Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Verrusio

decided: October 9, 1986.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
GEORGE M. VERRUSIO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 82 CR 75--William E. Steckler, Judge.

Author: Eschbach

Before CUMMINGS and CUDAHY, Circuit Judges, and ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge.

ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge. The primary issue presented in this appeal is whether the district court properly denied the defendant's motion to dismiss three counts of an indictment on the ground that those charges violated a prior plea agreement. For the reasons stated below, we will reverse the ruling on the motion to dismiss the remand for further proceedings.

I.

In December 1977 George Michael Verrusio was arrested for possession of cocaine at Indianapolis International Airport by Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") agents. The details of that arrest are set forth in our opinion addressing Verrusio's motion to suppress evidence. United States v. Verrusio, 742 F.2d 1077 (7th Cir. 1984).

In June 1979 Verrusio was indicted on charges arising from his 1977 arrest and from additional drug offenses that he allegedly committed in December 1978. The indictment charged him with one felony violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), which prohibits possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, and eight misdemeanor violations of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a), which prohibits possession of a controlled substance.

Verrusio and the government subsequently entered into a plea agreement.*fn1 Verrusio pled guilty to the misdemeanor charged in Count 6 of the indictment in exchange for dismissal of the remaining eight counts. He also was to testify before a grand jury and, if necessary, at the trials of his co-conspirators, with regard to his knowledge of and involvement in a conspiracy with certain individuals, including one Fred McCord, to transport cocaine. The government agreed that, in return for such testimony, it would not file additional charges against Verrusio based upon his part in the same alleged conspiracy.

Verrusio appeared before a grand jury in January 1980. He testified that his involvement in the conspiracy consisted only of transporting packages of cocaine from Florida to Indianapolis on four occasions in 1977 for one Fred McCord. In February 1980 Verrusio was sentenced on Count 6 of the indictment to thirty days of work release and one year of probation. He has served that sentence.

The government came to believe that Verrusio had not been truthful in his statements to law enforcement officials and in his grand jury testimony. As a result, Verrusio was indicted again in 1982 on four charges. Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the 1982 indictment related to his 1977 arrest; the government previously had dismissed similar charges pursuant to the plea agreement. Count 4 charges that Verrusio perjured himself in his grand jury testimony.

Verrusio moved to dismiss Counts 1, 2, and 3 of the indictment. A hearing was held on the motion to dismiss in November 1982. The only witness to testify was DEA agent Thomas Casey. Casey stated that Verrusio's grand jury testimony the he was merely a courier for McCord was directly contradicted by the statements of and testimony before another grand jury of McCord, Thomas, Smith, Michael Cockman, and William Graham. After taking Verrusio's motion under advisement, the district court denied the motion to dismiss. The district court subsequently dismissed without prejudice under the Speedy Trial Act count 4 charging perjury. The government never refiled that count and the statute of limitations has run with respect to the perjury charge. Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2), which authorized conditional pleas of guilty, Verrusio entered a conditional guilty plea to Count 1 of the 1982 indictment. He was sentenced to 15-months imprisonment and is on bond pending this appeal from the denial of his motion to dismiss.

II.

A. Pre-Indictment Proceedings

A plea agreement is a contract, See, e.g., United States v. Fields, 766 F.2d 1161, 1168 (7th Cir. 1985); United States v. Strawser, 739 F.2d 1226, 1230 (7th Cir.), cert. denied,469 U.S. 1038, 105 S. Ct. 518, 83 L. Ed. 2d 407 (1984). "When a plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or agreement of the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be part of the inducement or consideration, such promise must be fulfilled." Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427, 92 S. Ct. 495 (1971). Conversely, "a defendant's failure to fulfill the terms of the pretrial agreement relieves the government of its reciprocal obligations under the agreement." United States v. Calabrese, 645 F.2d 1379, 1390, (10th Cir.), cert. denied, 451 U.S. 1018, 101 S. Ct. 3008, 69 L. Ed. 2d 390 & 454 U.S. 831, 102 S. Ct. 127, 70 L. Ed. 2d 108 (1982); see also United States v. Wood, 780 F.2d 929, 932 (11th Cir. 1986) (breach of immunity agreement); United States v. Stirling, 571 F.2d 708, 731-32 (2d Cir. 1978) (plea bargain); United States v. McCarthy, 445 F.2d 587, 591 (7th Cir. 1971) (Stevens, J.) (plea bargain).

Both parties agree that due process prevents the government from determining unilaterally that the defendant breached the plea agreement. See Calabrese, 645 F.2d at 1390; United States v. Simmons, 537 F.2d 1260, 1261 (4th Cir. 1976). In this case, the determination that Verrusio breached the plea agreement was not made by the government alone, but by the district court after an evidentiary hearing, The pre-trial hearing conducted by the district court after an evidentiary hearing. The pre-trial hearing conducted by the district court thus afforded Verrusio an opportunity to be heard. Verrusio maintains, however, that the government, as a matter of due process, must obtain a ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.