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United States v. Francis

February 20, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ALTON FRANCIS, MOVANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Movant Alton Francis's pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. (Doc. No. 36.) After the Court provided Francis with an administrative notice related to successive petitions, see United States v. Miller, 197 F.3d 644 (3d Cir. 1999); see also Adams v. United States, 155 F.3d 582 (2d Cir. 1998), Francis elected to proceed with the motion as filed. (Doc. Nos. 37 & 38.) His motion was then served upon the Government, which filed a timely brief in opposition. (Doc. No. 40.) Thereafter, Francis filed a traverse to the Government's brief. (Doc. No. 41.) Thus, the motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. Upon due consideration of Francis's arguments and the Government's response thereto, the Court finds that Francis is not entitled to § 2255 relief and will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 3, 2006, a criminal complaint was filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania charging Movant Alton Francis ("Francis") with various drug-related offenses. (Doc. No. 1.) Francis's initial appearance was held that same day, and four days later, on February 7, 2006, Robert J. Daniels, Esq., ("defense counsel") was appointed to represent him.

On February 8, 2006, a grand jury in the Middle District of Pennsylvania returned a two-count indictment charging Francis with distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Doc. No. 10.) On March 13, 2006, Francis and the Government entered into a written plea agreement, pursuant to which Francis agreed to plead guilty to a superseding felony information charging him with distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841. In the plea agreement, the parties stipulated that the quantity of the controlled substance at issue was more than 250 grams but less than one kilogram. (Doc. No. 19, ¶ 14); (see also Plea Tr. at 10-11; Sentencing Tr. at 2-3). The plea agreement also provided that the remaining charges in the indictment, including the firearm possession charge carrying a mandatory minimum of five years' imprisonment, would be dismissed by the Government upon sentencing.

On April 11, 2006, Francis appeared before the Court and entered a plea of guilty to the superseding felony information. During the change-of-plea hearing, Francis represented that he had reviewed the felony information and the plea agreement with his attorney and understood both. However, when asked whether the Government's proffered factual basis for the plea was accurate, Francis offered the following correction for the record:

I'm more of a user than anything else. . . That quantity they found in my house is just my personal stuff that I smoke. It wasn't anything that I was, like, distributing to anybody. . . . So more or less to me the statement of me distributing it is not something that I have in the back of my head, but that's how the court perceives it. (Plea Tr. at 17.) The following exchange then occurred:

COURT: It's important that if you're going to plead guilty to the charge that I read to you earlier, that you're able to admit that you, in fact, did that. And the Government is charging you with more than possessing for your own use, they are alleging that you possessed with the intent to distribute.

Is that something that you are prepared to admit to and that you can honestly admit to? If you can't do that, then you shouldn't be entering a guilty plea.

FRANCIS: I understand the plea that I'm entering.

COURT: I'm sorry?

FRANCIS: I understand the plea that I'm entering. I admit to it.

COURT: Well, don't admit to it if you didn't do it. . . . * * * If you didn't sell, then you probably shouldn't be admitting to this. And if you did, now would be the time to come clean.

FRANCIS: Yes, I did.

COURT: So you're admitting to me now that on or about February 3rd, that ...


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