Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Wooden

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

November 29, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM DALE WOODEN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS A. VARLAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is defendant William Dale Wooden's Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea [Doc. 50]. The United States responded in opposition to the defendant's motion [Doc. 54]. On August 22, 2017, the Court held a hearing in which it heard argument on the defendant's motion, as well as the testimony of the defendant's former counsel [Doc. 57]. For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea [Doc. 50].

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 3, 2015, the defendant was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) [Doc. 1]. After the Court granted the defendant several continuances and ultimately denied a motion to suppress, the defendant notified the United States and the Court that he wished to change his plea to a plea of guilty [See Docs. 34, 35]. The Court held a change of plea hearing on August 2, 2016, and the defendant knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition [Doc. 35]. On May 16, 2017, the defendant's original attorney filed a motion to withdraw [Doc. 46], which the Court granted on June 9, 2017 [Doc. 48]. The Court appointed new counsel for the defendant on June 9, 2017 [id.], and with the aid of new counsel the defendant filed the instant motion to withdraw his guilty plea on June 21, 2017 [Doc. 50].

         Throughout this process, the defendant was advised multiple times of the possibility that he could be designated as an armed career criminal, and that such designation would result in a fifteen-year mandatory minimum sentence [Docs. 54-1 p. 6 (initial appearance), 34 p. 2 (factual basis in support of guilty plea), 54-2 pp. 9, 11-12 (change of plea hearing)]. The defendant's prior counsel, however, made clear to the defendant before he pleaded guilty that it was highly unlikely he would be designated as an armed career criminal. At the hearing on the defendant's motion, his prior counsel testified that he repeatedly told the defendant he was “99% certain” the defendant would not be designated as an armed career criminal. This assessment was correct given the state of the law at the time, as the parties and the United States Probation Office did not believe the defendant should be designated as an armed career criminal-the original presentence investigation report included a guidelines range of 21-27 months [Doc. 36], and the parties filed notices of no objection to the presentence investigation report [Docs. 37, 38].

         Between the defendant's guilty plea and his sentencing hearing, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued its decision in United States v. Gundy, 842 F.3d 1156 (11th Cir. 2016), in which it held that Georgia burglary-of-a-building and burglary-of-a-dwelling-house convictions qualify as generic burglaries under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e). The defendant possesses ten prior Georgia burglary-of-a-building convictions, one burglary-of-a-dwelling-house conviction, and one aggravated assault conviction. Thus, after Gundy, the defendant's criminal history dictates that he be designated as an armed career criminal and, therefore, be subject to a 180-month mandatory minimum sentence.

         After neither party objected to a guidelines range of 21-27 months' imprisonment, the majority of which the defendant had already served, the defendant was shocked to learn he would be facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months. Defendant's original counsel testified that, upon learning of the armed career criminal designation, the defendant asked to withdraw his guilty plea. Relying on the advice of his original counsel, however, the defendant agreed instead to challenge his designation as an armed career criminal. After this challenge proved futile, and within two weeks after appointment of new counsel, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea [Doc. 50]. The defendant states that he would not have pleaded guilty had he known designation as an armed career criminal was a realistic possibility, and that he deferred to his original counsel's assessment of the armed career criminal issue and whether to withdraw his guilty plea immediately after the Gundy decision.

         The defendant possesses a ninth-grade education, and states that he relied almost entirely on the advice of counsel to guide him in his defense [Doc. 51]. The defendant has significant experience in state criminal justice systems, but prior to this offense had no experience in the federal criminal justice system. Although the defendant concedes that he ultimately admitted guilt at his change of plea hearing, he argues that he initially maintained his innocence, and that a state charge arising out of the same facts as the instant federal charge was dismissed after the defendant asserted his innocence.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Granting a defendant permission to withdraw a guilty plea is a matter “within the broad discretion of the district court.” United States v. Valdez, 362 F.3d 903, 912 (6th Cir. 2004). The defendant bears the burden of showing “a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B). In determining whether the defendant has presented a fair and just reason for withdrawing his guilty plea, the Court weighs the following factors:

(1) the amount of time elapsed between the plea and the motion to withdraw; (2) the presence or absence of a valid reason for not moving to withdraw earlier; (3) whether the defendant has asserted or maintained his innocence; (4) the circumstances underlying the entry of the guilty plea; (5) the defendant's nature and background; (6) the degree to which the defendant has prior experience in the criminal justice system; and (7) the potential prejudice to the government if the motion is granted.

United States v. Bashara, 27 F.3d 1174, 1181 (6th Cir. 1994). These factors, commonly known as the Bashara factors, do not constitute an exclusive list of the factors the Court may consider; no single factor is dispositive, and the Court need not analyze each factor. United States v. Bazzi, 94 F.3d 1025, 1027 (6th Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, the Court will address each of the Bashara factors in turn.

         A. Time Elapsed Between the Plea and the Motion to Withdraw

         The defendant pleaded guilty on August 2, 2016 and moved to withdraw his guilty plea on June 21, 2017. This amounts to a ten-month period between the defendant's guilty plea and motion to withdraw. Absent mitigating circumstances, such an extensive delay would weigh heavily against the defendant. See United States v. Ryerson, 502 F. App'x 495, 499 (6th Cir. 2012) ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.