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United States v. Davis

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

September 12, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER DAVIS, Defendant.

          United States Magistrate Judge David R. Grand

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONTO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA [#69]

          Hon. Gershwin A. Drain United States District Court Judge

         I. Introduction

         On February 8, 2018, Defendant Christopher Davis pled guilty to Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Dkt. No. 54. Because Defendant had a prior state drug conviction, he faced a statutory maximum sentence of 30 years and a sentencing guidelines range of 188 to 235 months. However, under his Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, Defendant and the Government stipulated that the appropriate sentence in this case would be 228 months. See Id. at p. 4 (Pg. ID 147). Defendant still awaits sentencing.

         On December 21, 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, which redefined what constituted a prior drug offense. Under the Act, Defendant's state conviction no longer qualifies as a “serious drug offense.” Consequently, the statutory maximum penalty for his federal conviction is now 20 years and his sentencing guidelines range is 151 to 188 months. Defendant has filed the instant Motion to withdraw his guilty plea in light of these favorable changes.

         Present before the Court is Defendant's MotionTaylor & Sons, Inc. et al to Withdraw Guilty Plea. Dkt. No. 69. A hearing on the Motion was held on September 12, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will DENY the Motion [#69].

         II. Discussion

         Defendant argues that because his plea agreement was based upon sentencing consequences which have subsequently changed, such that the agreement can no longer be performed, he has provided a fair and just reason to withdraw his guilty plea under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d)(2)(B). See Dkt. No. 69, p. 4 (Pg. ID 223). The Court will disagree.

         “It is well settled that the withdrawal of a guilty plea prior to sentencing is not an absolute right but is a matter within the broad discretion of the district court.” United States v. Spencer, 836 F.2d 236, 238 (6th Cir. 1987) (quoting United States v. Kirkland, 578 F.2d 170, 172 (6th Cir. 1978)). To prevail on such a motion, the defendant must “show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B). The Sixth Circuit has identified a non-exclusive list of factors that courts should consider when determining whether a defendant has met his burden:

(1) the amount of time that elapsed between the plea and the motion to withdraw it; (2) the presence (or absence) of a valid reason for the failure to move for withdrawal earlier in the proceedings; (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 had prior experience with the criminal justice system; and (7) potential prejudice to the government if the motion to withdraw is granted.

United States v. Ellis, 470 F.3d 275, 281 (6th Cir. 2006). Importantly, no single factor controls. United States v. Haygood, 549 F.3d 1049, 1052 (6th Cir. 2008). Rather, “[t]he relevance of each factor will vary according to the ‘circumstances surrounding the original entrance of the plea as well as the motion to withdraw.'” Id. (quoting United States v. Triplett, 828 F.2d 1195, 1197 (6th Cir. 1987)).

         Here, none of the Ellis factors weigh in favor of relief. See 470 F.3d at 281. With respect to the first factor -- the amount of time between the plea and the motion to withdraw -- Defendant waited over fourteen months to file the instant Motion. See Dkt. No. 54; Dkt. No. 69. Even considering only the time between the passage of the First Step Act and now, this still amounts to a four-month gap. The Sixth Circuit has affirmed decisions to deny motions to withdraw guilty pleas on the basis of far shorter delays. See, e.g., United States v. Durham, 178 F.3d 796, 799 (6th Cir. 1999) (77-day delay); United States v. Baez, 87 F.3d 805, 808 (6th Cir. 1996) (67- day delay); United States v. Goldberg, 862 F.2d 101, 104 (6th Cir. 1988) (55-day delay); United States v. Spencer, 836 F.2d 236, 239 (6th Cir. 1987) (5-week delay).

         Regarding the second factor -- a valid reason for failing to move for withdrawal earlier -- Defendant suggests that the delay was caused by the uncertainty surrounding the First Step Act. Undoubtedly, this justifies some of Defendant's tardiness. But this does not excuse a four-month delay. See United States v. Benton, 639 F.3d 723, 727-28 (6th Cir. 2011) (“Though we recognize that defense counsel may have had to contend with competing demands on her time and resources, we cannot excuse a delay of more than three months in this case. Once Benton and his counsel became aware of new developments that might be relevant to his case, it was incumbent upon them to take action within a reasonable period of time. Therefore, while Benton may have had a valid reason for not filing the motion immediately upon learning of the Supreme Court's decision in Gant, he does not present a valid excuse for the extended length of the delay.”).

         The third factor -- whether the defendant has asserted or maintained his innocence -- also weighs against relief. Here, Defendant has conceded his guilt. See United States v. Hasan, No. 1:15CR188, 2016 WL 3854460, at *4 (N.D. Ohio July 15, 2016) (“The fact that he has not maintained his innocence, and has, in fact, acknowledged his guilt, also ...


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