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United States v. Morgret

September 5, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL ALLEN MORGRET



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Muir

ORDER

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:

On July 28, 2006, Defendant Michael Allen Morgret filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. It is the third such motion which Morgret has filed in this case. A brief supporting the motion was filed on August 8, 2006. The government filed its opposition brief on August 11, 2006. Morgret's reply brief was due to have been filed by August 28, 2006, and to this date no such brief has been filed. Morgret's motion to withdraw his guilty plea is ripe for disposition.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(d), entitled "Withdrawing a Guilty or Nolo Contendere Plea," provides in relevant part that

[a] defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere ... after the court accepts the plea, but before it imposes sentence if ... the defendant can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.

Fed.R.Crim.P. 11(d). "The burden of demonstrating a 'fair and just' reason falls on the defendant, and that burden is substantial." United States v. Jones, 336 F.3d 245, 252 (3d Cir. 2004)(citing United States v. Hyde, 520 U.S. 670, 676-77, 117 S.Ct. 1630 (1997); United States v. Isaac, 141 F.3d 477, 485 (3d Cir.1998)).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has amplified the requirements to be met for a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea, and has consistently held that

[a] district court must consider three factors when evaluating a motion to withdraw a guilty plea: (1) whether the defendant asserts his innocence; (2) the strength of the defendant's reasons for withdrawing the plea; and (3) whether the government would be prejudiced by the withdrawal.

United States v. Jones, 336 F.3d 245, 252 (3d Cir. 2004)(citing United States v. Brown, 250 F.3d, 811, 815 (3d Cir. 2001); United States v. Huff, 873 F.2d 709, 711 (3d Cir.1989)). It is especially significant that the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has also commented that a shift in defense tactics, a change of mind, or the fear of punishment are not adequate reasons to impose upon the government the expense, difficulty, and risk of trying a defendant who has already acknowledged his guilt by pleading guilty.

United States v. Brown, 250 F.3d 811, 815 (3d Cir. 2001).

We will apply those legal principles to Morgret's pending motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Before considering the merits of that motion, we will detail the material procedural and factual history of this case.

This matter originated on April 11, 2002, with the filing of a six-count indictment against Defendant Michael Allen Morgret and six other individuals. A second superseding indictment containing 19 counts was filed on November 14, 2002. The crimes charged relate to an alleged conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine and crack cocaine. In the course of that conspiracy some of the defendants, including Morgret, agreed to commit arson to obtain additional funds for the purchase of those drugs.

On August 25, 2003, Morgret pled guilty to counts 1 and 6 in that indictment. Count 1 charged Morgret with conspiring to possess with intent to distribute and the distribution of in excess of 50 grams of cocaine base and cocaine. Count 6 charged Morgret with conspiracy to intimidate witnesses, to possess and distribute firearms illegally, and to commit arson and mail fraud.

On December 5, 2003, we received Morgret's pre-sentence report. Morgret immediately filed objections to his presentence report. At that point progress in this case was retarded by five substitutions of counsel for Morgret and the filing of various motions, some of which were prompted by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Blakely v. Washington, 542 ...


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