United States v. Gardner (5th Cir. October 2021)

The Federal Docket

October 19, 2021

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel – A defendant who alleged that he would not have entered a guilty plea but for his former counsel’s advice that he can only file suppression motions after the plea sufficiently stated facts that, if proven, would demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel.

Antonio Maurice Gardner was indicted on one count of possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). Three months later, he pleaded guilty to the charge without a plea agreement.  Before sentencing, however, Gardner moved pro se for new appointed counsel, claiming that his previous counsel had misled him on several points, including the availability of any footage of the search leading to his arrest. The district court granted Gardener’s request and appointed new counsel.

Gardner’s new counsel filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that it was entered involuntarily due to his former counsel’s ineffectiveness. Gardner asserted that he had always wanted to file a motion to suppress in his case, but his former counsel had told him that the time for such motions was after his plea. The district court denied the motion for plea-withdrawal without an evidentiary hearing and sentenced Gardner.

Reviewing the case for an abuse of discretion, the Fifth Circuit vacate the denial of the plea-withdrawal motion and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the matter. Gardner’s motion alleged sufficient facts which, if proven, would demonstrate ineffective assistance of counsel and thus justify relief.

Appeal from the Western District of Texas
Opinion by Higginbotham, joined by Stewart and Wilson

Click here to read the opinion

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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