October 25, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CTF-21767-13) (Hon. Elizabeth C. Wingo, Magistrate Judge;
Hon. Ann O'Regan Keary, Reviewing Judge)
Benjamin Miller, Public Defender Service, with whom Samia
Fam, Shilpa S. Satoskar, and Fleming Terrell, Public Defender
Service, were on the brief, for appellant.
Y. Sheppard, Assistant Attorney General, with whom Karl A.
Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Todd
S. Kim, Solicitor General at the time the brief was filed,
and Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, were on
the brief, for appellee.
Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, Glickman, Associate Judge,
and Washington, Senior Judge.
GLICKMAN, ASSOCIATE JUDGE
Maddux appeals the denial of his post-sentence motion to
withdraw his guilty plea to one count of driving under the
influence of alcohol or a drug (DUI). To prevail, he must
demonstrate that permitting his plea to stand will result in
Maddux's central claim of such injustice is that the
magistrate judge "supplanted the plea bargaining process
and coerced him to plead guilty by threatening that she would
exercise her discretion to detain him if he stuck by his
decision to go to trial, signaling that his only way to avoid
that penalty would be to resolve the case via a guilty
plea." Mr. Maddux asserts his "plea was
coerced not because of the inherently coercive difference
between detention and release, but because of the judge's
outsized role in creating a coercive situation by sending Mr.
Maddux an unmistakable message about the looming penalty she
would impose if he went to trial as compared to the benefit
she would allow him to enjoy (immediate release) if he took
her advice to enter a guilty plea." As we shall see,
this is all nouveau appellate hyperbole; Mr. Maddux
did not claim such judicial overreaching and coercion in the
proceedings below, and the record does not support that
claim. Furthermore, that Mr. Maddux would not have pleaded
guilty but for his desire not to be detained does not mean
his plea was coerced or involuntary. As Mr. Maddux concedes,
there was no impropriety in his pretrial detention; it was a
result of his continuing drug use and his failure to appear
in court as and when required.
Maddux also argues that the magistrate judge's asserted
involvement with his plea negotiations made his plea
manifestly unjust even if it did not render his plea
involuntary. This claim also was not made in the proceedings
below. It is unpersuasive; the judge did not participate in
the plea negotiations or pressure Mr. Maddux to enter into
them, and she did not advise him to plead guilty or tell him
he would be better off if he did.
reprising the claim he did make below, Mr. Maddux argues that
his guilty plea is manifestly unjust because the judge failed
to ensure it was voluntary by inquiring whether his sole
reason for pleading guilty was to avoid pretrial detention.
We disagree. That Mr. Maddux's reason for pleading guilty
was to avoid detention did not render his plea involuntary or
indicate to the judge the need to probe further after her
complete and thorough inquiry in which he assured her that
his plea was voluntary.
we reject Mr. Maddux's claims and conclude he has not
shown manifest injustice in the acceptance of his guilty
plea, we affirm the denial of his motion to withdraw it.
facts giving rise to the charges against Mr. Maddux, as
proffered by the government when he pleaded guilty, are not
in dispute. Shortly after midnight on November 25, 2013, Mr.
Maddux was involved in a single-car accident in which he
drove off the road and crashed into a fence. The police
officer called to the scene found Mr. Maddux to be confused
and disoriented. The officer noticed a nearly empty bottle of
vodka next to Mr. Maddux on the front passenger seat of the
vehicle. At the police station, Mr. Maddux displayed multiple
"clues of impairment" on three field sobriety
tests. After being informed of the Implied Consent Act, he
refused to submit to chemical testing of his blood, breath,
or urine for alcohol or drug content.
Maddux was charged with DUI and with operating a vehicle
while impaired (OWI). He entered a plea of not guilty and
subsequently consented to trial before a magistrate judge. As
one of the conditions of his release pending trial, he was
ordered to report to the Pretrial Services Agency for drug
testing and treatment. Over the next few months, Mr. Maddux
failed to report for drug testing on several occasions and,
when he did report, he twice tested positive for PCP
(phencyclidine). When Mr. Maddux also failed to appear for a
status hearing on April 11, 2014, which had been scheduled to
monitor his compliance with drug testing, the magistrate
judge issued a bench warrant for his apprehension. The judge
maintained the scheduled trial date of May 12, 2014.
bench warrant was still outstanding when Mr. Maddux showed up
for trial on that date almost two hours late, at 10:45 a.m.
