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United States v. Garcia

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

November 7, 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 the Government's Motion to Reconsider this Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order (MOO) denying Defendant Oscar Garcia's Motion to Withdraw his Plea of Guilty. (See Doc. 135.) 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 the Honorable Stephan Vidmar, United States Magistrate Judge, for a change of plea hearing. Defendant 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 conducted 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.) On August 22, 2017, the Court issued a MOO denying Defendant's motion on the basis that Judge Vidmar possessed the authority to conduct Defendant's plea hearing and that the plea colloquy rendered Defendant's guilty plea accepted for purposes of Rule 11. (Doc. 134.) On August 23, 2017, the Government filed a motion for reconsideration. (Doc. 135.)

         II. Factual Allegations

         Prior to commencing this 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 the Government alleges 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.) Mr. Garcia allegedly 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: Motion for Reconsideration

         Although the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do not include specific provisions for a motion to reconsider, the Tenth Circuit has allowed such motions under common law and considerations of judicial economy recognized in United States v. Healy, 376 U.S. 75 (1964). See, e.g., United States v. Corey, 999 F.2d 493, 495 (10th Cir. 1993). “Courts have evaluated motions to reconsider in criminal cases under the same standards governing a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e).” United States v. Sims, 252 F.Supp.2d 1255, 1260-61 (D.N.M. 2003). Consequently, the Court may grant reconsideration on any of the following grounds: an intervening change in controlling law, availability of new evidence, or the need to correct clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Id.; see also Major v. Benton, 647 F.2d 110, 112 (10th Cir. 1981). A motion for reconsideration “is not a second chance for the losing party to make its strongest case or to dress up arguments that previously failed.” Voelkel v. Gen. Motors Corp., 846 F.Supp. 1482, 1483 (D. Kan.), aff'd, 43 F.3d 1484 (10th Cir. 1994). Stated differently, such motions are inappropriate if their purpose is merely to compel the reviewing court to revisit issues already addressed or to present new arguments or supporting facts that could have been offered originally. See Van Skiver v. United States, 952 F.2d 1241, 1243 (10th Cir. 1991). “The decision to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration is committed to the reviewing court's sound discretion.” Sims, 252 F.Supp.2d at 1261 (citing Hancock v. City of Okla. City, 857 F.2d 1394, 1395 (10th Cir. 1988)).

         IV. Analysis: Motion to Reconsider

         In this highly unusual situation, the Government as the prevailing party seeks reconsideration of this Court's MOO by attempting to undermine the very rationale the Government put forth in opposing Defendant's Motion. (Doc. 135.) Specifically, the Government now adopts Defendant's argument that, contrary to its cited Tenth Circuit precedent, the Magistrate Judge did not have the authority to accept Defendant's guilty plea and that, because the plea has not been accepted by a District Judge, Defendant may withdraw his guilty plea as a matter of right. (Id.) The ...


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