United States v. Swaby, No. 15-7616 (4th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Defendant, a citizen of Jamaica, asserted a Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel challenge to his conviction under the criminal counterfeiting statute. The district court determined that, although counsel provided deficient performance, defendant was not prejudice because the district court corrected counsel's deficiencies. In this case, defendant unknowingly pleaded to an aggravated felony that rendered him automatically deportable. Counsel had consulted with an immigration attorney regarding repercussions of defendant's plea to his immigration status, but the immigration attorney gave advice based upon an amended version of the statute that did not apply to defendant's case. Therefore, neither counsel nor the district court informed defendant that he was pleading to a crime that rendered him automatically deportable. The court issued a certificate of appealability and addressed defendant's claim on the merits. The court concluded that defendant received deficient performance under the Sixth Amendment, and that it prejudiced defendant because the district court's warnings, which were general and referenced only a vague "risk" or possibility of deportation, did not cure counsel's deficient performance. The court explained that defendant could demonstrate prejudice by showing a reasonable likelihood that, absent his counsel's error, he could have negotiated a different plea agreement or would have gone to trial instead. Accordingly, the court reversed, vacated, and remanded for further proceedings.