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United States of America v. Rico Freeman
Case Number: 19-2432
Judge: RICHARD J. SULLIVAN
Court: United States Court of Appeals
For the Second Circuit
On appeal from The United States District Court
for the Western District of New York
Plaintiff's Attorney: MONICA J. RICHARDS, Assistant United
States Attorney, for Trini E. Ross, United
States Attorney for the Western District
of New York
New York, NY - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant charged with one count of conspiring to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and 280 or more grams of cocaine base.
Defendant-Appellant Rico Freeman appeals from a judgment of conviction
entered in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York
(Vilardo, J.) following his guilty plea to one count of conspiring to distribute five
or more kilograms of cocaine and 280 or more grams of cocaine base in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Prior to sentencing, Freeman moved to withdraw his guilty plea
on several grounds, including that the district court misstated the applicable
mandatory minimum term of supervised release in violation of Rule 11 of the
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The district court denied the motion, finding
that the error was harmless in light of the sentencing ranges that Freeman
ultimately faced. On appeal, Freeman argues that the Rule 11 error was not
harmless, that his plea was not knowing or voluntary, and that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel.
Because both parties wrongly assume that Freeman, as the defendant, bears
the ultimate burden of persuasion to show that the Rule 11 error affected his
substantial rights, we clarify that where a defendant moved to withdraw a guilty
plea before sentencing based on a Rule 11 error, it is the government’s burden on
appeal to show that such error was harmless. This clarification is consistent with
the Supreme Court’s guidance in United States v. Vonn, 535 U.S. 55 (2002), which
explains that a preserved challenge to a Rule 11 error is subject to harmless error
review on appeal and that the government bears the burden of showing that the
error had no effect on the defendant’s substantial rights.
While this framework is more defendant-friendly than what the parties
argue in their briefs, we nevertheless find that Freeman’s substantial rights were
not violated by the Rule 11 error in his plea agreement and colloquy and therefore
conclude that the error was harmless. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm
the district court’s judgment.
In August 2017, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Freeman with
one count of conspiracy to distribute five or more kilograms of cocaine and 280 or
more grams of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a), 841(b)(1)(A), and
846. The government subsequently filed an information pursuant to 21 U.S.C.
§ 851 to establish Freeman’s prior felony drug conviction, which had the effect of
raising Freeman’s mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from 10 to 20 years
and his mandatory minimum term of supervised release from five to 10 years.
In May 2018, Freeman pleaded guilty to the indictment pursuant to a plea
agreement with the government. The plea agreement accurately reflected that
Freeman faced a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a
maximum term of imprisonment of life, and that he faced a maximum term of
supervised release of life. The agreement incorrectly stated, however, that
Freeman was subject to a statutorily prescribed mandatory minimum term of five,
rather than 10, years of supervised release. The agreement also provided that the
Guidelines range for supervised release was five years to life, when in fact the
correct Guidelines range was 10 years to life.
The error in the agreement carried over to Freeman’s plea allocution. While
the district court accurately stated both the minimum and maximum terms of
imprisonment that Freeman faced, it wrongly stated that the mandatory minimum
term of supervised release was five years. After this misstatement, however, the
district court correctly told Freeman that it could sentence him to a life term of
supervised release, and Freeman acknowledged that he understood.
In early August, the Probation Department filed a Presentence Investigation
Report (“PSR”) in preparation for sentencing. Contrary to the plea agreement, the
PSR accurately stated that Freeman faced a mandatory minimum term of
supervised release of 10 years. On September 4, 2018, Freeman filed a statement
affirming that he had no objection to the PSR’s factual or legal findings. At that
time, Freeman made no mention of the incorrect mandatory minimum term of
supervised release referenced in the plea agreement and during the plea colloquy,
and made no attempt to withdraw his plea.
