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Lembke v. Chandler

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 15, 2014

DAVID LEMBKE, Petitioner,
NEDRA CHANDLER, Warden, Dixon Correctional Center, Respondent.


ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Petitioner David Lembke is currently incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center in Dixon, Illinois. Nedra Chandler, the warden of the facility, has custody of Petitioner. Lembke has filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Lembke's [4].

I. Background

A. Underlying Criminal Proceedings

In October 2007, Petitioner David Lembke was charged in the Circuit Court of Kendall County, Illinois, with six methamphetamine crimes that fell into four different sentencing classes: (1) one count of methamphetamine possession, a Class 3 felony; (2) two counts of methamphetamine delivery and one count of possessing methamphetamine-manufacturing materials, all Class 2 felonies; (3) one count of methamphetamine manufacturing, a Class 1 felony; and (4) one count of aggravated methamphetamine manufacturing, a Class X felony.[1] At arraignment, Petitioner was admonished that the Class X charge carried an imprisonment term of six to thirty years; the Class 1 charge carried a term of four to fifteen years imprisonment; and the Class 2 charges carried a term of three to fourteen years each. No range was given for the Class 3 charge.

On March 13, 2008, the parties engaged in plea negotiations pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(d), a rule governing judicial oversight of plea negotiations. The rule permits a judge to "concur" in the parties' "tentative agreement" for a "specified sentence": if an agreement's terms and a judge's concurrence are stated in open court and the defendant pleads guilty, then Rule 402(d)(2) requires the judge either to impose the previously agreed sentence or, if new information changes the judge's mind, to allow the defendant to withdraw the plea. See Ill. S.Ct. R. 402(d)(2)).

At the hearing on March 13, with Petitioner Lembke present, the judge noted that a Rule 402 conference was held with counsel and he asked Petitioner's counsel how he wished to proceed. Petitioner's counsel stated: "Judge, I would ask that you set this * * * for Tuesday, the 18th. I expect that there will be some movement on that. I would ask you to make that a final plea or setting date." The details of the plea offer were not read into the record. The prosecutor stated that the offer would "probably" remain open for a week and then be taken "off the table." The prosecutor also requested, and the judge so advised Petitioner, that on the Class Two felony counts, if Petitioner was found guilty, that he could be sentenced under Class X felony sentencing provisions and receive between six and 30 years, followed by an additional three years of mandatory supervised release or parole. When asked if he understood, Petitioner said, "Yes." The judge then continued the case for five days "for entry of a plea or trial setting."

Five days later, on March 18, 2008, Petitioner's counsel told the court that "everything [had] changed" and that he needed additional time to explain the changes to Petitioner. Approximately one month later, on April 21, 2008, Petitioner pleaded guilty to the Class 3 possession charge and both Class 2 delivery charges. At the hearing, Petitioner stated that no promises had been made in exchange for the plea and also stated that he had discussed the plea with his counsel.

On June 12, 2008, Petitioner pleaded guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine (a Class 1 felony), in exchange for the State's dismissal of the remaining charges (a Class X charge of aggravated manufacturing and Class 2 charge of possessing methamphetamine-manufacturing materials). During the court's admonitions, when the judge noted that the sentencing range was 4-to-15-years incarceration, the State indicated that the offense was subject to an extended term. The court then stated that the range was 4 to 30 years.[2] Petitioner expressed surprising, stating, "I didn't realize that really, I mean-." The court then passed the case to give Petitioner time to confer with counsel. After Petitioner conferred with counsel and the court recalled the case, Petitioner acknowledged that he faced up to 30 years in prison and that he had not been promised anything in exchange for his plea and he proceeded to plead guilty. The court accepted his plea.

In sum, in April and June 2008, Petitioner pleaded guilty to four methamphetamine-related crimes. At sentencing, the trial judge heard testimony that Petitioner manufactured methamphetamine in the presence of his young son. Additionally, despite prior drug convictions and a drug-related parole violation, Petitioner had never obtained treatment for drug use. The judge sentenced Petitioner to twenty years of imprisonment for manufacturing methamphetamine, two concurrent terms of ten years for delivery, a concurrent five-year term for possession, and two years of supervised release.

Petitioner moved to withdraw his pleas and to reconsider his sentence, but the court dismissed these requests when Petitioner's counsel failed to appear for a hearing. Petitioner then obtained new counsel and filed a second motion challenging his pleas as unknowing and his sentence as excessive. At the ensuing evidentiary hearing, Petitioner's original counsel testified that the State made a ten-year offer on March 13, 2008, promised to hold it open for five days, and reneged on March 17 before Petitioner could accept it. According to counsel, Petitioner had not accepted on March 13 because he wished to discuss the offer with his family. The State subsequently approached counsel with a 14-year offer on March 17 (out of court), but Petitioner did not accept. Counsel further testified that when Petitioner entered his first pleas, counsel thought that the judge likely would sentence Petitioner to around 10 years if he had understood the sequence of plea negotiations, but counsel testified that he told Petitioner that he could not "guarantee" it. Petitioner did not testify at the evidentiary hearing, and the Court denied Petitioner's request to withdraw his pleas and reconsider his sentence

B. Direct Appeal

On direct appeal, Petitioner argued that (1) the judge violated Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(d)(2) when he failed to abide by the 10-year plea agreement that Petitioner contended was entered on March 13, 2008; (2) that his pleas were unknowing because counsel guaranteed that Petitioner would receive a 10-year sentence; (3) that he was inadequately admonished about the applicable two-year term of supervised release before his pleas were taken; and (4) that his 20-year sentence was excessive.

The Illinois Appellate Court held that no plea agreement was reached in March 2008 and that counsel did not guarantee a ten-year sentence, noting that the record plainly belied Petitioner's contrary assertions. As for the admonitions about supervised release, the court deemed any error harmless: although Petitioner's April 2008 pleas were not preceded by the appropriate admonishment, the June 2008 plea was, and Petitioner would serve just one term of supervised release for all offenses. The court also rejected Petitioner's sentencing claim.

Petitioner next filed an unsuccessful petition for leave to appeal (PLA) to the Illinois Supreme Court. He renewed his first two claims, but abandoned his challenges to the ...

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