Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Plunkett

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

November 27, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE LAMAR PLUNKETT, Defendant. Criminal No. ELH-11-00258

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

On April 16, 2012, petitioner George Plunkett pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. See Plea Agreement (ECF 196-1) at 1. Judgment was entered on June 29, 2012. ECF 134. On December 10, 2012, Plunkett filed a “Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody” (“Motion, ” ECF 162).[1] On December 17, 2012, the Court ordered the Government to respond to Plunkett’s Motion. See ECF 163. The due dates were subsequently extended through May 16, 2013. See ECF 179; ECF 188. On that date, the Government filed a “Memorandum in Opposition to Petition to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255” (“Opp., ” ECF 196), along with a copy of the Plea Agreement and a transcript of Plunkett’s sentencing hearing (“Transcript, ” ECF 196-2). Plunkett timely filed a “Response to Government’s Memorandum in Opposition to Petition to Vacate Sentence Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255” (“Plunkett Resp., ” ECF 207).

The Motion is ripe for decision, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. Because the petition and the record conclusively show that Plunkett is not entitled to relief on the grounds asserted, I will deny the Motion. See 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b); Raines v. United States, 423 F.2d 526, 529 (4th Cir. 1970).

Background[2]

Commencing in or about August 2010 and continuing through May 2011, Plunkett was a member of a cocaine-trafficking organization in and around Baltimore. Plunkett and his co-conspirators obtained large quantities of cocaine from suppliers in California and arranged to ship the cocaine to Maryland. Plunkett and his co-conspirators then processed and packaged the cocaine for distribution in the Baltimore area. In all, Plunkett and his co-conspirators conspired to distribute at least 50 kilograms of cocaine but less than 150 kilograms of cocaine.

By plea agreement dated January 13, 2012, signed by Plunkett on April 3, 2012, Plunkett agreed to plead guilty pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) (commonly referred to as a “C plea”). See Plea Agreement at 5. Under the terms of the Plea Agreement, the parties agreed that a sentence of 180 months’ imprisonment was the appropriate disposition. That sentence was well below the advisory sentencing guidelines range of 262 to 327 months’ incarceration. Id.; see Transcript at 7. In addition, the defendant faced a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years, with a maximum of life imprisonment. And, the Government could have filed an “851 notice, ” by which the defendant would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years. See 21 U.S.C. § 851.

While Plunkett awaited sentencing, he was housed in Baltimore at the Chesapeake Detention Facility (“CDF”). Transcript at 3. At the sentencing hearing, Plunkett’s attorney complained about the conditions at CDF. Id. In particular, counsel averred that CDF is “unsanitary”; the jail cells are infested with mice and cockroaches; the facility does not have functioning air conditioning and thus becomes “unbearably hot” in the summer; and the inmates lack access to a law library, religious services, and daily recreation. Id. at 3–4. Additionally, counsel advised the Court that the “food apparently does not meet the federal guidelines for food for those people detained in a federal facility, and . . . that the toilets frequently don’t work, and that water frequently doesn’t run.” Id. at 4.

In light of these alleged conditions, defense counsel requested either a downward departure in Plunkett’s sentence or that Plunkett receive “double credits” for the time he served at the CDF. Id. at 3. When the Court asked counsel to identify authority for a departure from the guidelines on such grounds, particularly in the context of a C plea, id. at 5, counsel responded: “Quite honestly, I don’t know the answer. . . . There is a case in the Second Circuit from 1996, United States of America versus Carlos Hernandez-Santiago, at 92 F.3d 97 [(2d Cir. 1996)], which deals with the issue, but it was not a (c) plea, and a departure was provided.” Id. After counsel read aloud a passage from the opinion, the Court commented that the case was not “comparable” to that of Mr. Plunkett. Id. at 6. The Court then stated, id.:

[Y]ou have a job to do for your client, and I respect that, counsel, but this isn’t something we needed to raise now. Why wouldn’t you cite this case to me and let me know, and let the government know you were going to make this an issue?
To me, this is an attempt to make an end run around the (c) plea, which is already below the guidelines.
In response, counsel explained, id. at 7:
My client, Your Honor, has asked me to make this argument, and has raised it with me on several occasions.
I told him, to be honest with the Court, I told him it’s a (c) plea, and I am not sure that the Court can provide a departure. I said perhaps the Court can give you additional credits for time served based on the living conditions; but quite honestly, I have no legal precedent for that.

The Government opposed Plunkett’s request, noting that it viewed the request “as a breach of the (c) plea. . . .” Id. at 9. It also suggested that, “if Mr. Plunkett wants to persist in his request for a downward departure, then we could withdraw from the (c) plea, and the government will begin negotiations with the guidelines at 262 to 327 [months].” Id. at 9. Although the Government acknowledged “the heat issue” at CDF, id. at 10, it denied counsel’s other contentions and argued that the conditions ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.