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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville Division

September 12, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JORDAN JOHNSON

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LEON JORDAN, District Judge.

On September 11, 2014, the court held a hearing on the defendant's pro se request to withdraw his guilty plea [doc. 66] and the motion for plea withdrawal filed by defendant's attorney [doc. 55]. For the reasons that follow, each motion will be denied.

I.

Background

This is a multi-defendant counterfeiting case. On April 7, 2014, the present defendant signed a plea agreement admitting guilt to Count One (conspiring to make and possess counterfeit Federal Reserve Notes). The court accepted that guilty plea at an April 22, 2014 hearing, and a transcript of that hearing has been filed [doc. 90].

On July 22, 2014, defense counsel moved for the defendant to be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea "for reasons to be set forth by Defendant at court." On July 25, 2014, the defendant filed his pro se motion, asking both to withdraw his plea and to be appointed a different attorney. That mailing was postmarked July 22. Subsequently, at a hearing before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Dennis Inman, the defendant abandoned his request for a new lawyer. [Doc. 86, 103].

As to the withdrawal of his plea, the defendant's pro se motion states:

My co-defendant (Gerren Neff) is being represented by (Thomas Rasnic) my lawyers cousin - my lawyer - (Joseph Rasnic). This is a conflict of interest. Also Gerren Neff is my uncle. He was/and is willing to testify against me in my case. I was forced to plea guilty to something I am truely innocent of. But I had no choice too because I was afraid my lawyer (Joseph Rasnic), my uncle's lawyer (Thomas Rasnic), and my uncle were all 3 working against me. So I was forced to plea out. I'm innocent of this crime.

[Doc. 66, p. 1-2] (spelling, grammar, and emphasis as in original).

As noted, on April 7, 2014, the defendant signed a plea agreement. In material part, that agreement provides:

- "The defendant is pleading guilty because the defendant is in fact guilty." [Doc. 32, ¶ 3].
- The defendant admitted responsibility for his role in the counterfeiting scheme. [Doc. 32, ¶ 4(a)-(f)].
- "No promises have been made by any representative of the United States to the defendant as to what the sentence will be in this case. Any estimates or predictions made to the defendant by defense counsel or any other person regarding any potential sentence in this case are not binding on the Court, and may not be used as a basis to rescind this plea agreement or withdraw the defendant's guilty plea(s)." [Doc. 32, ¶ 6].

At the commencement of the April 22, 2014 change of plea hearing, the defendant swore to tell the truth. [Doc. 90, p.2]. The following pertinent exchanges and acknowledgments from the change of plea hearing are noted:

- The defendant confirmed his understanding that he could be prosecuted for perjury if he answered any questions falsely. [Doc. 90, p.3].
- The defendant affirmed that he understood what was happening. [Doc. 90, p.3-4].
- The defendant affirmed that his attorney had explained the terms of the plea agreement to him, and that he was satisfied with his attorney's advice and representation. [Doc. 90, p.5].
- The defendant affirmed his understanding "that by entering a plea of guilty if that plea is accepted by the Court that there will be no trial and that you will have given up the right to a trial of any kind as well as those ...

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