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Thompson v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 19, 2017

Fred Miles Thompson Petitioner - Appellant
v.
United States of America Respondent - Appellee

          Submitted: May 12, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Fargo

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, Circuit Judge.

         Fred Miles Thompson pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement, to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and use of a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime. The district court[1] sentenced Thompson to a term of 480 months' imprisonment on the drug offense, followed by a consecutive life sentence on the firearm offense. On direct appeal, we affirmed. Thompson then filed a motion to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The district court[2] denied the motion, but granted a certificate of appealability.

         I. Background

         The facts underlying Thompson's conviction are set forth in our prior opinion, United States v. Thompson, 770 F.3d 689 (8th Cir. 2014). We repeat those facts here as relevant for the instant appeal. The day before his trial was to begin, Thompson notified the court that he intended to plead guilty. The proposed plea agreement was provided to the court for review. As pertinent here, the proposed agreement set forth the mandatory statutory minimum and maximum penalties for both counts to which Thompson agreed to plead guilty, and noted that the court would impose "a sentence sufficient to comply with the purposes set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act . . . consider[ing] factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)" after consulting and taking into account the sentencing guidelines. The agreement stated that it was binding on the United States Attorney for the District of North Dakota, but not on the court or the probation office, and that the court could "depart from the applicable guidelines range if the Court, on the record, states factors not contemplated by the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to justify the departure." The only sentencing recommendation the government agreed to make was for a two-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility; all other sentencing issues were left open. The written plea agreement contained an integration clause providing that "no threats, promises, or representations exist beyond the terms of this plea agreement" and that "[t]here are no additional terms to the Plea Agreement."[3]

         The following morning, Thompson told the court he had changed his mind and that he intended to go to trial. The district court questioned Thompson about his decision. Thompson persisted in his stance that he wanted to go to trial, and his counsel requested a recess. Following a fifteen-minute recess, the parties reconvened, and Thompson informed the court he had decided to plead guilty. He signed the plea agreement in which he "acknowledge[d] reading and understanding all provisions of the Plea Agreement" and that he had discussed and reviewed the agreement with his attorney.

         The change-of-plea hearing followed immediately. At the hearing, the court and Thompson had the following colloquy:

THE COURT: Okay. And you understand that by pleading guilty to Count Two there is a mandatory minimum seven-year sentence that will be consecutive to the mandatory minimum five-year sentence on Count One?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: And that will be the least amount that the Court could sentence you. The Court could still sentence you to a higher amount but the least that they could sentence you to is that 12 years. Do you understand that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Yeah, because what I'm saying is there's no way I could go below that and not violate the law, all ...

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