On September 10, 2018 – the date that sentencing was scheduled to occur –
the district court acknowledged the plea agreement’s error regarding the
minimum supervised release term. The court adjourned sentencing to allow
counsel to speak with Freeman. Three days later, at a status conference, Freeman
requested an opportunity to withdraw his plea. According to counsel, Freeman
had indicated “that he thinks that the legal basis [for withdrawal] is ineffective
assistance of counsel, namely that [counsel] should have caught the error that the
[c]ourt found” concerning the mandatory term of supervised release, as well as a
miscalculation regarding Freeman’s criminal history. App’x at 78. The district
court stated that it did not “see any basis for concluding . . . that there was any
ineffective assistance,” noting that although correction of the Rule 11 error
“changes the mandatory minimum in terms of supervised release, it probably
wouldn’t have changed the term of supervised release at all in terms of the
sentence that [the court] would have imposed.” Id. at 81. Nevertheless, the district
court told Freeman that he could file a motion to withdraw his plea, and it
ultimately appointed new counsel to help him file that motion and advise him on
whether previous counsel had been ineffective.
After seeking and receiving multiple extensions of time, Freeman moved to
withdraw his plea on February 18, 2019. He insisted that he had “relied in part on
the terms of the plea agreement,” including the mistake of law regarding the
mandatory minimum term of supervised release, in deciding to plead guilty. Id.
at 123. He also asserted a “claim of innocence” and argued that he “felt coerced
into taking a plea to help secure [his girlfriend’s] release [from custody] and also
help her to avoid incarceration upon the resolution of her case.” Id. at 113–18.
The government opposed the motion, arguing that the Rule 11 error did not
constitute a “fair and just” reason to permit withdrawal of Freeman’s plea. Id. at
144. The government argued that the misstatement of the mandatory minimum
term of supervised release constituted merely harmless error in light of the
maximum penalties Freeman knew that he faced. Id. at 144–45 (discussing the
Seventh Circuit’s holding in United States v. Saenz, 969 F.2d 294 (7th Cir. 1992), that
a misstatement of the minimum mandatory term of supervised release was
harmless where the maximum term was life). Further, the government noted that
the length of Freeman’s total sentence was ultimately unchanged because the
intervening passage of the First Step Act in December 2018 reduced his mandatory
minimum term of imprisonment from 20 to 15 years, resulting in a combined
mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years – the same total set forth in the plea
agreement, though with a different distribution among the component parts.1
1 The First Step Act amended 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) to lower the mandatory minimum sentence
from 20 years to 15 years for recidivists who commit certain drug offenses. Pub. L. No. 115-391,
§ 401(c), 132 Stat. 5194, 5221 (2018).
At oral argument on Freeman’s motion, the district court sought to
understand the impact of the Rule 11 error on Freeman’s plea. Citing the effect of
the First Step Act in reducing Freeman’s mandatory minimum term of
imprisonment, the court asked defense counsel how the misstatement of the
mandatory minimum term of supervised release “would have made a material
difference to [Freeman] in deciding whether to plead guilty[.]” App’x at 156.
Freeman’s counsel – who was appointed for the purpose of making the motion to
withdraw – responded, “I don’t know that it would, Judge, but we don’t know
A few weeks later, the district court denied Freeman’s motion to withdraw
his guilty plea. First, the court found that Freeman’s own sworn statements during
his plea colloquy – including his admission that he knew that the narcotics
conspiracy to which he was pleading guilty involved at least five kilograms of
cocaine and 280 grams of cocaine base – contradicted his claim of legal innocence.
Second, the district court found that Freeman’s sworn responses to the court’s
various questions at his plea colloquy also refuted any argument that he had been
coerced into pleading guilty against his will.
Finally, the court considered Freeman’s argument that the misstatement of
the mandatory minimum term of supervised release in his plea agreement and
during the plea colloquy rendered his plea not knowing and voluntary and thus
constituted a fair and just reason for withdrawal. The court’s analysis ultimately
focused on whether that mistake was harmless. Relying on the Seventh Circuit’s
holding in Saenz, the district court first noted that the 10-year mandatory
minimum supervised release term was well within the articulated range of five
years to life and therefore, at the time of his plea, Freeman “was fully aware that
he could be sentenced to ten years of supervised release or more.” Id. at 184.
The district court also agreed with the government that because the First
Step Act reduced Freeman’s mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from 20
to 15 years, “the combined total [mandatory] sentence of imprisonment and
supervised release” remained unchanged. Id. at 185 (quoting United States v.
