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United States v. Coffelt

March 22, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHRISTOPHER COFFELT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Defendant Christopher Coffelt's ("Defendant") motion to dismiss for violation of the Speedy Trial Act (Court File No. 67). The United States of America ("Government") filed a timely response (Court File No. 68) and Defendant filed a reply (Court File No. 69). The parties also filed an agreed stipulation of facts (Court File No. 71). For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Defendant's motion to dismiss (Court File No. 67) and all counts of the Superseding Indictment (Court File No. 8) will be DISMISSED without prejudice.

I. RELEVANT FACTS

On December 6, 2001 Defendant pleaded guilty to Count Eight of an eight-count Superseding Indictment, charging him with conspiring with others to manufacture 50 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (Court File No. 34 & 35). On April 19, 2002, the Court accepted Defendant's guilty plea, he was convicted of Count Eight of the Superseding Indictment and sentenced to 110 months imprisonment and four years of supervised release (Court File No. 46 & 71). On the same day, the Court dismissed the remaining counts of the Superseding Indictment (Court File No. 46 & 65). Final judgment entered on May 1, 2002 (Court File No. 48).*fn1

Defendant appealed his conviction alleging the factual basis of the plea agreement did not support the crime to which he pleaded guilty (Court File No. 71 at ¶ 1). On October 18, 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ("Sixth Circuit") vacated Defendant's conviction and sentence and remanded his case to this Court for further proceedings. United States v. Coffelt, 145 Fed.Appx.996, 997 (6th Cir. 2005).*fn2 On November 9, 2005 the Sixth Circuit issued a mandate with respect to the vacation of Defendant's conviction which was filed with this Court on November 14, 2005 (Court File No. 57).

On January 4, 2006, the Court issued an order scheduling a re-sentencing of Defendant for April 7, 2006 (Court File No. 58)*fn3 and an order Defendant be transported to a place of incarceration in Chattanooga, Tennessee (Court File No. 59). On February 14, 2006 the Magistrate Judge issued an order granting Defendant's new counsel Robert Colacarro's motion for leave to appear pro hac vice (Court File No. 61). The parties stipulate that shortly after his admission, Defendant's counsel contacted the Court to notify it the re-sentencing was improper since Defendant's conviction had been vacated (Court File No. 71 at ¶ 9). On April 18, 2006 the Court issued an order setting the matter for a jury trial on June 26, 2006 (Court File No. 62) as well as another transport order (Court File No. 63). James Brooks made an appearance on behalf of the Government on May 3, 2006 (Court File No.64). On May 10, 2006 the Government filed a motion to reinstate Counts One through Seven of the Superseding Indictment previously dismissed (Court File No. 65), which the Court granted (Court File No. 66).

On June 19, 2006, the Government filed a two-count Bill of Information against Defendant alleging violations of 21 U.S.C. § 843(a)(6) which prohibits wrongful possession of materials which may be used to manufacture a controlled substance with reasonable cause to believe such materials would be used for that purpose in a new case number, 1:06-CR-70 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 1).*fn4 Thereafter, the June trial date was postponed to August 21, 2006 and a "hearing/final pretrial conference . . . to determine if the Court should accept the defendant's plea agreement" was scheduled for August 10, 2006 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 2).

At the hearing/final pretrial conference on August 10, 2006, the parties appeared before the Court to explain what had happened at the original guilty-plea hearing and to persuade the Court that Defendant should be allowed to enter a guilty plea to each count of the Information (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 3). The Court was understandably troubled by the earlier proceeding and suggested to counsel for both sides they might consider approaching other judges of this Court to see if they might consider accepting Defendant's guilty plea. Apparently, the parties were unsuccessful in those efforts (Court File No. 71 at ¶ 21). Ultimately, the Court did not accept Defendant's guilty plea and the trial was rescheduled for September 18, 2006 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 3). On September 11, 2006, Defendant then filed a motion asking the Court to reconsider its decision not to accept his guilty plea to the two-count Information (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 4) as well as a motion to continue the trial on September 12, 2006 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 5). The Court granted the motion for a continuance and set a new trial date of November 6, 2006 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File No. 6). On September 12, 2006, Defendant also filed a motion to dismiss case number 1:01-CR-91 pursuant to the Speedy Trial Act (Court File No. 67). The Government filed a response on October 20, 2006 and Defendant filed a reply on October 24, 2006 (Court File Nos. 68 & 69).

On November 17, 2006, the Court granted Defendant's motion for reconsideration in case number 1:06-CR-70 which allowed Defendant to proffer another plea of guilty to the Court and ordered a guilty-plea hearing to be held on December 14, 2006 (Case No. 1:06-CR-70, Court File Nos. 7 & 8). On or about December 11, 2006, Defendant's counsel requested that the Court postpone the guilty-plea hearing until the Court made a ruling on his motion to dismiss (Court File No. 70 & 71 at ¶ 26). The Court ordered the parties to file proposed findings of fact or a joint stipulation of facts regarding Defendant's motion to dismiss on January 30, 2007 (Court File No. 70), which the parties did on February 13, 2007 (Court File No. 71).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Dismissal of the Superseding Indictment

In his motion Defendant contends the eight counts pending against him should be dismissed because he was not provided with a speedy trial as required under 18 U.S.C. § 3161(e). In its response the Government seems to agree with Defendant's contention by stating, "defendant's speedy trial claim may technically be warranted." (Court File No. 68 at ¶ 4) Under 18 U.S.C. § 3161(e) ("Speedy Trial Act"):

If the defendant is to be tried again following an appeal or a collateral attack, the trial shall commence within seventy days from the date the action occasioning the retrial becomes final, except that the court retrying the case may extend the period for retrial not to exceed one hundred and eighty days from the date the action occasioning the retrial becomes final if unavailability of witnesses or other factors resulting from passage of time shall make trial within seventy days impractical. The periods of delay enumerated in section 3161(h) are excluded in computing the time limitations specified in this section. The sanctions of section 3162 apply to this subsection.

18 U.S.C. ยง 3161(e). This subsection applies to cases in which a guilty plea is collaterally attacked and vacated, even though a defendant was never "tried" a first time. United States v. Bond, 956 F.2d 628, 631 (6th Cir. 1992). The circuits are split as to when to begin counting the limitations period under section 3161(e). Id. at 631-32. "In the context of an appeal of an earlier trial court decision, the circuits have agreed that the operative date is either the date that the court of appeals' decision ordering retrial is released, or the date when the district court received the court of appeals' mandate that retrial is necessary." Id. (internal ...


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