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Politte v. United States

decided: July 12, 1988.

WILLIAM J. POLITTE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. Nos. 87 C 3462 and 85 CR 30001--James L. Foreman, Chief Judge.

William J. Bauer, Chief Judge, Joel M. Flaum and Michael J. Kanne, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kanne

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

William Politte was named in two indictments. In the first, he was charged with blowing up a building and in the second, he and his wife were charged with fraud. Politte entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty to several of the offenses. In return, the government promised to recommend a lenient sentence for his wife. After he received a thirteen-year sentence, William Politte filed a motion to vacate, set aside or correct his sentence, in accordance with Title 28 U.S.C. § 2255, alleging that his plea was not voluntary because it was procured by judicial and familial coercion. The district court summarily denied that motion and Politte appeals. Politte maintains that the district court's denial of his § 2255 motion was clearly erroneous, and that it improperly ruled without conducting a hearing. We find that William Politte's guilty plea was voluntary, and affirm the district court's denial of the post-conviction appeal.

I. BACKGROUND

William Politte was indicted in August of 1984 for several crimes,*fn1 including destroying a union hall by the use of explosives. A second and separate indictment*fn2 was issued in December of 1984, charging both Politte and his wife, Pamela, with conspiring to defraud an insurance company by falsely reporting the theft of their 1983 Lincoln Continental automobile.

Politte filed a number of pre-trial motions. One motion sought to disqualify United States District Judge William Beatty because he granted an early prison release for Jesse Stoneking, an FBI informant who later gathered evidence on Politte. Another motion sought to suppress the evidence Stoneking obtained. Judge Beatty disqualified himself by granting Politte's motion for recusal. The case was reassigned to Chief Judge James L. Foreman who subsequently denied the remainder of Politte's pre-trial motions.

Thereafter, Politte, represented by two attorneys, entered into a detailed and extensive plea agreement. This agreement clearly stated that:

DEFENDANT is aware . . . that he will not be allowed to withdraw his pleas of guilty once they are entered.

The agreement further stipulated that it was "contingent upon co-defendant Pamela Politte's entry of a guilty plea to Indictment II under a separate plea agreement . . . ."

On January 14, 1985, Judge Foreman conducted a hearing in which he questioned Politte about his understanding of the charges against him and his competence to enter into the plea agreement. Complying with Fed. R. Crim. P. 11, the court engaged Politte in the following colloquy:

THE COURT: All right, sir. We have gone over the plea agreement. We have gone over the possible punishment and I'll ask you once again if you have any questions about it?

DEFENDANT POLITTE: None whatsoever.

THE COURT: Have there been other promises or representations of any kind made to you to induce you or to get you to change your pleas here this morning?

DEFENDANT POLITTE: No, Sir.

(Tr. Change of Plea, p. 25). Following this exchange, the court accepted Politte's guilty plea ...


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