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UNITED STATES v. WOLCZIK

November 27, 1979

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES N. WOLCZIK



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SNYDER

James N. Wolczik plead guilty to conspiring to forge endorsements on United States Savings Bonds. Wolczik moves under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his conviction because the Government failed to provide him with allegedly exculpatory or favorable evidence prior to plea negotiations. The Motion will be denied.

I. The Background

 On August 24, 1976, Pittsburgh based Secret Service Agents arrested Carol Adams and John Martin, shortly after they attempted to cash stolen United States Savings Bonds. Their statements led to the arrest, later that day, of James N. Wolczik at his motel room and the recovery of approximately $ 25,000 in stolen bonds. A four count indictment handed down October 8, 1976 charged the Defendants Wolczik, Adams and Martin with conspiracy, receipt, possession and forgery of stolen United States Savings Bonds.

 After Wolczik's arraignment on October 18, 1976, the United States Attorney met with Wolczik's attorney, and, in accordance with Local Rule No. 24, *fn1" provided the following documents: (1) FBI arrest record; (2) one page statement by a Secret Service Agent regarding an alleged oral statement by Wolczik made on August 24, 1976; (3) handwriting report; and (4) fingerprint report.

 The Government did not provide Wolczik's attorney with copies of written statements which had been given to Government Agents by Wolczik's co-conspirators after their arrests. Adams' statement, dated August 25, 1976, identified her co-conspirators as John Martin and James Wolczik. In a statement dated August 24, 1976, Martin identified his co-conspirators as Adams and a white male known to him as "Jimmy". In his second statement on August 30, 1976, Martin identified his co-conspirators as Adams and John Salvucci. He mentions James Wolczik, but does not indicate what role Wolczik had in the conspiracy. The statement indicates that Wolczik and Salvucci are two different people.

 On October 18, 1976, Adams and Martin plead guilty to Count One of the indictment and the Government dropped Counts Two through Four. At the plea hearing, Adams again identified Martin and Wolczik as co-conspirators. Martin's attorney stated that Martin joined with Adams and an unindicted individual (identified at a side bar conference as "Salvucci") to cash stolen bonds in Pittsburgh. Martin did not mention what, if any, role Wolczik played in the conspiracy. It was clear from the hearing that both Adams and Martin were to be witnesses for the Government at the trial of any other defendants in this matter.

 Wolczik's trial was scheduled for October 29, 1976, and Wolczik's counsel was to interview Martin prior to trial (a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Testificandum had been filed). However, before the interview could take place, a plea bargain was agreed upon which was identical to that offered co-conspirators Adams and Martin, whereby Wolczik was to plead guilty to the first count of conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 371 (for which the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment or a $ 10,000 fine, or both), and the three substantive counts of receiving and possessing stolen bonds, 18 U.S.C. §§ 641 and 2, were to be dismissed (each of these counts having a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment or $ 10,000 fine, or both). At his plea hearing on October 28, 1976, Wolczik admitted that he met Adams and Martin in Pittsburgh for the purpose of disposing of the bonds and that he had rented a motel room in which the stolen bonds were located. Wolczik's plea was accepted and he was later sentenced to five years imprisonment.

 II. Discussion

 The Petitioner is collaterally attacking his conviction based upon a guilty plea. Our consideration of the Motion is governed by the Supreme Court's three companion cases, Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 90 S. Ct. 1463, 25 L. Ed. 2d 747 (1970); McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 90 S. Ct. 1441, 25 L. Ed. 2d 763 (1970); Parker v. North Carolina, 397 U.S. 790, 90 S. Ct. 1458, 25 L. Ed. 2d 785 (1970), as elaborated upon in Tollett v. Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 93 S. Ct. 1602, 36 L. Ed. 2d 235 (1973).

 In the aforementioned trilogy, the Supreme Court held that certain considerations which might have influenced a defendant's decision to plead guilty, E. g., to avoid a death penalty later held unconstitutional, or mistakenly believing that a confession or certain evidence would be admissible when it was not, did not Per se destroy the validity of the guilty plea.

 In Tollett, the Supreme Court emphasized that even though a habeas petitioner alleges some deprivation of constitutional rights preceded his decision to plead guilty, the focus of the habeas inquiry is in the nature of the advice and the voluntariness of the plea, not the existence of an antecedent constitutional infirmity. The Supreme Court reaffirmed the principles recognized in the trilogy regarding the nature and effect of a guilty plea:

 
"(A) guilty plea represents a break in the chain of events which has preceded it in the criminal process. When a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea. He may only attack the voluntary and intelligent character of the guilty plea by showing that the advice he received from counsel was not within the standards set forth in McMann.
 
A guilty plea, voluntarily and intelligently entered, may not be vacated because the defendant was not advised of every conceivable constitutional plea in abatement he might have to the charge, no matter how peripheral such a plea might be to the normal focus of counsel's inquiry. And just as it is not sufficient for the criminal defendant seeking to set aside such a plea to show that his counsel in retrospect may not have correctly appraised the constitutional significance of certain historical facts, McMann, supra, it is likewise not sufficient that he show that if counsel had pursued a certain factual inquiry such a pursuit would have uncovered a possible constitutional infirmity in the proceedings.
 
The principal value of counsel to the accused in a criminal prosecution often does not lie in counsel's ability to recite a list of possible defenses in the abstract, nor in his ability, if time permitted, to amass a large quantum of factual data and inform the defendant of it. Counsel's concern is the faithful representation of the interest of his client, and such representation frequently involves highly practical considerations as well as specialized knowledge of the law. Often the interests of the accused are not advanced by challenges that would only delay the inevitable date of prosecution, See Brady v. United States, supra, (397 U.S.) at 751-752 (90 S. Ct. 1463), 25 L. Ed. 2d 747, or by contesting all guilt, See Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 92 S. Ct. 495, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427 (1971). A prospect of plea bargaining, the expectation or hope of a lesser sentence, or the convincing nature of the evidence against the ...

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