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December 21, 2007

Split Second Circuit decision on breached plea agreement

A split Second Circuit panel today issued a lengthy decision in US v. Griffin, No. 05-4016 (2d Cir. Dec. 21, 2007) (available here), dealing principally with the breach of a plea agreement surrounding an acceptance of responsibility adjustment.  Here is how the majority opinion starts:

While there are aspects of this case that may implicate complicated and difficult issues at the unhappy intersection of computer technology and child pornography, we need not and therefore do not address them. The resolution of this appeal hinges on the narrow question of whether the government adhered to the terms of the plea agreement between it and the defendant during sentencing proceedings. Because we conclude that the government breached the plea agreement, we vacate the sentence and remand for resentencing by another district judge.

The dissent in Griffin by Judge Wesley starts this way:

The majority concludes that this case should be remanded to a new district court judge for specific performance of the government’s promise not to object to defendant’s request for an acceptance of responsibility adjustment. It does so in the name of preserving the integrity of the plea bargaining process and public confidence in the federal criminal justice system. I agree with my colleagues that courts must be vigilant in holding the government to its promises. I submit, however, that the majority’s analysis overlooks a crucial fact in this case – defendant’s own prior breach of the agreement.  In my view, remand will seriously undercut the very policy concerns the majority seeks to protect. I therefore respectfully dissent and vote to affirm the judgment.

December 21, 2007 at 02:33 PM | Permalink


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