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United States v. Fox

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
RANDALL FOX, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING RANDALL FOX'S MOTION TO WITHDRAW GUILTY PLEA

          Robert S. Lasnik United States District Judge

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion of defendant Randall Fox to withdraw his guilty plea. Dkt. # 190. Having reviewed the memoranda and exhibits submitted by the parties, as well as the remainder of the record in this case, and having heard oral argument on the motion, the Court grants the motion for the reasons that follow.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant Randall Fox is charged with one count of conspiracy (under 18 U.S.C. § 371) and one count of Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) oil discharge violation (under 33 U.S.C. § 1908(a), 18 U.S.C. § 2, and 33 C.F.R. §§ 151.10(a-b), 155.350). Dkt. # 4 at 4-5, 7-8. The government alleges that defendant and his father, Bingham Fox, knowingly operated Bingham Fox's boat, the F/V Native Sun, without a functioning system to separate oily water from water, and knowingly discharged oil into navigable waters in potentially harmful quantities. Dkt. # 4 at 5.

         On March 16, 2017, defendant pleaded guilty to both counts. Dkt. # 137. Rather than enter into a plea agreement, defendant submitted a “Factual Basis for Plea to Counts 1 and 2.” Dkt. # 141. As to the substantive APPS count, defendant admitted to the following facts:

Between March 2013 and September 2013, Randall Fox served as a crew member and then captain aboard the fishing vessel (F/V) Native Sun. During that time period, the F/V Native Sun accumulated enough water in the machinery space bilges that the bilge needed to be drained while the ship was underway. To achieve draining, Randall Fox operated a submersible pump in the F/V Native Sun's machinery-space bilge that was connected to a hose leading from the engine room over the side of the F/V Native Sun. By this mechanism, Randall Fox discharged machinery-space bilge water directly overboard from the F/V Native Sun into the sea. This was done without operating approved oil-water separating equipment, a bilge monitor, bilge alarm, or combination thereof.

Dkt. # 141 at 1-2. As to the conspiracy count, defendant admitted to these facts:

Between March 2013 and September 2013, while aboard the F/V Native Sun, Randall Fox also entered into an implicit agreement with other crew members to knowingly commit an offense against the United States, specifically the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). Specifically, Randall Fox was taught by a former captain of the F/V Native Sun to discharge machinery space bilge water into the sea in the above-described manner. Mr. Fox admits to committing the overt act addressed in Paragraph 9 of the Indictment, specifically:
While the F/V Native Sun was underway on or about June 15, 2013, Randall Fox operated submersible pumps in the machinery space bilges without using oil-separating equipment, a bilge monitor, bilge alarm, or combination thereof, and discharged machinery space bilge water through overboard hoses and into the sea. That same day, the following was entered in the F/V Native Sun's log book: “[s]tart mains, Grease shaft, pump bildge [sic].”

Dkt. # 141 at 2. Defendant's sentencing was scheduled for June 16, 2017.

Meanwhile, over the course of five days between March 21 and March 29, 2017, defendant's father and co-defendant, Bingham Fox, was tried before a jury. On March 30, 2017, after deliberating for just under five hours, the jury found Bingham Fox not guilty of conspiracy to violate the Clean Water Act and APPS, and guilty of a substantive Clean Water Act violation.

Dkt. ## 173, 177.

         On April 25, 2017, defendant Randall Fox filed this motion to withdraw his guilty plea pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d)(2)(B), on the grounds that the factual basis of his plea is insufficient to find him guilty of both counts. Dkt. ...


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