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United States v. Broecker

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

January 16, 2020

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
STEPHANIE BROECKER, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO COMPEL

          KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant, Stephanie Broecker, moves for an order compelling plaintiff, the United States of America, to file a motion under Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Docket 122. The United States opposes the motion. Docket 138. Defendant also requests the court to issue an indicative ruling under Rule 37(a)(3) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Docket 150. For the following reasons, the court denies defendant's motions.

         BACKGROUND

         A full factual background was provided by this court in its Order Denying Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea. Docket 119. Therefore, the court will only give a simple explanation and points to the Order Denying Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea for the full background.

         On December 6, 2018, a plea agreement, sealed plea agreement supplement, and statement of factual basis were filed with the court. Dockets 51, 52, 53. All of the documents were signed by Broecker, her retained defense counsel, Lawrence Beaumont, her locally retained defense counsel, Rick Ramstad, and Assistant United States Attorney, Jennifer Mammenga. Dockets 51, 52, 53.

         The plea agreement supplement contained a cooperation provision. Docket 53. The cooperation provision stated that Broecker agreed to fully cooperate with the United States. Id. at 1. Cooperation included, but was not limited to, “providing complete and truthful information to the United States” and “providing complete and truthful testimony before grand jury, trial, and at other proceedings as required[.]” Id. The plea agreement supplement also stated that any “significant deception or omission by the Defendant with respect to any material fact or issue shall render this agreement voidable[.]” Id. at 2.

         In exchange for Broecker's cooperation, the United States included a substantial assistance provision within the plea agreement supplement. Id. at 2-3. “If the United States Attorney determines that the Defendant's cooperation satisfies the requirements of the Rule 35(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the United States agrees to move the Court to reduce the Defendant's sentence as authorized by Rule 35.” Id. at 2. The United States retained some discretion in filing a Rule 35 motion, noting in the supplement that “[t]he decision to file a Rule 35 motion rests within the sole discretion of the United States Attorney. This provision is not a promise or a guarantee that a Rule 35 motion will be filed.” Id. at 3.

         On December 10, 2018, the court held a change of plea hearing. Docket 55. At the hearing, Broecker was placed under oath and participated in a Rule 11 colloquy with the court. Docket 97 at 2-14. Broecker pleaded guilty to the charge. Id. at 14. The court accepted the plea and found Broecker guilty. Id.

         On February 26, 2018, Broecker, through Ramstad, filed an ex parte motion to discharge Beaumont and appoint Ramstad as her attorney. Docket 58. Broecker made several sworn statements within an affidavit about the adequacy of Beaumont's representation. Docket 58-1. On October 23, 2019, the court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion. Docket 116. Broecker testified under oath at the hearing about the deficiencies of Beaumont's representation. See Docket 148 at 6-48.

         On October 24, 2019, the court issued its order denying Broecker's motion to withdraw her guilty plea. Docket 119. The court found that Broecker's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel directly contradicted statements Broecker made under oath at her change of plea hearing. Id. at 10. The court held that Broecker failed to show a fair and just reason for her to withdraw her guilty plea. Id. at 13.

         On October 28, 2018, Broecker filed the pending motion to compel. Docket 122. On that same day, the court held Broecker's sentencing hearing. Docket 125. The court sentenced Broecker to the mandatory minimum of 240 months of imprisonment. Docket 127. On December 11, 2019, Broecker filed her notice of appeal. Docket 142. On January 14, 2020, Broecker filed the pending motion for indictive ruling. Docket 150.

         DISCUSSION

         Broecker argues that her motion to withdraw her guilty plea does not relieve the United States of its obligation to file a substantial assistance motion. Docket 123 at 5. The United States argues that Broecker's motion should be denied because she violated the terms of the plea agreement. Docket 138 at 8.

         At issue here is whether one of the parties breached the plea agreement supplement. “Plea agreements are essentially contracts and ‘should be interpreted according to general contract principles.' ” United States v. Rendon, 752 F.3d 1130, 1134 (8th Cir. 2014) (quoting United States v. DeWitt, 366 F.3d 667, 669 (8th Cir. 2004)). “A prosecutor's agreement that, in any significant degree, induces the defendant to enter a plea, creates a duty ...


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