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United States of America v. Julius Monyoukaye

June 14, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JULIUS MONYOUKAYE, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 103) to withdraw a guilty plea filed by defendant Julius Monyoukaye ("Monyoukaye"). Monyoukaye seeks to withdraw his guilty plea and claims that he was "coerced into a plea as his only hope." (Doc. 103 ¶ 14). For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.

I. Procedural Background

On April 21, 2010, the government filed a three-count indictment against Monyoukaye. (Doc. 1). Monyoukaye was charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute heroin, marijuana, and 50 grams and more of cocain base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(iii), (b)(1)(B) and (D) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Count I), being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (Count II), and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) (Count III). Id.

Monyoukaye's case proceeded to trial on January 4, 2011. On January 5, outside the presence of the jury, the government informed Monyoukaye of his status as a career criminal and that he faced the possibility of 360 months to life in prison. (Doc. 104 at 5). Monyoukaye claims to have been previously unaware of his status as a career criminal. (Doc. 104 at 5). Upon learning of his status, Monyoukaye immediately entered a binding plea agreement pursuant to FED. R. CRIM. P. 11(c)(1)(C) and pled guilty to count I of the indictment. (Doc. 86). The plea agreement provides for dismissal of the remaining counts of the indictment at the time of sentencing. (Id. ¶ 1). The plea agreement includes a fine of $2,000, a special assessment of $100, and a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment followed by five years supervised release. (Id. ¶ 11). Following a thorough colloquy, the court agreed to accept the plea of guilty, but deferred acceptance of the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, pending review of the presentence investigation report. (Doc. 105 at 20). At the plea hearing, the court specifically determined that Monyoukaye was "fully alert, competent and capable of entering an informed [plea], and that [the] plea [was] a knowing and voluntary plea, supported by an independent basis in fact containing each of the essential elements of the offenses pled to." (Id. at 32-33.)*fn1

On January 25, 2011, twenty days after entering his guilty plea, Monyoukaye filed pro se motions to remove (Doc. 89) his trial counsel, ("trial counsel"), and to withdraw the guilty plea (Doc. 90). The court granted the motion to remove trial counsel and appointed new counsel. (Doc. 98). The court dismissed the motion to withdraw the guilty plea without prejudice to Monyoukaye's right to seek the same relief with assistance of counsel. (Id.) Monyoukaye filed a renewed motion to withdraw his guilty plea, through his newly appointed counsel, on April 26, 2011. (Doc. 103). In this motion, Monyoukaye argues that trial counsel did not inform him of his status as a career criminal or the resulting possibility of a life sentence. (Id.) Monyoukaye therefore argues that being surprised during trial with the prospect of life imprisonment, because of his status as a career criminal, "involuntarily and unknowingly coerced [him] into a plea." (Doc. 104 at 6).

II. Factual Background

The evidence that the government would have presented at trial, (id. at 26-30), and which Monyoukaye admitted is true, (id. at 32), is as follows: On February 26, 2010, several FBI Special Agents were conducting an investigation at Extra Space Storage, located in York, Pennsylvania. Specifically, they were investigating a possible connection between a storage unit at Extra Space and a major cocaine trafficker in the Philadelphia area, Nyene Baker. Baker had been previously arrested and had in his possession a piece of paper with the address of the storage facility in York, the gate code number 1020, and the storage unit number C12. This information prompted them to go to the Extra Space facility in York, to gather information.

The officers learned from Extra Space employees that unit C12 was rented on February 20, six days prior, by an individual who identified himself as Eric Richards. When Eric Richards rented the unit, he was accompanied by another individual, who identified himself as Jamal Richards. Eric indicated that he was renting the locker for Jamal, because Jamal could not provide identification. Extra Space employees told the officers that the renter of each storage unit receives a unique code with which he can access the facility through the security gate. Jamal Richards requested the four-digit code 1020. The code 1020 was therefore assigned uniquely for unit C12.

The officers called a Pennsylvania State Police K-9 officer to the scene. Before the K-9 officer arrived, an Extra Space employee informed the officers that the code 1020 was just entered at the security gate. The driver of the vehicle had entered the code and proceeded to drive toward unit C12. One agent walked toward the car, showed his badge and ordered the vehicle to stop. After the third instruction to stop, the driver put the vehicle in reverse and drove it back down the row of storage units. More agents pulled behind the fleeing vehicle and successfully stopped it.

Monyoukaye, who was the driver,*fn2 identified himself as Jamal Jenkins but he was unable to produce any formal identification, such as a driver's license. The agents took a photograph of Monyoukaye and showed it to the Extra Space employee who rented unit C12 to Eric and Jamal Richards. The employee identified Monyoukaye in the photograph as the same man who had identified himself as Jamal Richards six days earlier. The officers then placed Monyoukaye under arrest and took him for booking.

Shortly thereafter, the agents learned that the Pennsylvania State Police K-9 unit had arrived at Extra Space. The K-9 stopped at unit C12 and gave the trained response for the scent of controlled substances. The agents searched the storage unit and discovered approximately four pounds of marijuana, various drug packaging and concealment items, and an AK-47 assault rife. Law enforcement authorities also searched Monyoukaye, pursuant to standard procedure,*fn3 and recovered fifteen packets*fn4 of crack cocaine, which had been concealed in his rectum.

The evidence that the government prepared for trial also included testimony from an informant who would identify Monyoukaye as a seller of heroin, crack cocain, and marijuana. The informant advised government agents that Monyoukaye obtained at least sixty bricks of heroin*fn5 and 750 grams of crack cocain through multiple trips to his suppliers. Additionally, two more informants, who are drug dealers themselves, would testify that Monyoukaye supplied the heroin that they sold. Specifically, one of these two ...


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