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United States v. Morgan

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 17, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL MORGAN, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Defendant is charged with felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g) (1). The Indictment also alleges that defendant is subject to an enhanced penalty based on his status as an armed career criminal. See 18 U.S.C. § 924 (e). Defendant moves to dismiss the Indictment on grounds that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations in a state court proceeding that immediately preceded the federal charges brought against him. The motion is denied.

ACKGROUND

On June 18, 2013, defendant was arrested in Coos County, Oregon after an encounter with a city police officer outside a park restroom. According to the government, surveillance video showed defendant throwing a handgun during a struggle with the officer. After his arrest, methamphetamine was found in defendant's sweatshirt pocket. At the time, defendant had numerous prior felony convictions and an outstanding warrant for his arrest on a parole violation.

Defendant ultimately was charged in state court with felon in possession of a firearm and other offenses. Allen Goldman of Southwestern Oregon Public Defenders Service was appointed to represent him.

On June 24, 2013, Goldman filed a motion seeking pretrial release. On June 26, 2013, the state court scheduled a release hearing for July 8 and a plea hearing for July 18.

On June 28, 2013, a Coos County Deputy District Attorney offered defendant a 19-month sentence in exchange for pleading guilty to the charge of felon in possession of a firearm. Goldman's office received the offer on July 2.

On July 8, 2013, the state court denied defendant's motion for release. At defendant's request, the change of plea hearing was postponed twice and eventually scheduled for August 15, 2013. During that time, Goldman proposed at least two counteroffers.

At some point, the Deputy District Attorney forwarded the circumstances of defendant's arrest to federal law enforcement authorities. On August 13, 2013, an Assistant U.S. Attorney instructed a federal agent to submit a Criminal Complaint and affidavit to a federal magistrate judge.

On August 14, 2013, the day before defendant's plea hearing, the Deputy District Attorney filed a motion to dismiss the state charges, citing a change in circumstances.

On the same day, the federal government filed the Criminal Complaint charging defendant with felon in possession of a firearm; subsequently, an indictment was returned charging the same offense. See 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g) (1). If convicted of the federal charge, defendant faces a mandatory minimum sentence of fifteen years imprisonment based on his status as an armed career criminal. Id . § 924 (e).

Goldman was not aware that the Deputy District Attorney was communicating with the U.S. Attorney's Office about potential federal charges, and he was surprised when the Deputy District Attorney dismissed the state charges. Consequently, Goldman did not advise defendant that he faced a potential 15-year mandatory minimum sentence if federal authorities decided to file charges against him. Further, Goldman did not advise defendant to accept the state's 19-month plea offer as quickly as possible to reduce the likelihood of federal prosecution.

DISCUSSION

Defendant argues that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel during his state-court plea negotiations that ...


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