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United States of America v. David James Ward

January 19, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID JAMES WARD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walls, Senior District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

David James Ward moves pro se to correct his 1997 sentence of 720 months for kidnapping. He also requests that the Court recuse itself from his case. Because there is no basis for amending the sentence or recusal, Ward's motions are denied.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 4, 1995, while employed as a commercial tractor-trailer truck driver, Ward abducted a 24-year-old woman. He met the victim while she was working as a waitress and bartender in Mahwah, New Jersey. As the victim left the bar for the night, Ward jumped on her back and threw her to the ground. He wrapped her head and legs with duct tape and bound her hands and feet with plastic cuffs. Ward carried the victim to his truck which was parked nearby. Over the next three days, Ward kept the woman captive in his truck and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. Ward continued to make scheduled deliveries and pick-ups in different states including New York and Indiana.

On December 7, Ward and the victim arrived at a truck stop in Indianapolis. Ward left his truck, telling the victim he would return shortly. After Ward left, the victim watched to make sure that he was out of the area. She was able reach a nail clipper in the ashtray in the front cabin. She used the clipper to cut the plastic cuffs on her ankles, but was unable to remove the cuffs that bound her wrists. She jumped out of the truck and after several unsuccessful attempts to get help, she obtained aid from a man who notified a security guard. In the meantime, Ward fled the scene.

The victim described Ward's truck to police who were able to locate it in Illinois via a global positioning satellite system; Ward was arrested by the Illinois State Police.

In January 1996, a federal grand jury indicted Ward on one count of kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201. In July 1996, Ward pled guilty to the indictment. At the plea hearing, the Court warned Ward that he faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Plea Tr. 6, July 10, 1996. The Court noted that the sentence was within the Court's discretion, Tr. 7, and that any agreement Ward had with the Government had no effect on the Court's sentence, Tr. 8. The Court also warned Ward that the Sentencing Guidelines might require an upward or downward departure in sentence. Tr. 7. Ward said that he understood all of this. Tr. 6-8.

Just before he pled guilty, Ward signed an application for permission to enter a plea of guilty. Paragraph 24 of the application twice noted that Ward understood that he faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. A month before Ward entered his guilty plea, the United States Attorney sent Ward a letter regarding his plea agreement. That letter stated that the judge may impose the maximum term of imprisonment and that a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201 "carries a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment . . . ." The letter also warned that the Sentencing Guidelines might authorize a departure from the minimum and maximum penalties. Ward signed a document acknowledging that he received the letter, read and understood it.

At sentencing in January 1997, the Court concluded that a departure from the Sentencing Guidelines range of 210-262 months was warranted because Ward subjected the victim to multiple acts of criminal sexual abuse.*fn1 Sentencing Tr. 16, Jan. 7, 1997. The Court assigned Ward a total offense level of 40*fn2 and placed him in criminal history category IV.*fn3 The Sentencing Guidelines range for an offense level of 40 and criminal history category IV was 360 months to life imprisonment. The Court sentenced Ward to 720 months of imprisonment.*fn4

In September 2010, Ward filed this pro se motion to request a reduction in his sentence. This is Ward's third challenge to the legality of his sentence. See Ward v. Martinez, Civ. No. 10-418, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32546 (D.N.J. Mar. 29, 2010); Ward v. Martinez, Civ. No. 08-889, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50363 (D.N.J. June 27, 2008).

DISCUSSION

I.Motion to Correct Defendant's Sentence

Ward's motion is styled as a "MOTION TO CORRECT CLEAR SENTENCING ERROR IN ORDER TO PREVENT A MANIFEST INJUSTICE."

Ward contends that his attorney told him that the Sentencing Guidelines range for kidnapping was 210-262 months and that this was the only possible sentence if he pled guilty and accepted responsibility. He says the possibility of "criminal enhancements" were not mentioned in the plea agreement or at his plea hearing. He claims that if he had known a higher sentence was possible, he would not have pled guilty. ...


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