By then the judge had released the District's witnesses
and begun discussing with counsel her intention to "do
this trial as promptly as possible" given the likelihood
that she would need to detain Mr. Maddux to ensure his
presence at trial and the safety of the community. As grounds
to detain him for those reasons, the judge cited the facts
that he had tested positive for PCP, had stopped going for
drug testing, and had missed court dates. Her biggest
concern, as she explained to Mr. Maddux upon his untimely
appearance in court, was that he might still be using PCP, a
drug that causes people to be "dangerous" and
"wildly unreliable" and "does horrible things
to your brain."
judge then decided to step Mr. Maddux back and order him to
submit to an immediate drug test, saying she might be willing
to release him that day if the drug test was negative.
However, said the judge, if Mr. Maddux tested positive, she
expected to "hold [him] until the trial date . . . or
until the case is resolved one way or the other."
point, Mr. Maddux requested and was granted permission to
speak. He told the judge that "the way my household is
set up, I'm a single parent, I have two sons, 19 and 14,
. . . both with learning disabilities and things, I'm all
they have," and so "when it gets down to it, if I
have to sit home to be there with them and not do anything,
then that's what I'll do." In fact, he claimed,
he already was "stay[ing] home every day, basically all
day." The judge told Mr. Maddux that she would hear from
him after they got the results of the drug test, adding that
"[t]his is going to be a whole lot more persuasive to me
when I know it's negative. Because if it's positive
and you're telling me you're sitting home, I'm
going to have a hard time buying that." The judge then
addressed Mr. Maddux's counsel, saying, "In the
meantime, obviously, Mr. Kamara, you're free to talk to
[the government] about whether there's any kind of offer
on the table that might, if [the drug test] is positive,
allow [Mr. Maddux] some ability to return to his
family." The case was then passed to allow for Mr.
Maddux to be tested.
drug test came back positive for PCP. Saying it looked like
she would have to hold Mr. Maddux "to [e]nsure both the
safety of the community and . . . that this trial
occurs," the judge allowed him to be heard before she
decided what to do. In response, Mr. Kamara reiterated Mr.
Maddux's earlier statement that he was caring for his two
teenage children, had no one else to look after them, and
that "if given a chance, he would report to pre-trial
and . . . follow any condition the Court would set." The
judge was unpersuaded. As she observed, Mr. Maddux "was
given that chance and he didn't do it," and while
she generally tried not to detain defendants for less serious
infractions, she could not follow that inclination here given
Mr. Maddux's "ongoing" use of "this
illegal drug that is so dangerous."
concluded that Mr. Maddux would be detained prior to trial,
the judge inquired about "the soonest" date the
trial could be set. When that date appeared to be June 11
(thirty days away), Mr. Kamara interrupted to say that Mr.
Maddux told him the District previously had offered to
"treat him as a first offender," and that
"right now, at this point," Mr. Maddox was willing
to take that offer (which he earlier had rejected) if it was
"still on the table." As part of the deal, Mr.
Kamara added, he would ask that Mr. Maddox be released
proposal turned out to be acceptable to the
government. In exchange for Mr. Maddux's plea of
guilty to DUI, the prosecutor offered to dismiss the OWI
count, waive step back (i.e., pretrial detention), and
recommend the "standard first offender's
treatment" package of a suspended sentence and
judge then placed Mr. Maddux under oath and conducted a plea
colloquy. At the outset, Mr. Maddux stated he understood he
was under oath and could be prosecuted for perjury if he gave
false answers to the judge's questions. He denied having
recently taken any drugs or medicines that might impair his
ability to proceed with the colloquy, and when asked whether
he was "thinking clearly," he answered, "Most
definitely yes, ma'am." Next, the judge informed Mr.
