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United States v. Haslam

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 17, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Daniel Haslam, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued September 21, 2015

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. Nos. 3:13-CR-013 & 3:13-CR-109 Jon E. DeGuilio, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, Posner and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

          Sykes, Circuit Judge.

         Daniel Haslam pleaded guilty under a written plea agreement to manufacturing methamphetamine, possessing unregistered silencers, and possessing a firearm in connection with a drug offense. His presentence report included as relevant conduct an incident in which Haslam held a woman hostage in his apartment on the mistaken belief that she was an undercover police officer. Haslam thinks the government breached the plea agreement by giving this hostage-taking information to the probation office and the court; he moved to withdraw his pleas. The district judge denied the motion and imposed a sentence of 181 months in prison.

         Haslam appealed, challenging the denial of his plea-withdrawal motion. We affirm. Haslam's plea agreement did not limit the information the government could give the court about the offense or his background. To the contrary, the agreement explicitly reserved the government's right to fully inform the court, so there was no breach. And the judge properly rejected Haslam's alternative claim that he pleaded guilty unknowingly based on a misunderstanding that the plea agreement contained such a limitation.

         I. Background

         In August 2012 Haslam manufactured, used, and trafficked methamphetamine in his apartment in Converse, Indiana. He also manufactured firearm silencers and possessed numerous illegally modified firearms in furtherance of his drug trafficking.

         On August 25, 2012, Haslam invited Laci Sample to his apartment. The two had been dating for a few weeks, and they both used methamphetamine while she was there that day. Things turned violent when Sample received a text message saying she had to "get ready for training day tomorrow." Haslam mistakenly interpreted this message as a sign that she was an undercover police officer. He pushed her down on the bed and began beating her, inflicting injuries to her head, face, arms, legs, and torso. Over the next day and a half, Haslam prevented Sample from leaving his apartment, threatening her with a gun and more beatings. He released her only after she said she had to pick up her daughter from the child's father and people would start looking for her if she didn't show up.

         On August 30 police performed a traffic stop on a vehicle Haslam was riding in and found him in possession of a loaded pistol modified for a silencer. That same day the police executed a search warrant on Haslam's apartment and found several firearms, silencers in various stages of production, ammunition, and methamphetamine. A grand jury indicted Haslam on four counts: (1) possessing an unregistered firearm or silencer, 26 U.S.C. §§ 5845(a), 5861(d), and 5871; (2) manufacturing methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); (3) possessing a firearm equipped with a silencer in furtherance of drug trafficking, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); and (4) possessing a firearm while using a controlled substance, id. § 922(g)(3). Count 3 carried a mandatory 30-year minimum sentence.

         Plea negotiations followed. As relevant here, the prosecutor sent Haslam's counsel a proposed plea agreement that required Haslam to admit to the beating and confinement of Laci Sample as relevant conduct. Haslam would not admit to this conduct and wanted this section of the agreement deleted. The government complied. Haslam eventually agreed to plead guilty to counts 1, 2, and 4 in exchange for the dismissal of count 3. At Haslam's request the factual-basis section of the final version of the plea agreement did not contain the Sample incident.

         Three provisions of the plea agreement are particularly relevant here:

9. (d) ... I expressly waive my right to appeal my conviction, my sentence and any restitution order to any Court on any ground, including any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
. . .
(g) The defendant fully understands that the United States of America has reserved the right to tell the Sentencing Court the good things about him, and the bad things about him, and has reserved the right to fully inform ...

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