68 F.3d 477 (7th Cir. 1995), 95-1892, U.S. v. Hatchett

Docket Nº:95-1892.
Citation:68 F.3d 477
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Cedric HATCHETT, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 19, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 477

68 F.3d 477 (7th Cir. 1995)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Cedric HATCHETT, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 95-1892.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 19, 1995

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA7 Rule 53 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

Argued Aug. 2, 1995.

Appeal from the United States District Court, for the Central District of Illinois, No. 94 CR 10008; Michael M. Mihm, Chief Judge.

C.D.Ill.

AFFIRMED.

Before BAUER, COFFEY and MANION, Circuit Judges.

ORDER

Cedric Hatchett pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine base (crack cocaine) with the intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Hatchett was sentenced to an aggregate 180-month term of imprisonment to be followed by an eight-year term of supervised release. Hatchett appeals the district court's order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and his sentence. Affirmed.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 6, 1994, the government filed a three-count indictment charging Hatchett with possession of cocaine base with the intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count I), using or carrying a firearm during the commission of a drug felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count II), and possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) (Count III). On October 11, 1994, Hatchett pleaded guilty to Counts I and II, and the government dismissed Count III. On December 19, 1994, Hatchett's original counsel, James E. Shadid, withdrew from the case and new counsel, John F. Leuck, was appointed. On January 27, 1995, before sentencing, Leuck filed a motion to withdraw Hatchett's guilty plea. A hearing on the motion to withdraw the plea was held on February 8, 1995. The district court denied Hatchett's motion to withdraw the plea and Hatchett was sentenced on March 28, 1995. The defendant had an offense level of 25 and a criminal history category of V. Hence, the applicable guidelines range on Count I was 100 to 125 months' imprisonment. The district court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months, 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). Pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2K2.4(a) and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1), Hatchett's sentence on Count II was required to be imposed consecutive to Count I. Since Count II carried a mandatory sentence of 60 months, § 924(c)(1), Hatchett was sentenced to an aggregate term of 180 months' imprisonment to be followed by an eight-year term of supervised release. Hatchett appeals.

ISSUES

On appeal, Hatchett argues that the district court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his plea of guilty, and that the sentencing provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) and U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c) are in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

GUILTY PLEA

Initially, Hatchett maintains that the district court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Hatchett alleges that he did not knowingly and voluntarily enter into a plea of guilty since (1) he was confused as to the charges to which he was pleading guilty; (2) counsel was ineffective because he repeatedly encouraged Hatchett to plead guilty, he had limited contact with him and discussed the plea agreement only briefly, and during his representation of Hatchett he represented another individual in an unrelated case who provided the government with information that incriminated Hatchett in criminal activity; and (3) his guilty plea was the result of an unstable mental condition and extreme stress, and his understanding that he would be transferred out of the Peoria County Jail in exchange for his plea (Hatchett had been in custody at the Peoria County Jail since his arrest).

Guilty pleas are, generally, considered final and there is no absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea. See Marx v. United States, 930 F.2d 1246, 1250 (7th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 939 (1992); United States v. Alvarez-Quiroga, 901 F.2d 1433, 1436 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 875 (1990). Hence, the decision to grant or deny a motion to withdraw a guilty plea is within the discretion of the district court and will be reversed only for an abuse of that discretion. Marx, 930 F.2d at 1250. In reviewing a denial of a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, "we rely on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(d) which states that a court may permit withdrawal of a guilty plea before sentencing 'upon a showing by the defendant of any fair and just reason."' United States v. Messino, 55 F.3d 1241, 1247 (7th Cir. 1995) (quoting Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(d)). One "fair and just" reason for withdrawal of a guilty plea is that it was not knowing or voluntary. Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970) (a guilty plea is valid only if it was both knowing and voluntary). See also United States v. Nash, 29 F.3d 1195, 1198 (7th Cir. 1994); United States v. Ellison, 835 F.2d 687, 692-93 (7th Cir. 1987). "The district court's findings regarding whether the defendant has 'fair and just' reasons for withdrawal will be upheld unless they are clearly erroneous." Messino, 55 F.3d at 1247 (citing United States v. LeDonne, 21 F.3d 1418, 1423 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S.Ct. 584 (1994)).

Hatchett claims that he was under the mistaken impression that he was pleading guilty to Counts I and III of the indictment and that Count I would be amended to charge him with possession of only 4.8 grams of crack cocaine. We have held:

"[C]laims of involuntariness or confusion that in the abstract seem like sufficient reasons to allow a defendant to withdraw his plea, or at least look into the matter further, may be insufficient in the context of a record containing substantial indications of voluntariness and lack of confusion. One especially important consideration is the defendant's answers to the questions posed at his Rule 11 hearing ...."

Messino, 55 F.3d at 1248 (quoting United States v. Trussel, 961 F.2d 685, 689 (7th Cir. 1992)). Hence, "'[t]he...

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