The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lancaster, District Judge.
On July 25, 2001, a federal grand jury returned a multi-count
indictment against defendant, William Yednak, including two
counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Counts Nine and Twelve) and
one count of carrying a firearm during and in relation to a
drug-trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)
(Count Ten). At a hearing held on November 30, 2001, Yednak
changed his initial plea of not guilty and, pursuant to a plea
agreement, entered a plea of guilty to seven counts of the
indictment, including Counts Nine, Ten, and Twelve.
At the November 30 hearing, the court expressed concern over
whether there was an adequate factual basis to support the
guilty plea as to Counts Nine, Ten and Twelve. Consequently, the
court accepted the guilty plea conditional upon the court's
satisfactory resolution of two outstanding issues: (1) whether
conviction on both Counts Nine and Twelve, possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon, would constitute two convictions
for the same crime in violation of the double jeopardy clause of
the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and (2)
whether there was an adequate factual basis to support Yednak's
plea of guilty to carrying a firearm during and in relation to a
drug-trafficking crime — Count Ten.
After taking the matter under advisement and, for the reasons
that follow, the court will not accept Yednak's guilty plea as
to Counts Nine, Ten, and Twelve and will reject the plea
agreement between the government and Yednak in its entirety.
At the November 30, 2001 hearing, the government made the
following proffer as to the factual predicate for Counts Nine,
Ten, and Twelve of the indictment.
Regarding Counts Nine and Twelve, possession of a firearm by a
convicted felon, the government stated that it would show that
on May 7, 2001, another defendant in this case, Lara Casaldi,
went to a pawn shop at Yednak's insistence and acquired a
chrome-plated, black-handled, Smith & Wesson 9 millimeter
handgun for Yednak's use. Thereafter, the gun was in Yednak's
At approximately 1:00 a.m. the next day May 11, 2001, the
police stopped Casaldi's car, which was used in the PNC Bank
robbery. William Yednak was driving, Ca saldi was in the front
seat, and a third individual was in the back seat. The police
found the 9-millimeter handgun purchased from the pawnshop under
the seat of the vehicle. This is the factual basis underlying
the second count of possession — Count Twelve.
Regarding Count Ten, carrying a firearm during and in relation
to a drugtrafficking crime and/or possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, the government stated
as follows. When the police stopped Casaldi's vehicle on May 11,
2001, they found a small quantity of cocaine and less than 100
grams of heroin within Yednak's possession and control. As set
forth above, the 9-millimeter handgun was found under the seat.
The government stated that after the May 10, 2001 PNC Bank
robbery, Yednak and Casaldi took the gun to Duquesne,
Pennsylvania, to meet with the drug supplier who supplied them
with the heroin and cocaine. They returned to Yednak's residence
in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and stayed there until the early
hours of May 11 when they agreed to give a third person a ride
to housing projects in another neighborhood in McKeesport. At
this time, Yednak had the heroin and the 9-millimeter handgun in
his possession. According to the government, Yednak took the gun
with him because he was going to what he considered to be a
dangerous neighborhood while in possession of heroin.
When asked by the court, Yednak stated that he agreed with the
government's summary of what he did.
The court questions whether there is an adequate factual basis
to support Yednak's plea of guilty as to two counts of
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Counts Nine and
Twelve) and one count of carrying a firearm during and in
relation to a drug-trafficking crime and/or possession of a
firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime (Count Ten).
Upon consideration of the record, arguments of counsel, and
applicable law, the court is not satisfied that Yednak's guilty
plea as to these counts is supported by the facts and,
therefore, rejects the plea.
It is well-settled that a criminal defendant "`does not have
an absolute right under the Constitution to have his guilty plea
accepted by the court.'" United States v. Hecht, 638 F.2d 651,
653 (3d Cir. 1981) (quoting North Carolina v. Alford,
400 U.S. 25, 38 n. 11, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970)); see also
Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, ...