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Slytman v. United States

August 15, 2002

GARY VAN SLYTMAN, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (No. F-9679-97) (Hon. Michael L. Rankin, Trial Judge)

Before Steadman and Schwelb, Associate Judges, and Pryor, Senior Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Associate Judge

Argued March 12, 2002

Appellant Gary Van Slytman, a citizen of the Republic of Guyana, pled guilty to several drug- and weapons-related offenses. Appellant subsequently sought to withdraw his guilty pleas on the ground that the trial court did not give him the statutory warning directed to non-citizens mandated by D.C. Code § 16-713 (2001). *fn1 We reverse the trial court's denial of appellant's motion and remand the case with instructions to allow the withdrawal of the plea.

I.

On July 21, 1998, appellant pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, D.C. Code §§ 22-1805a(a), 48-904.01(a)(1); distribution of cocaine, D.C. Code § 48-904.01(a)(1); possession with intent to distribute cocaine, id.; possession of an unregistered firearm, D.C. Code § 7-2502.01(a); and unlawful possession of ammunition, D.C. Code § 7-2506.01(3). *fn2 Before accepting this plea, the trial court addressed appellant personally as required by Super. Ct. Crim. R. 11. As part of its colloquy, the court advised appellant that his conviction could have consequences under immigration law.

COURT: And, of course, I think one of the big issues, I think, for you has been this deportation thing which is out of my hands. *fn3 I'm a judge of law, the judicial process. I don't deal with administrative matters. That's out of my jurisdiction. What the Immigration and Naturalization Service does is totally separate from this court of law. But you will, if you're a citizen of Guyana, you'll have to deal with the Immigration [and] Naturalization Service on these kind of charges. Because I don't have to tell you, in America drugs are a big issue and a political football . . . . So that's beyond my control. And you deal with them after you've dealt with this. You know that?

APPELLANT: Yes.

COURT: You thought about that?

APPELLANT: Yes.

The court subsequently concluded that appellant had voluntarily and knowingly decided to plead guilty and accepted his plea.

Prior to sentencing, the trial court denied appellant's first motion to withdraw his guilty plea. *fn4 The court conducted a sentencing hearing on October 30, 1998 after which it sentenced appellant to one to three years for conspiracy, four to twelve years for distribution, four to twelve years for possession with intent to distribute, all to be served concurrently, and sixty days each for possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of ammunition, to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the other sentences. Appellant then on September 15, 1999, filed a second motion to withdraw his guilty plea. On March 27, 2001, the trial court denied the motion without a hearing, and appellant timely appealed.

II.

The first issue before us is whether the quoted portion of the trial court's pre-plea inquiry satisfied the command of the statute *fn5 that the court "administer the following advisement" to the pleading non-citizen defendant: *fn6 "If you are not a citizen of the United States, you are advised that conviction of the offense for which you have been charged may have the consequences of deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United ...


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