United States v. Hughes, No. 12-60005
(Aug. 8, 2013) (King, Higginbotham, Clement)
contested his convictions and sentence in this distribution conspiracy case.
The panel affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district
the morning of trial, Hughes decided to plead guilty. The Government informed
the court of an oral agreement for Hughes to plead guilty to the conspiracy
count and continue the other four counts until sentencing at which time the
Government would move to dismiss those counts. Without addressing this oral
agreement, the court took Hughes’ guilty plea to all five of the counts. Hughes
tried to withdraw his guilty pleas later, but the court denied that request. At
sentencing, the Government moved to dismiss all but the conspiracy count, but
the court denied that request and handed down sentences on all five counts of
raised three main arguments on his appeal: (1) his change-of-plea hearing was
procedurally deficient under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11, (2) the district
court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas,
and (3) the district court abused its discretion in not dismissing the
telephone counts on the Government’s motion.
regards to Hughes’ first argument, the panel found it to be unavailing since
Hughes failed to show a reasonable probability that he would not have pleaded
guilty. In regards to Hughes’ second concern, the panel held that the district
court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Hughes’ motion to withdraw
his guilty pleas. According to the Carr
test, the district court’s decision was justified. Finally, the panel found
that the district court failed to supply reasoning for sentencing Hughes to the
substantive counts, so the refusal to dismiss Counts 2-5 was an abuse of
discretion. The panel affirmed the judgment of the court with respect to
Hughes’ conspiracy count, but reversed the denial of the motion to dismiss
Counts 2-5. The panel then dismissed Counts 2-5.
Higginbotham concurred with the judgment handed down by the district court
because neither Hughes nor the government clarified whether the plea deal was
still in effect as of sentencing.
King dissented. She argued that Hughes should have been given notification as
to whether the plea agreement concerning Counts 2-5 was accepted or declined.
Furthermore, since Hughes was denied his right to withdraw his guilty plea, she
would have vacated the convictions and sentence and remanded the matter to the
district court to clarify its stance on accepting or rejecting the plea
Thanks to FPD Intern Matthew Gonzalez for this blog
Labels: Guilty Pleas, Plea Agreements, Rule 11