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United States v. Frazier

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT


decided: April 18, 1983.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GEORGE FRAZIER, A/K/A SHAKIR H. FRAZIER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 82-CR-47 -- Robert W. Warren, Judge.

Cummings, Chief Judge, Wood and Posner, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

The appellant appeals from his conviction on one count of a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1202(a) (Appendix),*fn1 which resulted from his plea of guilty. On appeal, the appellant attacks three aspects of his plea. First, he asserts that the plea was not voluntary because the district court in effect advised the appellant to plead guilty. Second, the appellant claims that the plea was not informed because his attorney had told him that he could appeal the denial of a motion to suppress in spite of his guilty plea. And third, the appellant argues that his conviction should be vacated because the district judge committed several violations of Rule 11, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.*fn2 The appellant also attempts to attack the denial of a motion to suppress evidence. Because we find that the district court neither advised the appellant to plead guilty nor violated Rule 11, and because we find that the appellant's guilty plea was not conditional upon the reservation of a right to appeal the denial of his motion, we affirm the judgment of the district court without reaching the issue of the motion to suppress.

I

The appellant was indicted for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(h)(1).*fn3 The appellant entered a plea of not guilty. On April 8, 1982, the defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained by the police during the appellant's arrest, on the ground that the search and seizure of the appellant's property violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. After a hearing on April 27, 1982, the magistrate recommended that the motion be denied. The prosecution and defense subsequently entered into a plea agreement pursuant to which the appellant agreed to plead guilty to a superseding information charging him with a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1202(a) (Appendix). A hearing on the change of plea was held on July 28, 1982. At the hearing the district judge personally questioned the appellant concerning his understanding of the plea agreement. The court read the superseding information to the appellant and, at the district court's request, the prosecutor informed the appellant of the maximum sentence possible. The court asked the appellant if he understood and the appellant replied that he did. The court informed the appellant of the constitutional protections he would be entitled to if he persisted in his not guilty plea, including the right to a jury trial, the right to a presumption of innocence, the right to have the prosecution prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the right against self-incrimination. The judge questioned the defendant as to whether the guilty plea was coerced. The appellant replied that it was not. The defendant was put under oath, warned that his answers might be used against him in a prosecution for perjury or false statement, and then questioned by the district court, the prosecutor, and the appellant's attorney concerning the factual basis for the plea. The court determined that there were sufficient facts to support the plea. The court then advised the appellant as follows:

Now I want to explain to you that you have a right, even though you disagree with something that the Government contends, you have the right to maintain your plea of guilty. If you want to do it, if you think that's the best way for you to go. And I am trying to advise you that I think your Counsel has been correct in his advice, I think even if you did contest it you'd be convicted because I think the facts show even if one believes you, that even then you did have possession of this firearm.

Tr. at 34. The appellant asserts that by this statement the district court in effect advised the appellant to plead guilty, rendering the plea involuntary. The appellant also claims that his guilty plea should be vacated because the district court committed two violations of Rule 11; specifically, the appellant claims that the district court violated Rule 11(c)(4) by failing to advise the appellant that if he pleaded guilty there would be no trial of any kind and that the district court violated Rule 11(e)(2) by failing to advise the appellant that he had no right to withdraw his guilty plea even if the court refused to accept the government's sentencing recommendation. The appellant further asserts that he was misled by his trial attorney into believing he could still appeal the denial of his motion.*fn4 The appellant argues that as a result of this misinformation, his guilty plea was in effect a conditional plea which preserves his right to attack on appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.

II

The standard of review applied in a direct appeal of a conviction arising from a guilty plea is that any noncompliance with Rule 11, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, is reversible error. United States v. Fels, 599 F.2d 142, 149 n. 5 (7th Cir. 1979).*fn5 In this case, however, there was no violation of Rule 11. While district courts are well advised to precisely track the language of Rule 11, Fels, supra, 599 F.2d at 149 n. 6, the test on appeal is whether, looking at the total circumstances surrounding the plea, the defendant was informed of his or her rights. United States v. Wetterlin, 583 F.2d 346, 354 (7th Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 1127, 59 L. Ed. 2d 88, 99 S. Ct. 1044 (1979); See United States v. Rodriguez-DeMaya, 674 F.2d 1122, 1127-28 (5th Cir. 1982). Matters of reality, and not mere ritual, should be controlling. Wetterlin, supra at 354, citing McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 22 L. Ed. 2d 418, 89 S. Ct. 1166 (1969). The district court did inform the appellant of the rights to which he was entitled if he persisted in his plea of not guilty. We believe that the district court's action was sufficient to inform the appellant that he would be giving up these rights if he pleaded guilty. We therefore find no violation of Rule 11(c)(4). With respect to the alleged violation of Rule 11(e)(2), the appellant argues that the district court violated the rule by failing to advise him that he had no right to withdraw his plea if the court rejected the prosecutor's sentencing recommendation. This particular advice, however, need only be given if the prosecution agrees to recommend a particular sentence or agrees not to oppose the defendant's request. Rule 11(e)(1)(B). The record in this case shows that the plea agreement was made pursuant to Rule 11(e)(1)(A), and as such was an agreement whereby the prosecution dropped one charge if the defendant entered a guilty plea on another charge. The prosecution explicitly reserved the right to "make any recommendation the Government feels appropriate." The warning set out in Rule 11(e)(2) is therefore not required.*fn6

The appellant's final attack on his guilty plea is that he alleges he was misinformed by his trial counsel into believing that he had preserved the right to appeal the denial of his motion to suppress. While it is true that a conviction on a guilty plea tendered solely as a result of faulty advice is a miscarriage of justice, United States v. Scott, 625 F.2d 623, 625 (5th Cir. 1980), we do not find that the appellant's plea was solely the result of misinformation. The only evidence of misinformation the appellant points to is the motion to withdraw as counsel filed by the appellant's trial counsel in this court. The affidavit attached to the motion merely says that trial counsel "discussed with Defendant-Appellant his appeal rights. . . ." A guilty plea of course does not cut off all grounds for appeal; the defendant may for example challenge the court's jurisdiction over him or the sufficiency of the indictment. But advising the appellant of the scope of his appellate rights does not permit the appellant to raise any issue he chooses on appeal. The appellant fails to point out any evidence even suggesting that his trial counsel told him that he could appeal the denial of his motion to suppress in spite of his guilty plea.*fn7 Lastly, the defendant got the benefit of his bargain in this case: the reduction of his maximum exposure from five years imprisonment to two years; we are therefore unwilling to read into the bargain a never-stated right to appeal.*fn8

III

Because we find that the appellant entered an informed and voluntary guilty plea, we are barred from considering the appeal of the denial of his motion to suppress. United States v. Thompson, supra, 680 F.2d at 1156. The judgment of the district court is therefore AFFIRMED.*fn9

Disposition

Affirmed.


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