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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

August 12, 2016

United States of America,
v.
Ryan Williams.

          Ryan Williams, Defendant, represented by Charles J. Keefe, Wilson Bush Durkin & Keefe PC.

          USA, Plaintiff, represented by Jennifer C. Davis, U.S. Attorney's Office.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO ACCEPT DEFENDANT'S GUILTY PLEA

          ANDREA K. JOHNSTONE, Magistrate Judge.

         I. Background

         On July 8, 2015, a criminal complaint was issued charging Ryan Williams ("Williams"), the Defendant, with unlawful possession with the intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 USC § 841(a)(1). Thereafter, on August 26, 2015, Williams was indicted, inter alia, with Conspiracy to Distribute 1 Kilogram or More of Heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A)(i). On July 12, 2016, the Defendant was charged by Superseding Information with Conspiracy to Distribute 1 Kilogram or More of Heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A)(i). The Defendant waived indictment to the Superseding Information. (Doc. no. 32).

         A change of plea hearing was held on August 3, 2016. Williams was present, represented by appointed counsel, Charles J. Keefe. Defendant was advised of the purpose of the hearing and placed under oath with instructions that his answers must be truthful lest he would subject himself to possible charges of perjury or making a false statement.

         II. Consent to Proceed Before a Magistrate Judge

         Defendant filed a written consent to have the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 proceedings before the magistrate judge. (Doc. no. 31). On August 3, 2016, while assisted by counsel, the Defendant, by consent appeared before me in order to change his previous not guilty plea, entered on August 31, 2015, (doc. no. 14) to a plea of guilty as to Count I of the Superseding Information as agreed to under the terms of his plea agreement. At the August 3 hearing, the parties consented to the delegation of the change of plea to the magistrate judge and the Defendant unequivocally restated his consent to have the change of plea hearing before this magistrate judge. United States v. Williams, 23 F.3d 629 (2nd. Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 1045 (1994) (where defendant consented to the magistrate judge taking his guilty plea to a felony, delegation to the magistrate judge did not contravene Article III of the Unites States Constitution).

         III. Proceedings Under Rule 11 of the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure

         Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the acceptance of guilty pleas to federal criminal violations. Pursuant to Rule 11, in order for a plea of guilty to constitute a valid waiver of the Defendant's right to trial, the guilty plea must be knowing and voluntary. United States v. Hernandez-Wilson, 186 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1999). "Rule 11 was intended to ensure that a defendant who pleads guilty does so with an understanding of the nature of the charge and consequences of his plea.'" United States v. Cotal-Crespo, 47 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir. 1995) (quoting McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 467 (1969)). There are three core concerns in a Rule 11 proceeding: "1) absence of coercion; 2) understanding of the charges; and 3) knowledge of the consequences of the guilty plea." Cotal-Crespo, 47 F.3d at 4 (citing United States v. Allard, 926 F.2d 1237, 1244 (1st Cir. 1991)).

         A. Competence to Enter a Guilty Plea

         This magistrate judge questioned the Defendant about his age; education; literacy; history of any treatment for mental illness or addiction; and use of any medication, drugs, or alcohol in order to ascertain his capacity to understand, answer, and comprehend the change of plea colloquy. The court confirmed that the Defendant received the Superseding Information and fully discussed the charge with his attorney and was satisfied with the advice and representation he received. The Defendant confirmed that he was satisfied with the representation and advice given to him by his attorney and that he had sufficient time to discuss the case and guilty plea with his counsel before the August 3, 2016 hearing. The court further inquired whether the Defendant's counsel had any doubt as to his capacity to plead, to which counsel responded that there was no doubt. After considering the Defendant's responses and observing his demeanor, a finding was made that Williams was competent to plead and fully aware of the purpose of the hearing.

         B. Waiver of Grand Jury Indictment

         This magistrate judge questioned Williams in detail about his understanding of the implications of waiving grand jury indictment. The Defendant expressed his understanding that he had a constitutional right to be tried on an indictment, of the composition of the grand jury and the process and requirements in order for a grand jury to return an indictment, and that the grand jury, after hearing the Government's evidence, might or might not indict him. Williams also expressed his understanding that if he waives indictment, but then decided not to enter a guilty plea, the prosecution of the charges in the Superseding Information would still proceed on the information without presentation of the evidence to the grand jury. Williams confirmed his signature on the waiver of indictment document. He also confirmed that other than the promises and commitments set forth in the plea agreement, no threats were made against him, and no promises were made to induce him to waive his right to an indictment. He also acknowledged that he discussed waiver of grand jury indictment with his attorney and confirmed that he understood these rights and the consequences of his waiver of indictment. The Defendant's counsel, in ...


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