Andrades, 169 F.3d 131, 134 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Indeed, the district court observed that the error in the plea agreement and Rule
11 colloquy had the fortuitous effect of delaying Freeman’s sentencing and
enabling him to take advantage of the more favorable terms set forth in the First
Step Act.2 The court saw “no reasonable argument that Freem[a]n would not have
2 As noted above, the First Step Act reduced by five years the mandatory minimum sentence for
recidivists who commit certain drug offenses. For offenses committed before the First Step Act’s
pleaded guilty if he knew then what he knows now.” Id. at 186. The district court
thus agreed with the government, concluding that the error in the plea agreement
was “no more than ‘a minor and technical violation of Rule 11 which amounts to
harmless error,’” and that “there [was] no fair and just reason to allow Freeman to
withdraw his guilty plea.” Id. (quoting Andrades, 169 F.3d at 133).
On June 14, 2019, the district court sentenced Freeman to 15 years’
imprisonment and 10 years’ supervised release, the minimum total sentence
allowed by law. Freeman timely appealed.
On appeal, Freeman argues that the district court should have granted his
motion to withdraw his guilty plea. He principally contends that the district
court’s misstatement of the mandatory minimum term of his supervised release
was not harmless. He further asserts that this Rule 11 error – in tandem with other
purported errors relating to the factual basis for the plea and his allegation that the
government threatened to prosecute his girlfriend for witness tampering if he did
enactment, the reduced mandatory minimum sentence applies only “if a sentence for the offense
has not been imposed as of such date of enactment.” Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 401(c), 132 Stat. 5194,
5221 (2018). Because the district court pointed out the Rule 11 error to Freeman on the day that
he was originally to be sentenced, and then gave him substantial time to consider withdrawing
his plea, the court did not impose Freeman’s sentence until after the Act had taken effect.
not plead guilty – prevented him from making a knowing and voluntary guilty
plea. Finally, Freeman argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Before we address the merits of these arguments, we must first clarify the
applicable framework and standard of review on appeal where a defendant asserts
a Rule 11 error.
A. Where the defendant identified a Rule 11 error before sentencing, the
government bears the burden on appeal of showing that the error is harmless.
Prior to sentencing, Freeman moved to withdraw his plea based on the Rule
11 error identified by the district court, thereby preserving his challenge on appeal.
The parties presume to apply different standards of appellate review to this
challenge. The government argues that we should apply an abuse of discretion
standard and place the burden of persuasion on Freeman. For his part, Freeman
likewise places the burden of persuasion on himself but argues for a harmless error
standard. A closer look at our precedent establishes that both parties’ proposed
standards are incorrect.
Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure “sets forth requirements
for a plea allocution and ‘is designed to ensure that a defendant’s plea of guilty is
a voluntary and intelligent choice among the alternative courses of action open to
the defendant.’” Andrades, 169 F.3d at 133 (citation omitted). Rule 11(d) provides
that “[a] defendant may withdraw a plea of guilty or nolo contendere . . . after the
court accepts the plea, but before it imposes sentence if,” as relevant here, “the
defendant can show a fair and just reason for requesting the withdrawal.”
Nevertheless, while a district court’s failure to correctly provide the defendant
with all the information required by Rule 11 may constitute a “fair and just reason”
to request the withdrawal of a guilty plea, Rule 11(h) makes clear that such a
failure does not automatically require return of a defendant’s guilty plea. Rather,
“[a] variance from the requirements of” Rule 11 may be disregarded as harmless
error when it “does not affect substantial rights.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(h); see United
States v. Ferrara, 954 F.2d 103, 106 (2d Cir. 1992) (explaining that “[s]ection (h) was
added to Rule 11 . . . to make clear that guilty pleas ‘should not be overturned,
even on direct appeal, when there has been a minor and technical violation of Rule
11 which amounts to harmless error’” (citation omitted)).
