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United States v. Sammara

April 2, 1964

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
THOMAS CARMINE SAMMARA, APPELLANT.



Before McLAUGHLIN and FORMAN, Circuit Judges, and LEAHY, District Judge.

Per Curiam.

This case is an excellent example of the responsible concern being exercised by the district courts, in their scrutiny of guilty pleas by indigents and matters in connection therewith. It is also a routine illustration of the constant, outstanding service by attorneys of this circuit in the defense of such defendants.

On April 4, 1963, appellant was arrested and arraigned in connection with alleged knowledgeable possession of an allegedly stolen United States Treasury check, forging and uttering same. The Commissioner fixed bail at $1,000. The latter was furnished and appellant released the same day. He was indicted May 17, 1963 for possessing stolen United States Treasurer's check knowing same to have been stolen; forging United States Treasurer's check; uttering United States Treasurer's check. On May 6, 1963 he pleaded not guilty and the bail was continued. On June 14, 1963 he appeared before the district court accompanied by his assigned counsel for the purpose of retracting his plea of not guilty and pleading guilty to count 1 of the indictment. At that time the court thoroughly explained to appellant the nature of the charges against him, of the guilty plea and its possible consequences. The court asked counsel if he had explained the situation to appellant. Counsel replied in detail that he had. Thereafter the following occurred:

"The Court: And with that in mind have you authorized counsel to request the Court to permit you to retract your plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty to the first count?

"The Defendant: Yes, your Honor.

"The Court: And you do so plead guilty?

"The Defendant: Yes, sir.

"The Court: Have any promises been made to you, any threats?

"The Defendant: No, your Honor."

The plea of guilty to count 1 was accepted and the $1,000 bail continued for sentence. On July 3, 1963 sentence was pronounced on count 1 of the indictment and the other two counts dismissed. A defense notice of motion to withdraw the guilty plea, reinstate the not guilty plea and set the case down for trial was filed on July 16, 1963.

On July 29, 1963 there was a hearing on the motion. Appellant was in court. His attorney called the court's attention to appellant's affidavit, saying:

"Paragraph 4 states the following: Upon being arrested a Justice Department agent threatened him that unless he signed a statement admitting the theft and possession of a Government check he would recommend to the United States Commissioner the fixing of a $10,000 bail bond; but if he would sign the statement, if your Honor please, he would recommend a bail bond be fixed in the sum of $1,000. Because of this promise, if your Honor please, and this reward, Mr. Sammara did sign a statement and his bail was set at $1,000."

The court asked what had that to do with appellant's later retraction of his not guilty plea. Counsel advised that appellant contended he had signed the statement admitting his guilt solely because of the promise of bail reduction, that appellant repudiated that admission and wanted to go to trial and prove that he did not steal the check. The court noted that the statement had been made the previous April and that the hearing on the retraction of the not guilty plea took place over two months later. The court told counsel that he could put appellant on the stand and ask him the circumstances surrounding ...


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