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Watkins v. United States

February 11, 1999

MICHAEL T. WATKINS, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Terry and Steadman, Associate Judges, and Gallagher, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gallagher, Senior Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Truman A. Morrison III, Trial Judge)

Submitted January 21, 199

Appellant Michael T. Watkins pled guilty to assault on a police officer, D.C. Code § 22-505 (a) (1996 Repl.), and receiving stolen property, D.C. Code § 22-3832 (a) (1996 Repl.). After sentencing, Watkins sent two handwritten documents to the Superior Court Judge, requesting a withdrawal of his guilty pleas. The Judge denied this request. Watkins appeals, claiming: (1) the denial of the request to withdraw the guilty plea was an abuse of discretion; (2) the trial court erred in denying the request without a hearing; and (3) he could not be convicted of assault on a police officer in the District of Columbia when the police officer was from Arlington County, Virginia. We disagree and affirm.

I.

Watkins was initially charged with destroying property, D.C. Code § 22-403 (1996 Repl.), second degree burglary, D.C. Code § 22-1801 (b) (1996 Repl.), first degree theft, D.C. Code §§ 22-3811, -3812 (a) (1996 Repl.), and receiving stolen property, D.C. Code § 22-3832 (a). All of these charges stemmed from Watkins' conduct in the District of Columbia on October 5, 1994. On November 9, 1994, Watkins pled not guilty to all of these counts.

On January 5, 1995, Watkins was brought before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in connection with a plea bargain arrangement. Watkins agreed to plead guilty to assault on a police officer and receiving stolen property. In return, the government would drop all other pending charges against Watkins, and agree not to pursue any further charges in connection with Watkins' conduct within the District of Columbia on October 5, 1994.

The court questioned Watkins regarding his guilty pleas. First, the court informed Watkins of the court's understanding of the plea bargain. The court then asked Watkins if he had consulted with his attorney, and if he had been given enough time to make his decision regarding his guilty pleas. Finally, the court asked if Watkins was satisfied with his attorney's services. To this, Watkins responded affirmatively.

The government then proceeded to inform both the court and Watkins what evidence would have been presented had there been a trial. With respect to the charge of assault on a police officer, the government represented that on October 5, 1994, Arlington County Police began chasing Watkins, who was driving a brown and white van, based on a report that Watkins was fleeing from a burglary scene in Virginia. Watkins drove across the Memorial Bridge into the District of Columbia, with the Arlington police following him. At that time, United States Park Police also began to chase Watkins.

Watkins drove his van onto the Southeast Freeway and exited at 6th Street. After making several high speed turns, Watkins sped down an alley travelling toward 7th Street. Arlington County Police Lieutenant Mike Fortune parked his marked police cruiser on 7th Street, near the point where the alley intersected with 7th Street. Lieutenant Fortune was wearing his police uniform. Watkins made eye contact with Lieutenant Fortune and made a hard right turn. The van struck a corner of the police cruiser and hit Lieutenant Fortune's arm. Lieutenant Fortune was knocked backward and fell to the ground. When asked by the Judge whether he did attempt to hit the officer, Watkins replied, "Yeah, I believe, I did because the police officer was in the path of me getting by."

With respect to the charge of receiving stolen property, the government represented that on March 26, 1994, a resident of the District of Columbia returned to his home at 649 A Street, N.E., to find the lock on his back door had been picked, and several items of property were missing. On March 25, 1994, a police officer encountered a person carrying several items, including a fax machine and a video cassette recorder. The person identified himself as Melvin Wilson. The property was identified as that stolen from 649 A Street. The person carrying the property was not arrested. Later, the officer who encountered this person identified him from a photo array as being Watkins. The government represented that Watkins had no right or permission to possess the property that had been recovered.

The court then asked Watkins if these representations were true. Watkins responded affirmatively. The court then informed Watkins that he had a right to have his case presented to a grand jury. Watkins responded that he waived that right. The court then informed Watkins that he had a right to a jury trial, and that if there was a jury trial, the government would have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Watkins responded that he understood this. The court then informed Watkins that the longest sentence that he could receive for guilty pleas would be six years. The court then asked ...


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