Monday, January 12, 2015

Striking Recommendation from Plea Doesn't Preclude Government from Arguing Enhancement

In United States v. Davenport, No. 13-3644, --- F.3d ---, 2014 WL 64698 (3d Cir. Jan. 6, 2015), the Court affirmed denial of 2255 relief in a case involving a question of breach of plea agreement. 

The government did not breach Davenport’s plea agreement when it advocated for -- and obtained -- a two-level upward adjustment for possessing a firearm in connection with his conspiracy to distribute narcotics offense.  Even though the defendant and his attorney had stricken and initialed a joint recommendation regarding the U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) enhancement from the written agreement during plea negotiations, the government never agreed not to argue for the enhancement.  Therefore, when the firearm clause was stricken from the agreement, it merely meant that the parties no longer jointly agreed on that specific sentencing recommendation.   Reading the plea agreement as a whole, the government was entitled to put the district court on notice of all relevant information and to respond to all of Davenport’s objections.  Since the government did not breach the plea agreement, Davenport’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to make the argument.  The district court properly denied Davenport relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.  

(Thanks to Chistofer Bates, EDPA, for his assistance in digesting this case.)

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