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Henson v. United States

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

August 13, 2015

TAIJUIAN HENSON, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE

Submitted June 4, 2015

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CF2-11055-12). (Hon. Robert I. Richter, Trial Judge).

James Klein, Samia Fam, and Jessica Brand, Public Defender Service, were on the brief for appellant.

Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Elizabeth Trosman, Suzanne Grealy Curt, and Anne Y. Park, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before FISHER and BECKWITH, Associate Judges, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

OPINION

Page 900

Nebeker, Senior Judge :

After pleading guilty to possession with intent to distribute (" PWID" ) cocaine and additional charges, appellant Taijuian Henson moved to withdraw his plea on the basis that his prior appointed counsel, James Williams, Esq., ineffectively failed to apprise him of an earlier, more beneficial, plea offer. That motion was denied by the trial court, and forms the basis of his present appeal. Henson now argues that the trial court improperly weighed Williams' ineffectiveness and erred in concluding that even if Williams had performed deficiently, Henson would not have taken the plea offer, and accordingly had not demonstrated prejudice as required by Strickland.[1] We agree with the trial court's assessment on the prejudice test, and affirm.

I.

Henson was indicted on July 11, 2012, with co-defendants Ricardo Wood and Hashim Bright, on charges of PWID cocaine[2] and possession of drug paraphernalia[3] (" PDP" ). Henson was also separately charged with possession of marijuana.[4] Shortly thereafter, the prosecutor extended the following plea offer to appellant via his initial Criminal Justice Act-appointed counsel, James Williams, Esq.: if appellant pleaded guilty to attempted PWID cocaine, and agreed to waive laboratory analysis of the drugs recovered in the case, the government would dismiss the remaining and greater charges at the time of sentencing, reserve its right to allocute as to whether appellant should be incarcerated pending sentencing, waive any enhancement papers that might apply, and reserve its right to allocute at the time of sentencing. The offer was " wired" to his co-defendants' plea offers, and expired " on the date of the first scheduled status hearing in this matter."

What happened next was then in dispute. According to Henson, Williams never mentioned the plea offer to him. According to the Public Defender Service (" PDS" )-appointed counsel, Williams mentioned the plea offer to Henson, but (i) failed to explain why the government's plea offer was extremely favorable to Henson and (ii) to discuss the offer in conjunction with a conversation on the likelihood of success of a motion to suppress. According to Williams, he told Henson about the plea, and explained the offer's terms, but that Henson was disinterested in taking any plea at that time.

On the date of the first status hearing--August 2, 2012--Williams asked the trial court to set a trial date, thereby implicitly declining the plea offer.

At the status hearing, the discord between Henson and ...


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