Plea deal didn’t prevent government from referencing hostage incident

August 18, 2016

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a man’s claim that the government was barred by his plea agreement from mentioning a hostage situation that occurred several days prior to his arrest on drug and firearm charges.

Daniel Haslam pleaded guilty under a written plea agreement to manufacturing methamphetamine, possessing unregistered silencers and possessing a firearm in connection with a drug offense. His first proposed agreement required him to admit to the beating and confinement of Laci Sample five days prior in his apartment as relevant conduct. Sample was dating Haslam and the two were doing meth together. She got a text message that Haslam interpreted as meaning Sample was an undercover police officer, so he began beating her and wouldn’t let her leave his apartment for over 36 hours.

The government agreed to remove that section out of the plea agreement, which led to Haslam’s guilty plea. After the plea hearing, the prosecutors sent a memorandum to the probation office and Haslam’s attorney detailing Haslam’s offense conduct, including a description of the Sample incident. Based on that hostage situation, his offense level was increased several levels and the judge sentenced him to 181 months in prison.

Haslam argued before he was sentenced that he should be able to withdraw the guilty plea because the government went against the terms of the plea by including the Sample incident in the memorandum, but the district judge rejected his argument.

“Haslam’s claim runs into trouble right away: Nothing in the plea agreement expressly obligated the government to refrain from introducing evidence of the Sample incident for sentencing purposes,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote. She pointed out the agreement explicitly reserved the government’s right to tell the sentencing court about the good and bad things about Haslam.

“Haslam is left to argue, in effect, that the government was implicitly prohibited from doing something that the agreement explicitly permitted it to do. That makes little sense,” she continued.  “The text of the plea agreement conclusively defeats Haslam’s claim of breach.”

The judges also concluded that Haslam’s case is not one of the rare ones in which extrinsic evidence can establish an implied promise. In addition, in his plea colloquy, Haslam told the magistrate judge under oath that he understood the plea agreement and that no promises were made to induce him to plead guilty other than those contained in the written plea agreement itself.

The case is United States of America v. Daniel Haslam, 14-2641.


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