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United States v. Miles

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

August 28, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JEREMY MILES, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          HENRY COKE MORGAN, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JTUJGE.

         These matters are before the Court on Defendant's letter motion for new counsel, doc. 68; Defendant's attorney's motion to withdraw, doc. 70; and the Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, doc. 58. The Court considered these motions at the August 22, 2019, sentencing hearing, before considering any sentencing matters. Ruling from the bench, the Court DENIED the motions listed above. The Court hereby issues this Opinion and Order to further articulate its ruling.

         L BACKGROUND

         Defendant is charged in an eight-count indictment with: Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 ("Count One"); 2); Possess with Intent to Distribute Controlled Substances in violation of 21 U.S.C § 841 ("Counts Three, Four, and Five"); Possessing a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Trafficking Crime pursuant to 18 USC § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count Six"), and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon pursuant to 21 U.SC. § 922 ("Counts Two, Seven, and Eight"). Doc. 1 ("Indictment").

         Originally, Defendant was represented by the Federal Public Defender. After a hearing on a motion to withdraw, the Court found that a conflict existed and permitted the withdrawal. Doc. 16. Then, the Court appointed Mary Morgan to represent Defendant on December 12, 2018. Following that appointment, Defendant filed a motion to continue, which the Court granted. Docs. 17, 20.

         On January 18, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence and to produce a confidential witness. Doc. 24, 25. Shortly thereafter, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw Ms. Morgan as his counsel. Doc. 28. On February 6, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion to withdraw Ms. Morgan and granted the motion. Doc. 30, 31. Following that order, the Court appointed Defendant's current counsel, James Theuer.

         On March 14, 2019, the Court heard arguments on Defendant's motions to suppress and produce a confidential witness. The Court denied those motions for reason stated at the hearing and its written opinion. Doc. 50.

         On April 30, 2019, the Court convened for trial. The Court conducted voir dire to select a jury. Voir dire took most of the morning, so the Court recessed for lunch. Shortly before the Court re-convened, it was advised that the parties had come to a plea agreement. The Court then conducted its plea colloquy and, after finding that the plea was made voluntarily and knowingly and otherwise proper, the Court accepted the plea and dismissed the jury. Sentencing was set for August 22, 2019. Doc. 55.

         On July 16, 2019, the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report ("PSR") was filed. Doc. 56. The PSR found that the sentencing guidelines provided a range of 210-240 months. Id. at 22. Shortly afterward, on July 30, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea. Defendant also mailed this Court a letter, requesting new counsel. Doc. 68. Mr. Theuer filed a motion to withdraw on August 15, 2019, the day after the letter was docketed. Doc. 70.

         IL LEGAL STANDARD

         A. MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA

         A defendant has no absolute right to withdraw his guilty plea. United States v. Bowman, 348 F.3d 408, 413-14 (4th Cir. 2003). A defendant may not withdraw a guilty plea unless he demonstrates a "fair and just" reason why the withdrawal is allowed. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B). A fair and just reason is one that essentially changes the fairness of the Rule 11 hearing. United States v. Puckett, 61 F.3d 1092, 1099 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting United States v. Lambey, 974 F.2d 1389, 1394 (4th Cir. 1992) (en banc)). Whether such a reason has been given is a matter within the discretion of the district court. Id.

         To guide the district court's discretion, the Fourth Circuit has articulated six factors to evaluate when faced with a motion to withdraw a guilty plea:

(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 the defendant has had close assistance of competent counsel;
(5) whether withdrawal will cause prejudice to the government; and
(6) and whether it will inconvenience the court and waste ...

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