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United States v. Harden

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 14, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STACY LEE HARDEN, JR., Defendant-Appellant

Argued: April 1, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. No. 3:11-cr-30238-DRH-1 -- David R. Herndon, Chief Judge.

For United States of America, United States of America: Andrew Simonson, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Criminal Division, Fairview Heights, IL.

For Stacy Lee Harden, Jr., Defendant - Appellant: Johanna M. Christiansen, Attorney, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Peoria, IL; Peter W. Henderson, Attorney, John C. Taylor, Attorney, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Urbana, IL.

Before TINDER and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges, and KAPALA, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 887

Tinder, Circuit Judge.

Pursuant to a written plea agreement, Defendant-Appellant Stacy Lee Harden pled guilty to possession with the intent to distribute cocaine. With Harden's consent, the district court instructed a magistrate judge to conduct a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 plea colloquy under a local rule allowing for magistrate judges to accept felony guilty pleas. The magistrate judge accepted Harden's guilty plea, and the district court then conducted a sentencing hearing and imposed sentence. Harden now appeals the magistrate judge's acceptance of his guilty plea, arguing that the magistrate judge's acceptance of a felony guilty plea, instead of preparing a report and recommendation to the district court, was a violation of the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636; Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; and the United States Constitution.

I

Harden was indicted and charged with possession with the intent to distribute at least 5 kilograms of cocaine. At his arraignment, he pled not guilty, but he later changed his plea in accordance with a written plea agreement that, inter alia, specified that Harden was waiving his rights of appeal and collateral attack, except as to the reasonableness of his sentence should the district judge exceed the guidelines range. Harden, his counsel, and the prosecutor also signed a Notice Regarding Entry of Plea of Guilty, consenting to the magistrate judge conducting the Rule 11 proceedings and accepting the guilty plea.

The plea colloquy was conducted by a magistrate judge, pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(b) of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, which provides that " [w]ith the consent of the parties, a magistrate judge is authorized to: (1) conduct voir dire and select petit juries for the District Court; (2) accept guilty pleas in felony cases, order presentence investigation reports, and file reports and recommendations with the District Court." Prior to the colloquy, the magistrate judge asked if the parties consented to him taking the guilty plea, and both parties answered affirmatively. Specifically, the magistrate judge asked Harden, " You understand that by signing this waiver and consent, if I accept your plea today you don't have any right to later come back and complain that your plea wasn't taken by [the district court judge]?" Harden answered, " Yes, sir." No party contends that the content of the rest of the colloquy was defective.

After Harden admitted his guilt, the magistrate judge stated that " I will accept your plea. However, pursuant to Section 6B1.1(c) of the guidelines, [the district court judge] will defer any decision to accept or reject the Plea Agreement between you and the government until after he has had an opportunity to consider the presentence report." After the completion of the presentence report, the district court conducted a sentencing hearing and made several findings adverse to Harden, then imposed a sentence within the guidelines range. The Defendant-Appellant

Page 888

filed a timely appeal, attacking the validity of the magistrate judge's ...


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