Cite as FSM v. Dores,
1 FSM Intrm. 580 (Pon. 1984)

[1 FSM Intrm. 580]




October 22, 1984


Edward C. King
Chief Justice
Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941

     For the Federated:         Edwin Rauzi
     States of Micronesia      Special Counsel to the
                                               State Attorney General
                                               Office of Attorney General
                                               Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941
     For the Defendant:          Loretta Faymonville
                                               State Public Defender
                                               Office of Public Defender
                                               Kolonia, Pohnpei 96941

[1 FSM Intrm. 581]

EDWARD C. KING, Chief Justice:
     The  government's  notion  for  acceptance  of defendant's previously tendered guilty  plea  requires  the  court  to  decide  whether  the  defendant's  violation of his  plea  agreement  after  the  agreement  was  filed with, and accepted by,  the Court,  but  before  sentencing by  the  Court,  may  serve as the  basis  for  Court punishment  of  the  defendant.   I  conclude  that  it  can and  defendant's  plea  of guilty to the crime of assault with a dangerous weapon is  now  accepted, although  the plea  agreement  provides  for  the  Court  to  defer acceptance of that plea.

Factual Background
     Defendant Andonio Dores and his cousin Benjamin originally  were  charged with  the crimes of assault with a  dangerous  weapon  and  aggravated  assault in  an information  arising  out  of  an  incident  which  occurred on February 15, 1984.

     On March 9, 1984, a  plea  agreement  was  submitted  to the Court whereby the defendants were each to plead  guilty to charges of assault and battery  and disturbing  the peace and all other charges against them would be dropped. That plea agreement was rejected by  the  Court  as inappropriately lenient.

[1 FSM Intrm. 582]

     Subsequently,  on  April  19, 1984, a new stipulated plea  agreement,  signed by Andonio Dores,  was  presented  to  the  Court.   This  too  provided that Andonio Dores would plead guilty  to  a  reduced  charge,  assault  and battery, but he also was to tender a guilty plea to the charge  of  assault  with  a dangerous  weapon.   The agreement  stipulated  that  the  court  was  to  defer acceptance  of  the  assault  with  a  dangerous  weapon  guilty  plea  subject  to certain conditions, one of which was that "the defendant shall abstain from all criminal conduct."

     On  May  8,  the  Court  accepted  the  plea agreement and  Andonio  Dores tendered  pleas  of  guilty  to  the crimes  of  assault  and  battery  and  assault with  a dangerous  weapon.   The former plea was accepted and the Court deferred  acceptance  of  the  latter.   Sentencing was set for July 3.

     In the meantime, on May 13, 1984, Andonio Dores assaulted another person. For that, he was convicted of assault and battery by the Ponape State Court and sentenced to five months in jail on June 20.

     When  this  Court  sentenced  Andonio Dores on July  3 for  the  February  15, 1984  attack,  the  government  brought  to  the   Court's  attention  the  conviction of

[1 FSM Intrm. 583]

Andonio  Dores  for  the  May  13  assault  but  made  no request  for  the  Court to  take  action  concerning  the plea  for  assault  with  a  dangerous weapon. The  Court made no mention of the May 13 incident  in  its  sentence but stated during the hearing that it would await any initiative by the government.

     The government has now moved the Court to accept defendant's  guilty  plea for  the charge of assault with  a dangerous weapon.   The ground for the motion is  that  the May 13 assault by the defendant was in violation of Andonio Dores' plea  agreement  commitment,  made  April  17,  1984  and accepted by the Court on May 8, to abstain from all criminal conduct.

     The  defendant  has  moved  to  dismiss  the government's  motion, contending  that  the  conditions  were not in effect until  this  Court's  sentencing order  of  July  3, and that the Court is therefore without power  to  find  that  the conditions  were  violated  by  the defendant's prior act.

Legal Analysis
     In  support  of  his  motion,  the  defendant  has  pointed  to  the  reasoning  in United States v. Hull,  413  F. Supp. 135 (E.D. Tenn. 1976).  In Hull the defendant, unknown to  the  government  and  the  court,  had  committed

[1 FSM Intrm. 584]

the  crime  of  murder  some  two  years  before  he  was sentenced  for  violation of  the income  tax  laws.   For the income tax crime,  Hull  was  sentenced  only to 75  days  in  jail  with  some  nine  and  one-half  months suspended.  He was placed on probation for 18 months.

