United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division
CORY L. WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.
DARROW UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Williams has filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255,
contending in part that his guilty plea was not made
voluntarily. The district judge who presided over
Williams’s criminal case violated Rule 11 when he
opined on a draft plea agreement between Williams and the
government, but Williams has not met his burden to show that
he would probably have gone to trial absent the violation.
The motion is DENIED.
federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against
Williams that charged him with two counts of armed robbery in
violation of the Hobbs Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); one
count of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 2113(a) and (d); and three counts of brandishing
a firearm during and in relation to each of the three
robberies, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii).
Superseding Indictment, Cr. ECF No. 11. The three
robberies occurred on different days over a roughly
month-long period in June and July 2011, and the Hobbs Act
robberies victimized two different motels. See Id.
If convicted of every charge in the indictment, Williams
faced a statutory minimum prison sentence of 57 years, which
assumes a sentence of zero months for any of the three
robberies. See 18 U.S.C. §§
924(c)(1)(A)(ii) and (c)(1)(C)(i) (imposing consecutive
7-year mandatory minimum for first § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii)
conviction and consecutive 25-year mandatory minimum for any
subsequent § 924(c) conviction); Plea Agreement
¶¶ 23-24, Cr. ECF No. 19. Williams was 22 years old
at the time of the crimes. See Presentence
Investigation Report (“PSR”) at 3, Cr. ECF No.
pleaded guilty pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C) to the two motel
robberies, the bank robbery, and the § 924(c) count
attached to the bank robbery. Plea Agreement ¶ 3. In the
final written agreement, the parties stipulated to the
imposition of a sentence that included a 216-month term of
imprisonment (comprising three concurrent 132-month terms for
the motel robberies and the bank robbery, plus one 84-month
term on the § 924(c) count to run consecutively to the
other terms). Id. ¶ 25. The government agreed
to drop the other charges.
plea agreement contains several waivers of Williams’s
rights. Relevant here, Williams waived his right to
collaterally attack the conviction or sentence. Plea
Agreement ¶¶ 28-29. Specifically, the plea
Regardless of any advice his attorney has given him one way
or the other . . . the defendant hereby knowingly and
voluntarily waives his right to challenge any and all issues
relating to his plea agreement, conviction and sentence . . .
. The defendant acknowledges and agrees that the effect of
this waiver is to completely waive any and all rights and
ability to appeal or collaterally attack any issues relating
to his conviction and to his sentence so long as the sentence
is within the maximum provided in the statutes of conviction.
Id. ¶ 29. It continues:
The defendant states that he has not been coerced,
threatened, intimidated, or in any other way involuntarily
persuaded to waive his rights to appeal or collaterally
attack his sentence by his attorney or anyone else.
Id. ¶ 30.
Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the case
attached a draft of the plea agreement to an email addressed
to Williams’s attorney, to which email she copied the
district judge among other recipients. That correspondence
was part of the district judge’s customary review of
Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreements before change-of-plea
hearings conducted by a magistrate judge. See Resp.
Ex. A, ECF No. 16-1 (memorandum from District Judge McCuskey
to Magistrate Judge Bernthal regarding change of plea
procedures). After reviewing the draft plea agreement,
the district judge responded via email to the prosecutor (and
copied Williams’s attorney):
I have just . . . read the proposed 11(c)1(C) plea agreement.
I concur with the disposition, which is exceedingly fair to
the defendant. Obviously, if he is convicted at trial the
defendant will be sentenced to the equivalent of a life
sentence. Only a fool would refuse this plea agreement. . . .
I am fully ready to try the case to a jury if the defendant
wishes to proceed with a jury trial . . . .
ECF No. 1 at 30. The prosecutor’s email was sent on
July 3, 2013, and the district judge replied the following
day. Id. Also on July 3, the magistrate judge
scheduled a change of plea hearing for July 8.
docket reflects that trial in Williams’s criminal case
was set to begin July 22, 2013, with an acceptance of
responsibility deadline of July 8, 2013. The government filed
its statement of the case; proposed jury instructions; and
witness and exhibit lists on June 26, 2013. See Cr.
Dkt. On July 8, 2013, Williams pleaded guilty pursuant to a
Rule 11(c)(1)(C) agreement that was materially identical to
the draft previously circulated among the lawyers and the
district judge. The magistrate judge accepted the plea via a
standard colloquy, see Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b), that
included Williams’s sworn admission in open court that
he in fact committed the charged crimes and that he entered
his guilty plea voluntarily. See Am. Mot. Ex. A at
37 (July 8, 2013 Hr’g Tr.), ECF No. 14-1. He then
submitted a report and recommendation, see Fed. R.
Crim. P. 59(b)(1), to the district judge stating in part that
he found “the guilty plea was knowing and
voluntary.” Cr. ECF No. 22. Williams did not object to
the report and recommendation. The district judge approved
the report and recommendation in August ...