the terms" of the plea agreement, in exchange for her plea of guilty. Id.

         During the guilty plea hearing conducted pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the court established that Snyder possessed the capacity to make a voluntary, intelligent, and informed decision. Plea H'rg Tr. 5-7, Docket No. 439. The court also established that Snyder understood the conspiracy charge to which she was pleading guilty, as well as the purpose of the hearing. Id.

         The court instructed the Assistant United States Attorney to review the elements of the conspiracy charge, the applicable statutory penalties, and the most important provisions of the plea agreement that Snyder had reached with the government. The prosecutor subsequently outlined several sections of the plea agreement, including section B(2), in which Snyder stipulated that her conduct involved at least five but less than fifteen kilograms of methamphetamine. Id. at 10. The prosecutor also summarized Sections C(1) and (2) of the plea agreement. She explained that, pursuant to those sections, Snyder had "agreed to waive her right to appeal any and all issues that can be waived" and her "right to collaterally attack the judgment in her case." Id. at 11. Upon being asked if the prosecutor's summary of the plea agreement was consistent with her own understanding of the agreement, Snyder responded in the affirmative. Id. at 12.

         The court then inquired as to whether Snyder was voluntarily pleading guilty. In response to the court's questions, Snyder affirmed that no one had made any promises or representations regarding the disposition of the case other than those set forth in the plea agreement, that no one had promised her a particular outcome or sentence, and that no one had told her that she "would be treated in some special, favorable way." Id. at 12-13. Snyder further affirmed that no one had attempted to coerce or compel her to plead guilty, and that she was pleading guilty because she was, in fact, guilty of the conspiracy offense charged in Count One of the indictment. Id. at 13. Snyder also indicated that she understood that the parties had agreed that she should be held accountable for between five and fifteen kilograms of methamphetamine. Id. at 17, 37. Snyder further affirmed that she understood the waiver provisions in the plea agreement. Id. at 13-14.

         The court subsequently reviewed additional rights that Snyder would waive by pleading guilty rather than proceeding to trial. Notwithstanding all of the valuable rights that she would waive by pleading guilty, and the penalties that could be imposed upon conviction, Snyder indicated that she was "absolutely sure" that she still wished to plead guilty. Id. at 31. The court then asked Snyder to explain what she had done that made her believe that she was guilty of the offense charged in Count One of the indictment. In response, Snyder advised the court that she was involved in a "conspiracy to sell drugs, " and that she sold and "front[ed]" methamphetamine to other individuals for resale. Id. at 32-33.

         The court then called upon the Assistant United States Attorney to offer evidence in support of the proposed plea of guilty. Proceeding by proffer, the prosecutor summarized the government's evidence as follows:

Beginning around 2010 and continuing until at least March of 2014, an organized group of individuals engaged in a conspiracy to distribute large amounts of methamphetamine in the Western District of Virginia and elsewhere.
Ms. Snyder, the defendant here today, was part of this group of individuals who was distributing methamphetamine during this time period.
Ms. Snyder is charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, and during her time period within it, she was involved with several people, both in this indictment, uncharged people, and also in the other indictment containing the Perez brothers. She was involved with Silvano Perez Coronado and Cristian Perez. She was also involved with James Vivian Bedwell, Jason Mooney, Kent McPeak, Johnny Shipwash, Robbie Cantrell, Robert Durrell and others.
The evidence would show that Ms. Snyder was being fronted ounces and half pounds, up to pounds of methamphetamine, by Silvano Perez Coronado during a time period and that his brother Cristian Perez was the one who took over that portion of the agreement.
This methamphetamine was coming via cars here from California and prior to that, it was coming from Tijuana, Mexico and ...

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