Maddux of the trial and appeal rights he would be giving up
by pleading guilty, which he acknowledged, and she confirmed
his understanding of the plea agreement and the promises made
by the government. Mr. Maddux averred that nobody had
"made any other promises to [him] in order to get [him]
to plead guilty." The judge advised him of the maximum
sentence he could receive for DUI (180 days in jail, a $1,
000 fine, or both, plus the $100 VVCF contribution), and he
confirmed that nobody had promised him what sentence the
judge would impose.
judge then asked the prosecutor to proffer the evidence the
government would present at a trial (which we have summarized
above). In response to the judge's follow-up questions,
Mr. Maddux agreed that the proffer was correct and affirmed
that when he was arrested, he had been driving in the
District of Columbia after consuming alcohol or drugs that
impaired his ability to operate the vehicle.
all this, Mr. Maddux said he still wanted to plead guilty and
had no questions about doing so. The judge then invited him
to take some additional time to think about his decision and
to talk it over with his attorney, Mr. Kamara. "[O]nce
you've pled guilty," the judge emphasized,
"it's relatively hard to withdraw your plea so if
you have any questions, you should . . . try to ask them
now." Mr. Maddux conferred with Mr. Kamara, who then
informed the judge that he had asked Mr. Maddux "whether
he has any question whatsoever about this plea and [Mr.
Maddux] tells me that he does not have any." Mr. Maddux
told the judge that was correct. The judge asked whether he
was "sure." Mr. Maddux said he was. The judge then
asked, "Has anybody forced you or threatened you in
order to get you to plead guilty?" Mr. Maddux answered,
"No, ma'am, no."
Maddux proceeded to plead guilty to DUI. The judge accepted
the plea, finding that "Mr. Maddux does understand, that
he's entering his plea voluntarily, and that there is a
factual basis for the plea." No one disagreed. The judge
released Mr. Maddux pending sentencing. Three weeks later, on
June 2, 2014, the judge sentenced him, as contemplated by the
plea agreement, to 180 days of incarceration, execution of
the sentence suspended, and one year of supervised probation.
months later, on December 10, 2014, Mr. Maddux moved with the
assistance of new counsel to withdraw his guilty plea on
grounds of innocence and coercion. As to his innocence, Mr.
Maddox maintained that he was "not intoxicated"
when he crashed his car into a fence and that the crash
actually was caused by an unspecified "underlying
medical condition." As to the coercion, Mr. Maddux
alleged he was "the sole caretaker of his two
sons," one a minor and the other with "mental
health issues"; they were facing eviction from their
home pursuant to an active writ of restitution issued in a
Landlord and Tenant Branch proceeding; the judge had
clearly stated her intention to hold him for trial; and
"his attorney informed him that the only way he was
going to remain in the community was to enter a guilty
plea." In these circumstances, to avoid being
detained in jail for at least a month, "Mr. Maddux bit
the bullet and entered a plea of guilty - not because he in
fact was guilty," the motion stated, "but because
he needed to be present for his family, to make sure that any
eviction went smoothly, and to ensure the well-being of his
hearing on the motion before the same magistrate judge who
accepted the plea, Mr. Maddux's counsel conceded that the
judge did not abuse her discretion by deciding to detain Mr.
Maddux, but argued that in this "incredibly coercive
situation," the judge should have made a more probing
inquiry during the plea colloquy to be sure Mr. Maddux's
plea was truly voluntary. Counsel did not argue that the
judge improperly had advised or encouraged Mr. Maddux to
plead guilty in order to avoid his pretrial detention.
further argued that Mr. Maddux's claim of innocence was
based on a "substantial defense"; he proffered that
Mr. Maddux had been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea,
which (counsel asserted) leads to "excessive
sleepiness" and "a tendency to fall asleep at
points when someone without it wouldn't." To explain
the vodka bottle on the front passenger seat of Mr.
Maddux's car, his counsel proffered that Mr. Maddux was
an "unlicensed cab driver" and believed the bottle
had been left by one of his customers. Counsel offered no
explanation for Mr. Maddux's reported confusion and