United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
Robert Cormier ("Cormier") moves the court to
withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 11(d)(2). See Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2).
Cormier claims that prior counsel provided ineffective
assistance concerning his exposure to an enhanced sentence
under the Armed Career Criminal Act, 18 U.S.C. § 924(e).
The court will deny Cormier's motion.
Factual Background & Procedural History
October 22, 2015, a federal grand jury returned an indictment
charging Cormier with one count of possession of a firearm by
a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§
922(g) and 924(e), to wit: a 9mm Taurus handgun bearing
serial number TJF41340. (Doc. 1). The indictment also
includes a criminal forfeiture allegation pursuant to 18
U.S.C. §§ 983(a) and 924(d). (Id.) Cormier
appeared before a magistrate judge on October 29, 2015 and
entered a plea of not guilty. (Doc. 10). The court appointed
assistant federal public defender D. Toni Byrd, Esquire
("Attorney Byrd"), as counsel. (Doc. 9).
appeared before the court and pled guilty to Count I without
a written plea agreement on March 18, 2016. (See
Doc. 26). The court conducted an extensive colloquy with
Cormier to assess the knowingness and voluntariness of his
plea. (See Doc. 64 at 4:22-12:11). Cormier was fully
alert and aware of the nature and purpose of the hearing.
(Id. at 3:15-4:21). He expressed both an
understanding of his constitutional right to a jury trial and
a clear desire to waive that right. (Id. at
4:22-6:3). Cormier affirmed that his plea was not actuated or
informed by threat, force, or other undue influence, and that
he was pleading guilty of his own free will. (Id. at
court asked Cormier whether he had reviewed the indictment,
the consequences of a guilty plea, and potential defenses to
Count I with Attorney Byrd. (Id. at 6:4-6, 6:8-10).
Cormier responded that he had. (Id. at 6:7, 6:11).
The court also asked whether Cormier felt that he "had
enough time to speak with [Attorney] Byrd" about his
rights and options. (Id. at 6:12-14). Cormier
replied, "Yes." (Id. at 6:15).
court and the parties thoroughly explored Cormier's
sentencing exposure in the following exchange:
The Court: Mr. Mac Arthur, at this time would you kindly
place on the record the maximum term of imprisonment under
the United States Code for this offense, the fine, maximum
term of supervised release, and the details of this
conviction if the court accepts the defendant's guilty
Mr. MacArthur: Yes, Your Honor.
Mr. MacArthur: Your Honor, the defendant is charged with a
violation of 18 United States Code 922(g). The maximum
penalty for this is ten years imprison[ment], a $250, 000
fine, three years of supervised release, and a $100 special
The Court: All right.
Mr. MacArthur: Your Honor, the government also believes that
the defendant will be subject to the penalties of the Armed
Career Criminal Act at [18 U.S.C. §] 924(e). This is
noted in the indictment. The mandatory minimum under the
Armed Career Criminal Act is fifteen years imprisonment, a
maximum of life, $250, 000 fine, five years supervised
release, and a $100 special assessment.
The Court: All right. So it's really the latter
that's determinative in this case if the Armed Career
Criminal Act applies.
Mr. MacArthur: Yes. I expect it will be disputed by the
Ms. Byrd: We will.
(Id. at 7:16-8:15). Given the disputed applicability
of the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18
U.S.C. § 924(e), the court twice confirmed Cormier's
understanding of ACCA's impact. First, the court asked:
"But nevertheless do you understand that those are the
penalties that you're facing?" (Doc. 64 at 8:17-18).
Cormier answered, "Yes." (Id. at 8:19). In
an abundance of caution, the court further queried Cormier on
The Court: All right. So we're talking about a mandatory
minimum term of fifteen years. You understand that if your
attorney's arguments are not successful you're
certainly at least potentially facing a minimum term of
The Defendant: Yes.
The Court: And a maximum term of life?
The Defendant: Yes.
(Id. at 8:20-9:1).
court reviewed sentencing procedure with Cormier as well.
(See id. at 9:9-11:19). The court advised that it
must consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines in
setting an appropriate sentence and that prior convictions
may affect the Guidelines sentencing range. (Id. at
9:9-12, 9:23-25). Cormier indicated that he understood the
process and had spoken with Attorney Byrd about the
Guidelines that may apply in his case. (Id. at
9:9-10:20). Throughout this discourse, the court emphasized
to Cormier that his dissatisfaction with the Guidelines range
or the sentence ultimately imposed would not be a basis to
withdraw his guilty plea. (See id. at
10:5-11:10). The court also cautioned Cormier that an
erroneous estimation of the Guidelines range by counsel is
not a basis for withdrawal:
The Court: If [Attorney] Byrd or any else has estimated your
guideline sentencing range at this time and I determine after
I look at the presentence report that the guideline is
different from what has been estimated to you, you ...