     When the earlier  murder  by  Hull  came  to  light,  the  court  considered whether that  crime  could  serve  as  a  basis  for  revocation  of  probation. That court  thought  it  crucial  that  the  murder  had  occurred  prior to the court's acceptance of the plea agreement.   The earlier  murder  was  a  factor  which, if known,  should have been considered in determining whether the plea agreement  would  be  accepted.   The court concluded that  to revoke probation, granted  under  a  plea  agreement,  for a crime already committed when the agreement was accepted, would be essentially like  refusing  to  accept  the plea agreement yet issuing a harsh sentence without permitting the defendant to withdraw  his  guilty  plea.  The  court  decided  that  this  would  be  unfair  and possibly beyond its authority under Rule 11.

     The situation here is quite different.   There  are  four  principal  events  in  a plea  and  sentencing arrangement.  First is the plea agreement between the government  and  the  defendant.  Second  is  court

[1 FSM Intrm. 585]

acceptance of the plea  agreement.  Third  is  the  plea  itself  and  fourth  is imposition of sentence.  In Hull, the "other crime" had occurred before any of those four events  occurred.   By  way of contrast, the "other" crime  in  this  case had  not  occurred  prior  to  the  plea  agreement  but  instead  was  committed by  Andonio  Dores after three  of  the  four  principal  plea  events  were completed.   Mr. Dores committed his crime after he had agreed to abstain  from violating  any  law,  after  the  Court has expressly accepted the agreement and after the guilty plea had been tendered.

     Moreover, Court  acceptance  was  more  significant  here  than  in  the usual case because the plea agreement  was submitted under Rule 11(e)(1)(c)  of  our Rules  of  Criminal  Procedure,  which  calls  for implementation of  the terms of the agreement by  the  Court  if  the  court  accepts the agreement.  When the Court accepted, the defendant, the prosecution and the Court had all bound themselves  to  carry  out  the  terms  of  the  plea agreement.   From  that  point on,  Andonio  Dores  was  entitled  to  the benefit of the bargain reflected in his plea agreement.  Fairness demands that the government likewise  be  entitled  to enforce  his  promises.  Certainly  there  can  be  no  sympathy  for  this defendant

[1 FSM Intrm. 586]

who committed his next crime only  five  days  after  the Court  accepted  his promise  to abstain from committing crimes.

     To hold that the defendant  could,  with  impunity, carry  out  an  act  from which he had agreed to abstain in  a plea agreement filed with the  Court  and accepted  by  the  Court  would  be  an  unwarranted  invitation to criminal defendants to search for and exploit loopholes.

     I  note  that  in  a  somewhat  parallel  area, revocation of probation before the probation actually started,  other  courts  have  had  little  difficulty  in  rejecting the argument  that  it  is  impossible  then  to  violate  conditions  of  probation because  those  conditions  become  effective  only  when  the  probation starts. Courts have uniformly held that sound policy requires  that  they  be  able  to revoke  probation  for  a defendant's offense committed before the sentence commences.   Lowery v. Estella,  696  F.2d  333  (5th  Cir. 1983);  United States v. Dozier,  543  F.  Supp.  880,  889 (D. La. 1982) (citing United States v. Ross, 503  F.2d  940 (5th Cir. 1974)).

     Considerations  of  fairness  and  mutuality,  as  well

[1 FSM Intrm. 587]

as  sound  policy,  require  that  a  defendant  who  enters into a written plea agreement be  subject  to  punishment  when he violates the terms of his agreement.

     The  government's  motion  is  granted.   Based  upon  Andonio Dores's May 13, 19134 assault and battery, a violation  of  the  April  19  plea  agreement accepted  on  May  8  is  declared,  and  the  Court  accepts  the defendant's May 8 plea of guilty  to  the  crime  of assault with a dangerous weapon.

     The Justice Ombudsman is instructed to prepare a presentence  report  to  be distributed to  the  parties  on  or before November 12.  Sentencing is set for Friday, November 16, 1984 at 9 a.m.

     So ordered the 22nd day of October, 1984.

                                                                                                          /s/ Edward C. King
Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the
Federated States of

[1 FSM Intrm. 588]

     Entered this 25th day, of October, 1984.

                                                                                               /s/ Emeliana J. Musrasrik
                                                                                                        Chief Clerk of Court
Supreme Court of the
Federated States of