United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Thomas James' Motion to
Withdraw Guilty Plea (Doc. 277). The United States
filed an opposition. (Doc. 280). For the following reasons,
the Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea (Doc.
277) is DENIED.
Government indicted the Defendant and two others for
allegedly attempting to cash $2 million in counterfeit checks
at Walmart's across the country. (Doc. 13 at p. 3). The
Government discovered this scheme when the police stopped a
rental car that the Defendant, Walter Glenn, and Larry Walker
were driving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in September of 2014.
(Doc. 130 at p. 2). Extensive litigation about whether the
police unconstitutionally obtained evidence against the trio
during the traffic stop ensued. (See Docs. 130, 162,
185). Ultimately, after two suppression hearings, (Docs. 117
and 184), two extensive rulings by the Court, (Docs. 130,
185), and an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit, (Doc. 162), the Court suppressed
all evidence against Larry Walker, the
evidence obtained from one of the Defendant's bags, and
none of the evidence against Walter Glenn. (Docs. 130, 162,
185 at p. 15). The United States then dismissed its case
against Larry Walker. (Doc. 160).
on December 11, 2017, one day before the Defendant and Walter
Glenn's trial was set to begin, Thomas James pleaded
guilty to all counts. (Doc. 227). At the plea hearing, the
Defendant confirmed under oath that no one promised him
anything to cause him to plead guilty and that no one told
him the actual sentence the Court would impose. (Doc. 281 at
30:5-19). He also testified that he was satisfied with his
attorney and that he had enough time to meet with her to
discuss the facts of his case. Id. at 30:20-31:2).
After a four-day trial, a jury found Walter Glenn guilty on
all counts. (Doc. 232).
four months later, on April 19, 2018, Defendant's
attorney, Marci Blaize, notified the Court that she met with
the Defendant, and he advised her that he intended to seek
permission from the Court to "take back his plea
agreement" and proceed to trial. (Doc. 263-1). The
Defendant also expressed a desire to obtain new counsel
because he alleged that she had misinformed and misled him in
some way. Id. Given the potential conflict of
interest, the Court ordered the Office of the Federal Public
Defender to appoint the Defendant conflict counsel for the
limited purpose of meeting with the Defendant and determining
whether to file a motion to withdraw his plea agreement.
(Doc. 264). On May 14, 2018, the Office of the Public
Defender appointed Harry Daniels III as conflict counsel.
(Doc. 271). Conflict Counsel then filed a Motion to Withdraw
Defendant's Guilty Plea, (Doc. 277), and a letter from
the Defendant detailing his reasons for wanting to withdraw
his guilty plea. (Doc. 275-3).
district court may permit a defendant to withdraw his guilty
plea after acceptance of the plea but before sentence is
imposed if "the defendant can show a fair and just
reason for requesting the withdrawal." Fed. R. Crim. P.
11(d)(2)(B). Courts consider seven factors in determining
whether to permit a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea:
(1) whether or not the defendant has asserted his innocence;
(2) whether or not the government would suffer prejudice if
the withdrawal motion were granted; (3) whether or not the
defendant has delayed in filing his withdrawal motion; (4)
whether or not the withdrawal would substantially
inconvenience the court; (5) whether or not close assistance
of counsel was available; (6) whether or not the original
plea was knowing and voluntary; and (7) whether or not the
withdrawal would waste judicial resources.
United States v. Carr, 740 F.2d 339, 343-44 (5th
Cir. 1984); see also United States v. Wiggins, 674
Fed.Appx. 396, 401 (5th Cir. 2017).
this illustrative list should be considered, the ultimate
decision should be based on the 'totality of the
circumstances.'" United States v.
McElhaney, 469 F.3d 382, 385 (5th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Carr, 740 F.2d at 344). Defendants are also not entitled to
an evidentiary hearing on a motion to withdraw a guilty plea,
but a hearing is required "when the defendant alleges
sufficient facts which, if proven, would justify
relief." United States v. Mergist, 738 F.2d
645, 648 (5th Cir. 1984) (internal quotations omitted).
Considering the totality of the circumstances and the
Carr factors, the Court concludes that the Defendant
has not made a sufficient showing to withdraw his guilty
plea, or to even be entitled to an evidentiary hearing.
Assertion of Innocence
first factor, whether the Defendant asserted his innocence,
weighs against the Defendant. Although the Defendant asserts
that he is innocent, he does so in a conclusory fashion
without any supporting evidence. (See Doc. 277-1 at
p. 5). And "a defendant's assertion of actual
innocence alone, without supporting evidence,
is insufficient to warrant allowing
withdrawal[.]" See United States v. Harrison,
111 F.3d 227, 235 (5th Cir. 2015).