It is true that, generally, we review a district court’s denial of a motion to
withdraw a guilty plea for abuse of discretion. See United States v. Adams, 448 F.3d
492, 498 (2d Cir. 2006). But that is not the case when the motion to withdraw is
based on an alleged failure to provide sufficient Rule 11(b) warnings prior to the
plea. As the Supreme Court explained in United States v. Vonn, when a reviewing
court considers a preserved challenge to a Rule 11 error, the government bears the
burden of proving that the error was harmless. 535 U.S. at 58. And since the Vonn
harmless error standard applies on appeal when a defendant has objected in
district court, it follows logically that it must also apply when the defendant
moved to withdraw his guilty plea based on an alleged Rule 11 violation. See
United States v. Yang Chia Tien, 720 F.3d 464, 469 (2d Cir. 2013) (reviewing for
harmlessness where defendant raised a Rule 11 argument in a pro se motion to
withdraw his plea in district court); United States v. Gonzalez, 420 F.3d 111, 131 (2d
Cir. 2005) (stating that although district courts “enjoy considerable discretion in
ruling on motions to withdraw guilty pleas,” such motions must be granted “when
a defendant was not provided with the ‘mix of information’ required by Rule 11
unless, of course, the error can be deemed harmless because it would not have
affected the defendant’s decision to plead guilty” (citation omitted)).
To be sure, our past decisions reviewing the denial of a defendant’s motion
to withdraw based on an alleged Rule 11 error have not always been consistent or
a model of clarity. Compare United States v. Harrington, 354 F.3d 178, 183–84 (2d
Cir. 2004) (stating, when reviewing the denial of a defendant’s motion to withdraw
based on a Rule 11 error, that “the defendant has the burden of showing that a
district court’s error had an effect on his decision to plead guilty” (internal
quotation marks, citation, and alterations omitted)), with Yang Chia Tien, 720 F.3d
at 469, and United States v. McCutcheon, 765 F. App’x 507, 510 n.1 (2d Cir. 2019)
(explaining that defendant “preserved his Rule 11(b)(2) challenge by moving to
withdraw his plea” in part based on Rule 11 error, so the Court would review that
challenge for harmless error, placing the burden of persuasion on the
government). Freeman’s confusion in the present case likely stems from his
reliance on Harrington, a decision that appears to have overlooked Vonn (handed
down two years earlier) and instead applied a conflicting standard from a preVonn Second Circuit case, United States v. Harrison, 241 F.3d 289, 293 (2d Cir. 2001).
Nevertheless, after Harrington adopted the standard from Harrison – a standard
clearly at odds with Vonn – a subsequent Supreme Court case, United States v.
Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S. 74, 81 n.7 (2004), reiterated the Vonn standard and thus
cast doubt on Harrington’s deviation from prior Supreme Court precedent.
Our more recent case law follows the standard reiterated in Dominguez
Benitez. See, e.g., Yang Chia Tien, 720 F.3d at 469 (citing Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S.
at 81 n.7); see also United States v. Johnson, 850 F.3d 515, 522 (2d Cir. 2017) (citing the
relevant standard from Yang Chia Tien); United States v. Vaval, 404 F.3d 144, 151 n.3
(2d Cir. 2005). We therefore conclude that intervening Supreme Court and Second
Circuit precedent requires us to reject the standard applied in Harrington. See
Finkel v. Stratton Corp., 962 F.2d 169, 174–75 (2d Cir. 1992) (recognizing that
generally, “one panel of this court may not overrule the decision of a prior panel,”
but “that [this] rule does not apply where an intervening Supreme Court decision
casts doubt on the prior ruling”).
Whatever the source of the past confusion, we now make clear that where a
defendant identified a Rule 11 error in moving to withdraw his guilty plea below,
the government bears the burden on appeal of showing, based on the entire record,
that the error did not affect the defendant’s substantial rights. See Johnson, 850 F.3d
at 522 (explaining that where defendant raised a Rule 11 violation in district court,
the government “must prove that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable
doubt” (internal quotation marks omitted)); Yang Chia Tien, 720 F.3d at 469; see also
Dominguez Benitez, 542 U.S. at 80 (noting that reviewing courts must consult the
whole record when considering the effect of a Rule 11 error on substantial rights).
B. The government has proven that, in light of the entire record, the Rule 11
error did not affect Freeman’s substantial rights.
Having clarified the applicable standard, we now turn to Freeman’s plea.
The district court in this case determined that even if Freeman had been informed
of the correct mandatory minimum term of supervised release, he still would have
pleaded guilty. We reach the same conclusion and find that the government has
carried its burden of showing that the district court’s misstatement of Freeman’s
mandatory minimum term of supervised release was harmless.
As the government points out in its brief, Freeman expressly acknowledged
before his guilty plea that he faced a potential life term of supervised release.
