APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. D.C. Crim. No. 74-232.
Maris, Van Dusen and Hunter, Circuit Judges.
VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judge.
John D. Crowley appeals from a judgment of sentence following his plea of guilty to one count of an indictment charging him with selling and delivering counterfeit obligations of the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 473 (1970). Defendant asserts that he was denied the right to counsel on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea prior to sentencing and that the district court erred in denying the guilty plea withdrawal motion. For the reasons given below, we conclude that the absence of counsel on the motion to withdraw the guilty plea was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt on the facts of this case and that there was no error in the denial of that motion.
On July 31, 1974, defendant was charged in a two-count indictment with possessing and concealing seven counterfeit $20.00 Federal Reserve Notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 472 (1970) (Count I), and with selling and delivering seven counterfeit $20.00 Federal Reserve Notes in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 473 (1970) (Count II). Defendant entered a plea of not guilty and, with the aid of court-appointed counsel, sought to suppress certain statements constituting a confession that he had made to arresting officers.
At the suppression hearing on October 4, 1974, defendant testified that he did not remember saying several things in his written confession and that he had been told by Agent Daniel Mayer that he would be detained over the weekend unless he gave a statement.*fn1 In view of this testimony, the Government requested a continuance of the hearing to produce Agent Mayer, who had been transferred to Washington, D.C. The Government's motion was granted and the suppression hearing was continued until November 21, the day set for trial. At the continued hearing on November 21, Agent Mayer, who had come to Pittsburgh from Washington, D.C. in order to testify at the suppression hearing and the trial, denied under oath the allegation that he had threatened to keep defendant in jail over the weekend. The trial judge denied the motion to suppress, specifically finding that the defendant was not a credible witness and that his testimony was "an incredible attack[s] upon the agent[s]."*fn2
At this point, when selection of the jurors for trial was about to begin, the defendant elected to enter a plea of guilty (45a) to the second count of the indictment.*fn3
On November 26, 1974, five days after defendant had pled guilty, but prior to sentencing, defendant's court-appointed counsel filed a petition to withdraw his representation. The petition stated that since pleading guilty defendant had indicated a desire to withdraw his plea of guilty and that, due to certain information counsel had received, he believed he was unable to represent defendant in the withdrawal of the guilty plea. A hearing was held on counsel's motion on December 6, 1974, at which time he essentially informed the court that he could not vouch for the veracity of what defendant might say in support of the motion to withdraw his guilty plea.*fn4 Following this colloquy, the court held counsel's motion to withdraw his representation in abeyance and instructed defendant to proceed pro se on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea:
" THE COURT: If it is [defendant's] motion, I will [call defendant], and we will hold [defense counsel's] motion in abeyance.
" THE COURT: Mr. Crowley, come forward.
"You have filed a motion to change your plea from guilty to not guilty. Now, from here on, the burden is yours because you have already heard your attorney say that he can't in good conscience come in and support you on what you have said insofar as the motion is concerned. There it is. You can carry it now."*fn5
The court then questioned defendant on the reasons for his motion to withdraw the guilty plea. Defendant stated that when he entered the plea, he had believed that he was pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and not to a felony. He stated that subsequent to the entrance of the guilty plea, he had learned that he could not continue to work as a Pittsburgh fireman because he had pled guilty to a felony (6a-13a). Defendant further testified that when the Government had agreed to dismiss Count I, and thereby to reduce the possible punishment from 25 years to 10 years' imprisonment, he had assumed Count II was a misdemeanor (12a). According to defendant, neither the court, defense counsel, nor the Government had characterized the crime charged in Count II as either a misdemeanor or a felony. No other witnesses were called, and no arguments for or against the motion were presented.
The motion to withdraw the guilty plea was denied. Immediately thereafter, the court denied counsel's motion to withdraw as counsel (12a-13a), and on January 28, 1975, imposed a suspended sentence of three ...