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United States v. Garcia

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 22, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
OSCAR GARCIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT C. BRACK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Oscar Garcia's Motion to Withdraw his Plea of Guilty. (See Doc. 129.) Having reviewed the accompanying briefing and being otherwise fully advised, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. Procedural Posture

         Defendant is facing multiple charges related to the trafficking of methamphetamine and money laundering. (See Docs. 3; 104.) On April 21, 2016, a grand jury returned an Indictment against Defendant, charging: in Count 1, Conspiracy to Possess with the Intent to Distribute 500 Grams and More of a Mixture and Substance Containing Methamphetamine, contrary to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; in Count 7, Possession with Intent to Distribute 500 Grams and More of a Mixture and Substance Containing Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); in Count 8, Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h); and in Count 9, Money Laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(A)(i). (Doc. 3.)

         On October 7, 2016, Defendant appeared before Honorable Stephan Vidmar, United States Magistrate Judge, for change of plea and pled guilty to a two count Information charging in Count 1, Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 500 Grams and More of Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); and in Count 2, Money Laundering Conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h). (Docs. 104; 132.) Judge Vidmar presented Defendant's plea colloquy and accepted Defendant's plea of guilty as to these counts, but deferred final acceptance of the plea agreement to the District Judge. (Doc. 132 at 16.)

         On July 12, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion to withdraw his plea of guilty. (Doc. 129.) The Government filed its response opposing the motion on July 26, 2017. (Doc. 133.)

         II. Factual Allegations

         Prior to commencing the present case, the Government conducted a three-month wiretap operation in cooperation with one of defendant's alleged co-conspirators. (Doc. 133 at 9, 16.) As a result of this investigation, the Government alleges that evidence establishes the following facts concerning the counts to which Defendant pled guilty:

         As to Count One, the Government contends that from June 1, 2015, until May 19, 2016, in Luna County in the District of New Mexico and elsewhere, the defendant conspired with others to distribute methamphetamine. (Doc. 132 at 14.) During that timeframe, the defendant used a smuggled cell phone from his prison cell in Oklahoma and arranged for the distribution of approximately 4.5 kilograms of a mixture and substance containing methamphetamine. (Id.) The methamphetamine was in fact distributed to others in Deming, New Mexico. (Id.)

         As to Count Two, the Government contends that from February 8, 2016, until February 10, 2016, Defendant committed money laundering. (Id.) Specifically they allege that during that timeframe, Defendant made arrangements for someone to travel from Arizona to Deming, New Mexico to pick up drug proceeds and to deliver the drug proceeds to a co-conspirator. (Id.) He knew that the drug proceeds would travel across state lines and be paid to a drug trafficking co-conspirator with the intent to promote the carrying on of his illegal drug trafficking activities. (Id.)

         III. Legal Standard to Withdraw Plea Under Rule 11

         Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure controls the circumstances and standards under which a Defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty. A significant factor in determining the ease with which a plea may be withdrawn is whether or not the plea has been accepted by the Court. Before the District Court accepts the plea, a defendant may withdraw a guilty plea for any reason or for no reason. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(1). Under this standard, a District Court is without discretion to deny a pre-acceptance withdrawal of a plea. United States v. Arami, 536 F.3d 479, 483 (5th Cir. 2008); United States v. Jones, 472 F.3d 905, 908 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

         By contrast, once a felony guilty plea has been accepted, but before sentence has been imposed, a defendant must provide a “fair and just reason” for allowing them to withdraw their plea. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2). Under this standard, the Tenth Circuit has identified the following factors to guide a court's decision on whether a fair and just reason exists: (1) whether the defendant has asserted his innocence, (2) prejudice to the government, (3) delay in filing defendant's motion, (4) inconvenience to the court, (5) defendant's assistance of counsel, (6) whether the plea is knowing and voluntary, (7) waste of judicial resources, and (8) the likelihood of conviction. See United States v. Hamilton, 510 F.3d 1209, 1214 (10th Cir. 2007); United States v. Carr, 80 F.3d 413, 421 n.5 (10th Cir. 1996). Of these factors, the most important are those which speak to the reason for withdrawal, including: whether the defendant asserted his innocence, whether the defendant's guilty plea was knowing and voluntary, and the assistance of his counsel. Hamilton, 510 F.3d at 1217.

         IV. Analysis: Motion ...


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