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United States v. Bias

*fn* submitted san francisco california: May 11, 1992.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MACKIE BIAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. CR S-89-161-PAR. Raul A. Ramirez, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Fletcher, Poole and T.g. Nelson, Circuit Judges.

MEMORANDUM

Mackie Bias pled guilty to one count of manufacturing methamphetamine. On appeal, he claims that the district court erred in determining after a Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 hearing that his plea was voluntary. We affirm.

FACTS

Mackie Bias, age 62, was arrested along with his son Jon Mackie Bias, age 27, and Cheryl Harban. Methamphetamines and the equipment for their manufacture were discovered in the Biases' trailer. The three defendants were charged with one count each of manufacturing methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute in violation of the same statute, and use of a firearm in relation to a drug felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Defendants were represented by separate counsel.

The prosecution offered the defendants a plea agreement whereby Mackie Bias would plead guilty to manufacturing methamphetamine, Jon Bias would plead guilty to simple possession, a misdemeanor. Minimum jail terms for the felonies were ten (or twenty)*fn1 years for Mackie Bias and five years for Jon Bias. The three plea bargains were a "package deal": if any defendant refused his or her bargain, the prosecution would withdraw the others, and all three defendants would face trial. All of the defendants accepted the plea agreements.

The Biases entered their pleas at a Rule 11 hearing on August 17, 1989. On September 6, 1989, Mackie Bias substituted counsel; his previous attorney had been indicted for tax violations. The district court asked him whether he wished to change his plea in light of the substitution, but he declined. The Biases were sentenced on November 1, 1989.*fn2

On appeal, Mackie Bias contends that his plea was not voluntary, and that the district court erred by not inquiring more fully into his state of mind. Specifically, he claims that he felt pressured to accept the plea in order to obtain a more lenient sentence for his son.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Adequacy of a Rule 11 hearing is a question of law reviewed de novo. United States v. Jaramillo-Suarez, 857 F.2d 1368, 1369 (9th Cir. 1988). Voluntariness of a plea is also reviewed de novo. United States v. Turner, 881 F.2d 684, 685 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 871 (1989).

Discussion

The Ninth Circuit has ruled that package deal plea bargains of the type offered to the Biases are not per se impermissible.

[Appellant] argues that package-deal plea bargains impel defendants to coerce codefendants into pleading guilty. Our court and others have recognized this potential problem. But instead of declaring such plea bargains per se impermissible, we enforce a trial Judge's duty to ensure that such pleas are voluntary, as required by Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d). We have also demanded that such pleas be voluntary in the related situation where a plea bargain is offered in exchange for a promise of leniency as to a third person.

United States v. Wheat, 813 F.2d 1399, 1405 (9th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted) aff'd 486 U.S. 153 (1988). The cases Bias cites are not to the contrary; they do suggest, however, that plea bargains made in order to secure lenient treatment for others must be carefully scrutinized for possible coercion. In re Ibarra, 93 Cal. Rptr. 538, 543 (Cal. 1983); United States v. ...


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