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United States v. Delbridge

July 30, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL DELBRIDGE



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

ORDER OF COURT

Before the Court are two related motions: (doc. no. 133) -- defendant Michael Delbridge's pro se Motion to Appointment of New Counsel, Motion to Disqualify Counsel; (doc. no. 134) -- Motion to Withdraw as Attorney by current counsel, Patrick K. Nightingale.

Background

This Court is much more familiar with this defendant than with most Defendants at this stage of the proceedings, having issued several rulings on pretrial motions, having reviewed a partial presentence investigation report, and having seen and observed defendant close hand at three hearings in June related to his earlier pro se "Motion to Appoint Counsel, Motion to Disqualify Counsel" (doc. no. 122), which motion defendant withdrew on June 8, 2007, after an extensive colloquy in open court. That motion had been filed on the literal eve of trial, and it was withdrawn after, inter alia, this Court explained to defendant that he was not entitled to appointed counsel of his choosing; that Mr. Nightingale was a well respected and experienced attorney who was doing an excellent job for defendant as far as the Court had observed; that defendant would have to represent himself pro se if he insisted on "firing" his attorney, and the Court would deem this a voluntary and intelligent choice on his part; that the Court considered pro se representation to be a serious mistake.

The June 8th hearing ended with defendant choosing to withdraw his motion to disqualify and continue with current counsel, and also to "withdraw" a pro se but not yet filed motion to suppress, and with the Court notifying the parties that defendant's trial would commence the following Tuesday, June12, 2007, unless defendant decided to enter a guilty plea that Monday.

The Court was subsequently advised that in fact, defendant would enter a guilty plea, and a change of plea hearing was scheduled for June 11, 2007. At that hearing, defendant changed his mind again, and trial was therefore scheduled to commence on Wednesday, June 13, 2007. Defendant also filed a pro se "Motion to Suppress Amended Motion in response to Ineffective Filings by Counsel" (doc. no. 126) which the Court denied on the grounds that the Court does not consider pro se motions while the defendant is represented by counsel.

Finally, the Court was notified that defendant changed his mind again, and intended to enter a guilty plea. On June 13, 2007, a signed plea agreement was presented to the Court, and an even more extensive colloquy than usual took place in open court wherein Mr. Delbridge pleaded guilty to Count III of the three count second superseding indictment charging that on or about March 26, 2006, in the Western District of Pennsylvania, he knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully possessed with intent to distribute five grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, in the form commonly known as crack, a schedule II controlled substance, in violation of title 21 U.S.C. sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). Importantly, Mr. Delbridge admitted his guilt and agreed with the government's recitation of the conduct underlying that charge.

Moreover, after three hearings, the Court was [and is] quite satisfied that Mr. Delbridge understood everything that was being explained to him, the nature of the proceedings and the consequences of changing his plea. In fact, those consequences were quite favorable to defendant as the government agreed to withdraw its Information Charging Prior Offense Pursuant to title 21, United States Code section 851, (doc. no. 132),*fn1 which resulted in a drastic reduction in the range of sentence he otherwise faced under the advisory guideline sentence scheme.

(doc. no. 134) -- Motion to Withdraw as Attorney by Current Counsel

Mr. Nigthingale sets forth in his motion that he and his client have reached the point of irreconcilable conflict, rendering him unable to continue to represent defendant in good faith and professionally.*fn2 Defendant's pro se motion confirms that conflict and that he unequivocally does not want current counsel to continue to represent him. As someone wise once said, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

In light of the procedural history of this case as highlighted above and the Court's familiarity with defendant and his relationship with his attorney, the Court thanks Mr. Nightingale for his service, and will grant his motion to withdraw.

(doc. no. 133) -- Pro Se "Motion to Appointment of New Counsel, Motion to Disqualify Counsel"

This pro se motion is moot, to the extent defendant requests the Court to disqualify current counsel. In all other ...


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