United States v. Manzo

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 04-05-2012
  • Case #: 10-35871
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Shroeder and Alarcón
  • Full Text Opinion

The failure of counsel to advise a defendant to withdraw from a plea bargain is deemed ineffective counsel if there is still time to withdraw and it becomes clear that the sentence will be significantly greater than expected because there was a mutual mistake in predicting the sentence.

Jose Luis Manzo (“Manzo”) appeals the denial of his motion to vacate after he received a conviction for conspiracy to possess with intent to manufacture a controlled substance and appeals his guilty plea to distribute a controlled substance. Manzo accepted a plea agreement for the distribution charge in which he agreed to plead guilty and waived his right to direct or collateral appeal for both the manufacturing and distribution cases unless he wished to assert an appeal for ineffective counsel or incorrect guidelines calculation because of a mistake. In this agreement, the Government agreed to file no more charges and agreed to recommend a downward adjustment of three levels from the agreed upon level 34 offense. Manzo’s manufacturing and distribution cases were grouped together which led to an offense level of 38 and placed Manzo in a Criminal History Category III. These combined yielded a Guideline range of 292-365 months for the distribution case. Manzo was expecting 135-168 months due to the plea bargain. Manzo was sentenced to 292 months for distribution, 240 months for manufacturing, and 16 months for a supervised release violation. All of which were to run concurrently. Manzo argues he received ineffective counsel because of the failure to advise him to withdraw from the plea bargain once it was clear the sentences would be grouped. The Court found that this failure had a major impact on the calculation for sentencing and was constitutionally deficient. The Court also found there to be a mutual mistake between the Government and Manzo as to the applicability of the grouping procedures and that the Government expressly breached the terms of the plea agreement by not recommending a three level downward adjustment. The court remanded the case to the district court to find if Manzo has been prejudiced by his ineffective counsel. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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