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United States v. Beamon

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Norfolk Division

September 26, 2018



          Lawrence R. Leonard United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendant Shan Lavar Beamon was indicted by a grand jury on February 8, 2018, on three counts of false statement in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2) (Counts 1, 2, 6); one count of felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count 3); one count of distribution of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) (Count 4); and one of transfer of firearm to a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(d) (Count 5). ECF No. 1. The Court was notified that the Defendant wished to plead guilty and on July 3, 2018, and the District Judge issued an Order authorizing a Magistrate Judge to conduct proceedings required by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 incident to the making of a plea. ECF No. 16. The matter was referred to the undersigned who conducted the required plea colloquy pursuant to Rule 11 on July 16, 2018. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Dees, 125 F.3d 261 (5th Cir. 1997).

         At the plea hearing, the Defendant was placed under oath and pled guilty to Counts 4, 5 and 6 of the Indictment. ECF No. 18. During the colloquy, the Defendant presented a signed Statement of Facts which he agreed was accurate, and to which he did not object or take exception to. With respect to Count 5, the transfer of a firearm to a felon charge, the Defendant admitted to participating in a sham transaction on September 8, 2016, in which he pretended to purchase a firearm and heroin from an individual identified as "T.E.". ECF No. 20. In actuality, the Defendant admitted that the day before, on September 7, 2016, he offered T.E. $200.00 to participate in a sham firearm and drug transaction for the benefit of an unidentified customer who would observe the transaction. Id. T.E. advised law enforcement that on September 7, the Defendant delivered the firearm and the heroin to T.E. in advance of the sham transaction.[1] Id At the time of the transaction, T.E. was a convicted felon who had been convicted of robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony in 2007 following his and Defendant's arrest on these charges in 2006.[2] Id. The undersigned accepted the Defendant's plea and ordered that the plea agreement be filed. Sentencing was scheduled for October 23, 2018.

         However, after the hearing, Defendant sent a letter to the Court casting doubt on the facts supporting Defendant's prior plea of guilt to Count 5, the transfer of a firearm to a felon charge. ECF No. 23. Specifically, Defendant wrote:

I have no problem honoring my plea agreement with the United States Court system. Its [sic] just that this firearm charge isn't sitting well with me when I know I did not possess or transfer a firearm to anyone. [T.E.] has deceived the court by saying I gave him a gun and he didn't know what my intentions were. When indeed he did know and the gun was in fact his that was the reason he was going to receive $200.00 because he was selling the gun for that amount.

Id. at 1-2. The next day, the Defendant sent another letter to the Court in which he advised that, after speaking with his lawyer, he had a "better understanding now about why I have to take the gun charge. I have signed a plea agreement that I must honor." ECF No. 24 at 1.

         Given these circumstances, the Court ordered a hearing to determine whether Defendant's plea of guilty to Count 5 was supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offense, and whether Defendant so admitted. At the hearing held on September 24, 2018, the Defendant was placed under oath and the Court engaged in a colloquy with him regarding his inconsistent positions of guilt or innocence on Count 5. ECF No. 27. The Court reviewed the colloquy in which it had engaged with Defendant at the guilty plea hearing, including the discussion regarding the Defendant's being questioned under oath and the consequences of his providing untrue material responses, the elements of the transfer of a firearm to a felon offense and his understanding thereof, and his acknowledgment of the accuracy of the Statement of Facts. Id. The Court then asked Defendant to explain the circumstances behind the September 8, 2016, transaction which was the basis for Count 5:

THE COURT: Why don't you explain to the Court exactly what happened during that transaction.
THE DEFENDANT: I provided [T.E.] with the heroin. I was selling [T.E.'s]
firearm. I did give [T.E.] the heroin. The firearm was [T.E.'s] to begin with. He had no knowledge who I was selling the firearm to, but knew I was selling a firearm.
THE COURT: Did you ever provide the firearm to [T.E.]? Did you ever get it from him and then provide it back to him?
THE DEFENDANT: I never gave [T.E.] the gun, but being part of that sham situation, I'm going to take full responsibility for the whole situation.

Id. at 7:2-14.

         In accepting a defendant's plea of guilt, the Court shall ensure a defendant's plea is made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently, and that there exists an adequate factual basis to support a defendant's plea of guilt. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11; United States v. Hyde,520 U.S. 670, 672 (1997); United States v. Pino, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150894, *3-4 (E.D. Va. 2018). The District "Court has 'continuing authority to determine whether there is an adequate factual basis to support a plea of guilty' prior to sentencing." Pino, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 150894 at *5-6 (vacating Defendant's prior plea of guilt) (quoting United States v. Blunt,540 F.Supp.2d 664, 665 (E.D. Va. 2008)). In the instant case, the Defendant has provided facts inconsistent with the Statement of Facts to which he earlier agreed. Defendant maintains he did not engage in the ...

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