United States v. Fuentes-Galvez, No. 18-10150 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit reversed defendant's conviction for illegal reentry into the United States. Defendant argued that the district court committed plain error by failing to comply with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(b)(2)'s requirements of establishing that the plea was voluntary. In light of the magistrate judge's egregious failure to comply with Rule 11(b)(2), which the panel has previously noted is part of a disturbing "pattern," the panel agreed.
In this case, the magistrate judge did not engage in direct inquiries regarding force, threats, or promises, nor did he address competence to enter the plea. Furthermore, the government's bare bones justifications are not enough to establish voluntariness in light of defendant's significant mental challenges and the magistrate judge's complete lack of inquiry into whether the plea was coerced by any threats or promises. The panel explained that defendant showed that there was a reasonable probability that the error may have affected his decision to plead, and that the district court's plain error was sufficiently serious to impinge on the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings.