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United States v. Porter

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

August 1, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WALTER PORTER, Appellant

          Argued on June 13, 2019

          On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2-17-cr-00236-001) District Judge: Honorable David S. Cercone

          Laura S. Irwin Ira M. Karoll [Argued] Office of United States Attorney

          Attorneys for Appellee James J. Brink [Argued] Attorney for Appellant

          Before: HARDIMAN, PORTER, and COWEN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          HARDIMAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         The law is well established that a defendant cannot relitigate the denial of a motion to suppress evidence after he enters a valid, unconditional guilty plea. Appellant Walter Porter entered such a plea. But he asks us to overturn the District Court's order denying his motion to suppress because he never intentionally relinquished (i.e., waived) his appellate rights, and the Court commented on those rights at sentencing. We hold that whether Porter waived his suppression claim is immaterial, and that the Court's statements did not expand Porter's appellate rights. We will affirm the District Court's judgment of conviction and sentence.

         I

         This case began with a traffic stop in the borough of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Police searched the stopped car and found drugs hidden in a "Fix-A-Flat" can inside a duffel bag. Porter was seated next to the bag and said it was his. The police took Porter into custody, and the United States charged him with possession with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C).

         After his indictment, Porter moved to suppress the cocaine base, arguing that the search and seizure violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The District Court held an evidentiary hearing, and the parties offered conflicting testimony. The Court rejected Porter's version of events, so it denied the motion to suppress.

         Several weeks after the evidentiary hearing, Porter entered an open guilty plea. In his colloquy with the District Court, Porter acknowledged the accuracy of the Government's summary of the evidence. And he agreed no one had "offered [him] anything to secure [his] plea of guilty." Supp. App. 13. The District Court found Porter's plea to be intelligent, knowing, voluntary, and supported by the facts. The plea hearing concluded with no discussion of the District Court's denial of Porter's motion to suppress. Nor did sentencing memoranda submitted by both parties make any reference to appellate issues, much less the suppression of evidence.

         Not until his sentencing hearing months later did Porter allude to an appeal. "[T]o preserve the record," Porter's counsel "respectfully took exception to the Court's rulings" from the suppression hearing. Supp. App. 25. And after the District Court sentenced Porter to 84 months' imprisonment- a substantial downward variance from the Guidelines range of 151 to 188 months-the Court informed him of his appellate rights. Besides explaining Porter's right to an appellate attorney and the 14-day filing deadline, the Court said, "[s]ir, you have the right to appeal. I know there's some issues that's [sic] an indication you want to appeal. You have that right. You have the right to appeal from your conviction and sentence imposed upon you." Supp. App. 45. Porter filed this timely appeal.

         II

         The District Court had jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3231. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. And although we have said that only "jurisdictional" defenses survive a defendant's unconditional plea of guilty, e.g., Washington v. Sobina, 475 F.3d 162, 165 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam), the fact that Porter does not challenge ...


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