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United States of America v. Troy M. Bishop

May 14, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TROY M. BISHOP, DEFENDANT



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

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are three letters filed by Defendant Troy M. Bishop (Doc. Nos. 146, 147, 148), containing various requests, one of which the Court will construe as a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty entered on November 15, 2011. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendant's motion to withdraw his plea of guilty as well as his other requests.

I. BACKGROUND

On November 15, 2011, Defendant entered a plea of guilty to Counts One and Three of the indictment filed February 9, 2011 pursuant to a plea agreement between Defendant and the Government. (Doc. Nos. 73, 77.) Defendant consented to proceed before a magistrate judge (Doc. No. 75), and a change-of-plea hearing was held before Magistrate Judge Smyser on November 15, 2011 (Doc. No. 74). During the hearing, Magistrate Judge Smyser conducted a colloquy with Defendant and determined that he was "competent to enter a knowing and voluntary plea;" that he understood the charge and penalties, understood his trial rights, and knowingly waived his right to trial; that his plea was voluntary; "that the plea agreement contains the only promises made to the defendant;" and "[t]hat the plea is supported by an independent basis in fact as to each of the essential elements of the offense." (Doc. No. 80.) On November 17, 2011, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued a Report and Recommendation that this Court enter an order adjudging Defendant guilty of the offenses. (Id.) On December 6, 2011, the Court accepted Defendant's plea of guilty. (Doc. No. 83.) Defendant was scheduled to be sentenced on April 12, 2012. (Doc. No. 118.)

After accepting Defendant's plea of guilty, the Court received numerous letters from Defendant (Doc. Nos. 92, 101, 115, 118) containing unusual statements and requests, such as appointing his counsel as his "fiduciary trustee," requesting that his "exemption for post settlement" be used to close this case, and demanding that the undersigned issue a certified copy of her oath of office and a "fidelity bond" within three days. (See Doc. No. 121.) The Court addressed these issues as well as other strange requests and assertions in a March 16, 2012 order, stating that "[t]he legal authority relied on by Defendant Bishop is difficult to ascertain, but it seems to be related to a theory that can broadly be referred to as the 'redemption' theory,'" which has been "uniformly rejected" by courts across the nation. (Doc. No. 121 at 2.) The Court made clear that no legal authority supported Defendant's requests. (Id. at 2-3.)

After receiving notice from Defendant's counsel that Defendant refused to confer with him, the Court held a hearing in lieu of sentencing on April 12, 2012. (Doc. No. 137.) At the hearing, Defendant indicated that he was dissatisfied with his counsel's performance and began to reiterate some of the nonsensical arguments he raised in his letters. Although the undersigned emphasized the baseless nature of these arguments, Defendant elected to go forward with the remainder of this action pro se after the undersigned conducted a pro se colloquy. The Court ordered Defendant's former counsel to remain as Defendant's standby counsel. On April 24, 2012, the Court received three letters from Defendant, seeking various forms of relief, including the withdrawal of his plea of guilty. (Doc. Nos. 146, 147, 148.)

II. DISCUSSION

Between April 12, 2012, and April 14, 2012, Defendant mailed several letters to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The letters are addressed to different individuals and were forwarded to the Clerk of this Court, who docketed them on April 24, 2012. (Doc. Nos. 146, 147, 148.) In a letter dated April 12, 2012, titled "letter of Advice to the Clerk," Defendant explains his reasoning for sending the letters to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rather than to this Court:

If you are curious of why im sending this threw your eastern district courts, its because the middle district isnt playing fair and I don't trust them. So im kinda of using your district court as a witness to what I'd filed and to over look things as im pro se with standby counsel. (Doc. No. 148 at 4.)

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and any other district court besides the United States Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, lacks jurisdiction to assess Defendant's motions and requests. To be clear, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania cannot provide Defendant any relief in this action, cannot act as a "witness" to Defendant's filings, and cannot "over look things" simply because Defendant has elected to proceed pro se with the remainder of this action. Therefore, Defendant is advised to send all documents relating to this action only to this Court.

A. Motion to Withdraw Plea of Guilty

The Court will now consider Defendant's April 12, 2012 letter, titled "Brady material, motion to withdraw plea agreement," which the Court will construe as a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty entered on November 15, 2011. (Doc. No. 148 at 2.) Rule 11(d) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs the withdrawal of plea agreements and pleas of guilty by a criminal defendant. After a plea of guilty has been entered, a criminal defendant has no absolute right to withdraw the plea and the decision to allow a withdrawal is committed to the discretion of the district court. United States v. Brown, 250 F.3d 811, 815 (3d Cir. 2001). Although a defendant may move to withdraw a plea of guilty, he bears a heavy burden to "show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal." Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B). This "fair and just" standard applies even when a defendant seeks to withdraw his plea of guilty prior to the Court's acceptance of the plea agreement. See United States v. Hyde, 520 U.S. 670, 671 (1997) ("After the defendant in this case pleaded guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, the District Court accepted his plea but deferred decision on whether to accept the plea agreement . . . . We hold that in such circumstances a defendant may not withdraw his plea unless he shows a 'fair and just reason . . . .'"). When determining whether a defendant has met his substantial burden, the district court must consider:"(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. 2003) (citing Brown, 250 F.3d at 815; United States v. Huff, 873 F.2d 709, 711 (3d Cir. 1989)). Further, "[a] shift in defense tactics, a change of mind, or the fear of punishment are not adequate reasons to impose on the government the expense, difficulty, and risk of trying a defendant who has already acknowledged his guilt by pleading guilty." Brown, 250 F.3d at 815 (quoting United States v. Jones, 979 F.2d 317, 318 (3d Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks omitted)).

1. Assertion of Innocence

Defendant does not assert that he is innocent of the charges to which he has entered a plea of guilty in any of his letters to the Court. In fact, in a letter dated April 14, 2012, titled "Re: Enter guilty plea, Motion for Bill of Particulars and DNA," Defendant states: "I, the accused, Troy M. Bishop, am not in dispute/argument with any of the FACTS in the case, and due to this, I Troy M. Bishop, enter a plea of guilty to those FACTS alleged in the True Bill, but not the conclusions of law." ...


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