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U.S. v. YEDNAK

February 12, 2002

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
V.
WILLIAM YEDNAK.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lancaster, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

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.

I. BACKGROUND

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 possession.

On May 10, 2001, a PNC Bank branch was robbed by a masked robber brandishing what appeared to be a real weapon. The government stated that this gun had the appearance of the gun purchased by Casaldi for use by Yednak. Casaldi would testify at trial that the bank robber was Yednak's brother, defendant Patrick Yednak, and that William Yednak aided and abetted Patrick in that robbery. William Yednak was prohibited from possessing firearm due to previous felony convictions This conduct is the basis of the first coun of possession — Count Nine.

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.

II. DISCUSSION

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, ...


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