Moreover, prior to sentencing, Freeman voiced no objection to the PSR, which
correctly stated that he faced a mandatory minimum term of supervised release of
10 years and a maximum term of supervised release of life. And while Freeman
now maintains that the district court’s misstatement of his mandatory minimum
term of supervised release “strong[ly] induce[d]” his guilty plea, Freeman Br. at
41 (citation omitted), statements on the record by Freeman’s counsel – and
Freeman himself – belie Freeman’s arguments about the significance of the Rule
11 error. Indeed, at oral argument on Freeman’s motion to withdraw, his counsel
said that he did not know if the Rule 11 error “made a material difference” to
Freeman’s plea decision. App’x at 156. And at the time of Freeman’s sentencing,
after the district court denied his motion to withdraw his plea, Freeman personally
addressed the court and asserted that he decided to plead guilty not because of the
court’s misstatement of the mandatory minimum term of supervised release, but
because of the government’s purported threats to prosecute his girlfriend. As
Freeman stated before the district court:
I just want it [to] be known on the record that if my
child’s mother would have never got arrested, which the
case is dismissed now because I signed that plea
agreement, I had full intentions of going to trial knowing
that [the government] would never have proved 5
kilograms or 280 grams of cocaine base.
Id. at 198.
These statements on the record, along with the fact that Freeman fully
understood that he faced a potential life term of supervised release at the time of
his plea and made no objections to the corrected statement of his mandatory
minimum term of supervised release when it appeared in the PSR, demonstrate
beyond a reasonable doubt that Freeman would have entered his plea regardless
of the Rule 11 error. Accordingly, based on the record before us, we find that the
district court’s misstatement as to the mandatory minimum term of supervised
release did not affect Freeman’s substantial rights, see Vonn, 535 U.S. at 58, 74, and
that the error was therefore harmless.
C. Freeman’s additional challenges to the voluntariness of his plea are directly
contradicted by the record.
Freeman raises additional arguments to suggest that his plea was
involuntary, including assertions that (1) he was confused as to the factual basis
for the drug quantities attributable to him, (2) he is innocent of the crime of which
he was convicted, and (3) the government coerced his plea by threatening to
prosecute his girlfriend. To the extent that Freeman’s additional challenges are
unrelated to any Rule 11 error and are offered as “independent ground[s]” to
justify his attempt to withdraw his plea, Freeman Br. at 63, we review those
challenges under an abuse of discretion standard and review any related findings
of fact for clear error. See United States v. Rivernider, 828 F.3d 91, 104 (2d Cir. 2016);
see also United States v. Peterson, 248 F.3d 79, 82 (2d Cir. 2001) (explaining that a
district court abuses its discretion “if it base[s] its ruling on an erroneous view of
the law or a clearly erroneous assessment of the evidence” (quoting United States
v. Doe, 79 F.3d 1309, 1319–20 (2d Cir. 1996))).
Freeman asserts that the record reflects “confusion” as to whether he
“knowingly and voluntarily admitted to the drug quantity claimed by the
government at the plea proceeding” because the government was vague in
representing to the district court how it would prove the drug amounts. Freeman
Br. at 63. But the record from Freeman’s plea proceeding clearly refutes his
contention that the answers he gave – under oath – concerning the drug amounts
involved in his offense were “simply acknowledg[ments] that the [g]overnment
had claimed it would offer proof of that amount at trial.” Freeman Br. at 60.
At the plea proceeding, the district court asked Freeman a series of clear and
direct questions to which he responded affirmatively before admitting his guilt.
Among other things, the court asked Freeman whether he was “pleading guilty
because [he] did the things that the plea agreement sa[id he] did and that are
charged in the indictment,” App’x at 51, to which Freeman replied, “Yes,” id. The
court then asked Freeman whether “at least 5 kilograms of cocaine [were]
reasonably foreseeable to [him] as being within the scope” of his agreement to
“commit a controlled substance felony offense.” Id. at 51–52. Freeman replied,
“Yes.” Id. at 52. Finally, the court asked Freeman whether “at least 280 grams of
cocaine base [were] reasonably foreseeable to [him] as being within the scope” of
that same agreement. Id. Once again, Freeman said, “Yes.” Id.
