United States v. Ketchen, No. 16-2309 (1st Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The First Circuit affirmed the order of the district court denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea for conspiracy to distribute 3,4-Methyleneioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) - known commonly as “bath salts” - and for maintaining a drug-involved residence, holding that Appellant’s arguments on appeal were unavailing.
After Appellant entered his plea but before he was sentenced, the Supreme Court issued its decision in McFadden v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2298 (2015). Based on McFadden, Appellant argued that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because the district court did not sufficiently apprise him of the necessary scienter for a conviction under the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986. Specifically, Appellant claimed he did not know MDPV was a controlled substance analogue before October 21, 2011. The First Circuit held (1) Appellant’s plea was knowing and voluntary, and Appellant raised no colorable claim of innocence as to his post-October 21, 2011 conduct, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea; and (2) there was no clear error in the district court’s selection of a comparator listed in the sentencing guidelines most analogous to MDPV.