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United States v. Howell

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins

October 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH WILLIAM HOWELL, JR., Defendant.

          KLEEH, JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION CONCERNING PLEA OF GUILTY IN FELONY CASE

          MICHAEL JOHN ALOI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge by the District Court for purposes of conducting proceedings pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11. Defendant, Joseph William Howell, Jr., in person and by Counsel, Phillip Isner, Esq., appeared before me on October 15, 2019. The Government appeared by Assistant United States Attorney, Stephen Warner. The Court determined that Defendant was prepared to enter a plea of "Guilty" to Counts One and Three of the Indictment.

         The Court proceeded with the Rule 11 proceeding by first placing Defendant under oath and inquiring into Defendant's competency. The Court determined Defendant was competent to proceed with the Rule 11 plea hearing and cautioned and examined Defendant under oath concerning all matters mentioned in Rule 11.

         The Court next inquired of Defendant concerning his understanding of his right to have an Article III Judge hear the entry of his guilty plea and his understanding of the difference between an Article III Judge and a Magistrate Judge. Defendant thereafter stated in open court that he voluntarily waived his right to have an Article III Judge hear his plea and voluntarily consented to the undersigned Magistrate Judge hearing his plea. Defendant tendered to the Court a written Waiver of Article III Judge and Consent to Enter Guilty Plea before Magistrate Judge. The waiver and consent was signed by Defendant, countersigned by Defendant's counsel, and concurred by the signature of the Assistant United States Attorney.

         Upon consideration of the sworn testimony of Defendant, as well as the representations of his counsel and the representations of the Government, the Court finds that the oral and written waiver of an Article III Judge and consent to enter a guilty plea before a Magistrate Judge was freely and voluntarily given. Additionally, the Court finds that the written waiver and consent was freely and voluntarily executed by Defendant Joseph William Howell, Jr., only after having had his rights fully explained to him and having a full understanding of those rights through consultation with his counsel, as well as through questioning by the Court. The Court ORDERED the written Waiver and Consent to Enter Guilty Plea before a Magistrate Judge filed and made part of the record.

         Thereafter, the Court determined that Defendant's plea was pursuant to a written plea agreement and asked the Government to tender the original to the Court. The Court asked counsel for the Government if the agreement was the sole agreement offered to Defendant. The Government responded that it was, and counsel for Defendant confirmed the same. The Court asked counsel for the Government to summarize the written plea agreement. Counsel for Defendant and Defendant stated that the agreement as summarized by counsel for the Government was correct and complied with their understanding of the agreement. The undersigned further inquired of Defendant regarding his understanding of the written plea agreement. Defendant stated he understood the terms of the written plea agreement and also stated that it contained the whole of his agreement with the Government and no promises or representations were made to him by the Government other than those terms contained in the written plea agreement. The Court ORDERED the written plea agreement filed.

         The undersigned then reviewed with Defendant Counts One and Three of the Indictment and the elements the Government would have to prove, charging him with Conspiracy to Distribute Methamphetamine in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 846 and 841(b)(1)(B) and Possession of a Firearm in Furtherance of a Drug Crime - Aiding and Abetting in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2 and 924(c)(1)(A). Subsequently, Defendant Joseph William Howell, Jr. pled GUILTY to the charges contained in Counts One and Three of the Indictment. However, before accepting Defendant's plea, the undersigned inquired of Defendant's understanding of the charges against him, inquired of Defendant's understanding of the consequences of him pleading guilty to the charges, and obtained the factual basis for Defendant's plea.

         The Government proffered a factual basis for the plea explaining that on July 20, 2018, police officers stopped a vehicle driven by Defendant Joseph William Howell, Jr. following a high-speed chase. Defendant exited his vehicle and fled on foot, escaping the police at the time. There were passengers remaining in Defendant's vehicle. Following a search of the vehicle, police found significant quantities of methamphetamine valued at over $5, 000 and a firearm in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle. Police further located evidence consistent with the distribution of illegal drugs.

         Neither counsel for Defendant nor Defendant disputed the proffer when given the opportunity to do so. Defendant stated he heard, understood, and did not disagree with the Government's proffer. Additionally, Defendant provided a factual basis for the commission of the offense. The undersigned Magistrate Judge concludes the offense charged in Counts One and Three of the Indictment is supported by an independent basis in fact concerning each of the essential elements of such offense, and that independent basis is provided by the Government's proffer.

         The undersigned then reviewed with Defendant the statutory penalties applicable to an individual adjudicated guilty of the felony charge contained in Counts One and Three of the Indictment and the impact of the sentencing guidelines on sentencing in general. From said review, the undersigned Magistrate Judge determined Defendant understood the nature of the charges pending against him and that a mandatory minimum sentence applied in this case. The undersigned determined that Defendant understood the possible statutory maximum sentence which could be imposed upon his conviction or adjudication of guilty on Count One was imprisonment for a period of not less than five nor more than forty years. The undersigned further determined Defendant understood a fine of five million dollars could be imposed, both fine and imprisonment could be imposed, he would be subject to a period of at least four years of supervised release, and the Court would impose a special mandatory assessment of $100.00 for the felony conviction payable within forty days of his plea of guilty. Further, the undersigned determined that Defendant understood the possible statutory maximum sentence which could be imposed upon his conviction or adjudication of guilty on Count Three was imprisonment for a period of at least five years. The undersigned further determined Defendant understood a fine of two hundred fifty thousand dollars could be imposed, both fine and imprisonment could be imposed, he would be subject to a period of up to five years of supervised release, and the Court would impose a special mandatory assessment of $100.00 for the felony conviction payable within forty days of his plea of guilty. The undersigned further advised Defendant and Defendant understood that any period of imprisonment must be served consecutively to any sentence Defendant receives in Count One.

         Defendant also understood that his sentence could be increased if he had a prior firearm offense, violent felony conviction, or prior drug conviction. He also understood he might be required by the Court to pay the costs of his incarceration, supervision, and probation.

         The undersigned also informed Defendant whether he understood that by pleading guilty he was forfeiting other rights such as right to vote, right to serve on a jury, and the right to legally possess a firearm.

         Additionally, the undersigned asked Defendant whether he understood that if he were not a citizen of the United States, by pleading guilty to a felony charge he would be subject to deportation at the conclusion of any sentence; that he would be denied future entry into the United States; and that he would ...


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