We find no ambiguity in the court’s questions or in Freeman’s answers,
which clearly supported the district court’s decision to accept Freeman’s guilty
plea. These admissions during Freeman’s plea proceeding create “a formidable
barrier” to challenging the validity of his plea, Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74
(1977), and Freeman’s “bald statements that simply contradict what he said at his
plea allocution are not sufficient grounds to withdraw the guilty plea” and may
be rejected summarily, United States v. Torres, 129 F.3d 710, 715 (2d Cir. 1997). In
short, the record reflects no confusion as to the factual basis of Freeman’s plea and
undermines any assertion of actual innocence by Freeman on appeal.
Freeman’s argument that the government coerced his plea by arresting and
prosecuting the mother of his child for witness tampering is equally unpersuasive.
As reflected in the record, Freeman made sworn statements during his colloquy
affirming that he was pleading guilty “voluntarily and of [his] own free will,”
without the pressure of any force or threat. App’x at 36 (attesting that no one had
“attempted in any way to threaten [him], threaten a family member, [or] threaten
anyone close to [him] to make [him] plead guilty”). Freeman offers no evidence
to counter these statements, which again “carry a strong presumption of verity.”
Blackledge, 431 U.S. at 74. We therefore have no reason to discount them in favor
of Freeman’s subsequent unsupported allegations.
D. Freeman’s ineffective assistance of counsel challenge fails because he was
not prejudiced by the errors that he alleges.
Finally, Freeman challenges his plea on the grounds that he received
ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, Freeman asserts that his retained
counsel’s performance was deficient because counsel (1) failed to identify and
correct the Rule 11 error in Freeman’s plea agreement and allocution, and (2)
“failed to ascertain that Freeman was overcharged in the [i]ndictment because the
government’s evidence did not support the allegation that he distributed five
kilograms or more of cocaine and 280 grams or more of cocaine base.” Freeman
Br. at 31. These arguments, which are really just variations on the arguments
discussed above, fail upon review of the record.
When “a defendant is represented by counsel during the plea process and
enters his plea upon the advice of counsel, the voluntariness of the plea depends
on whether counsel’s advice ‘was within the range of competence demanded of
attorneys in criminal cases.’” Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 56 (1985) (citation
omitted). The two-pronged standard for evaluating ineffective assistance claims
requires Freeman to “show that [his] counsel’s representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness,” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688
(1984), and that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different,” id.
at 694. Of course, we need not consider the Strickland components “in the same
order or even . . . address both components of the inquiry if the defendant makes
an insufficient showing on one.” Id. at 697. In other words, we are not required
to “determine whether counsel’s performance was deficient before examining the
prejudice suffered by the defendant as a result of the alleged deficiencies.” Id.
When considering prejudice in the plea context, we “inquire into the record as a
whole to determine whether a reasonable probability exists that[,] absent counsel’s
error,” the defendant “would have proceeded to trial rather than plead guilty.”
United States v. Arteca, 411 F.3d 315, 321 (2d Cir. 2005).
With respect to Freeman’s ineffective assistance claim based on the Rule 11
error, we conclude that, regardless of whether his counsel committed error in
failing to raise that issue before his plea, Freeman cannot now show that he was
prejudiced by that failure. Because we have already considered the entire record
and found that the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that
Freeman would still have pleaded guilty even if counsel had identified the Rule
11 error, Freeman cannot possibly establish that he was prejudiced by his counsel’s
Similarly, Freeman’s own sworn statements contradict his current insistence
that his lawyer should have known that the indictment overstated the drug
quantities attributable to him. During his guilty plea, Freeman expressly
acknowledged that more than five kilograms of cocaine and 280 grams of cocaine
base were “reasonably foreseeable to [him] as being within the scope” of his
agreement to “commit a controlled substance felony offense.” App’x at 51–52.
While Freeman now questions the government’s ability to prove those amounts
had he gone to trial, he does not contend that his sworn statements were false, or
that his lawyer knew them to be false, at the time of his guilty plea. See Torres, 129
F.3d at 715 (affirming denial of motion to withdraw guilty plea where defendant’s
“unequivocal admissions under oath contradict[ed] his unsupported assertions of
pressure”). On this record, Freeman has failed to establish that his counsel’s
representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, or that he was
prejudiced by it. That failure is fatal to his ineffective assistance argument.3
Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.