Unpublished Disposition, 928 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1991)

Annotate this Case
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit - 928 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1991)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.William K. SONNABEND, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 90-30196.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Submitted March 8, 1991.* Decided March 12, 1991.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Oregon; No. CR-90-0008-OMP, Owen M. Panner, District Judge, Presiding.

D. Or.


Before JAMES R. BROWNING, WRIGHT and FARRIS, Circuit Judges.


Sonnabend moved to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing under Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(d). The district court denied the motion. We find that Sonnabend entered his plea voluntarily and we affirm.


Sonnabend was arrested and charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine. He pleaded guilty at arraignment. Between his arrest and arraignment, he was represented by three different attorneys. His counsel at arraignment had represented him for 15 days. The record shows that the court conducted an extensive Fed. R. Crim. P. 11 inquiry.

Before sentencing, Sonnabend moved to withdraw his plea. At the hearing, he testified that prior to entering his plea he had met with his attorney only a few times and the two had discussed his case only briefly. He admitted that he and his attorney reviewed relevant documents, but complained that he did not review all police reports, all the search warrants and other unspecified documents. He also said that he did not understand the consequences of his plea; that his attorney told him that if he did not sign the plea petition he was going to get "all sorts of years;" and that he felt "pressured" by the judge because it was the first time he had been arrested.

The bulk of this testimony directly contradicts statements he made in his plea petition and in response to the court's previous Rule 11 inquiry. There he stated that he knew the maximum penalty for his offense and understood the sentencing range; that he knew he could receive the maximum penalty; that he had talked with his attorney ten to fifteen times; and that he had enough time to make an informed decision to plead guilty. The court found that he fully understood the nature of the charges against him and that he entered his plea without any inappropriate pressures or offers.

At the motion hearing, the court again found that he understood the nature of the charges against him and consequences of pleading guilty when he entered his plea.


We review for an abuse of discretion the denial of a Rule 32(d) motion. United States v. Zweber, 913 F.2d 705, 710 (9th Cir. 1990). We review de novo the voluntariness of the plea. Id.

A district court may grant a plea withdrawal motion made prior to sentence on a showing of a fair and just reason. Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(d). Although the motion should be freely granted for a fair and just reason, the defendant has no right to withdraw and shoulders the burden of showing such a reason. United States v. Read, 778 F.2d 1437, 1440 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 835 (1986).

The rule must be read along with Rule 11, United States v. Rios-Ortiz, 830 F.2d 1067, 1070 (9th Cir. 1987), which requires the court to make an extensive inquiry into the voluntariness of the plea. The court must determine whether the plea is accurate and whether the defendant understands his rights and the consequences of his plea. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11. This protects both the defendant's rights and the proper administration of the criminal law. Kadwell v. United States, 315 F.2d 667, 669 n. 6 (9th Cir. 1963). The court must find that the plea was made free from coercion and with an understanding of the law as it pertains to the facts. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(d); McCarthy v. United States, 394 U.S. 459, 466 (1969).

Although Sonnabend is vague about the theory he relies on, the essence of his argument is that because he did not review all of the police reports, the search warrants and other unspecified documents, he did not have the requisite knowledge of the law as it pertained to the facts to render his plea voluntary. He has no authority to support his position.

We have repeatedly upheld pleas entered with knowledge equivalent to Sonnabend's. See, e.g., Williams v. Raines, 783 F.2d 774, 775 (9th Cir. 1986) (rejecting defendant's argument that his ignorance of the term "malice" rendered his plea involuntary even though malice was part of the definition of murder); Chua Han Mow v. United States, 730 F.2d 1308, 1310-11 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1031 (1985) (rejecting defendant's argument that he did not understand the meaning of counts or the fact that the government had to prove specific intent); cf. Hayes v. Kincheloe, 784 F.2d 1434, 1439 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 871 (1986) (plea was involuntary when defense attorney, prosecutor, and judge all failed to inform defendant of the elements of the crime). Although the cases do not address the specific type of knowledge to which Sonnabend refers, they show the requisite level of understanding to render a plea voluntary.

Sonnabend's responses to the district court's extensive Rule 11 inquiry indicate that his plea was entered without coercion and with an understanding of the law as it pertained to the facts. The plea was voluntarily given.

He failed to meet his burden of proving a fair and just reason for withdrawing his plea. The court did not abuse its discretion when it denied his motion.



The panel unanimously finds this case suitable for decision without oral argument. Fed. R. App. P. 34(a); Ninth Circuit Rule 34-4


This disposition is not appropriate for publication and may not be cited to or by the courts of this circuit except as provided by Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3