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Appeals Court of Massachusetts.



Decided: April 29, 2021

By the Court (Wolohojian, Neyman & Lemire, JJ.1)


The defendant, Miguel Dejesus, appeals from an order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on the misconduct of Annie Dookhan at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute (Hinton Laboratory). He claims that his due process rights were violated when he pleaded guilty a second time because he “unknowingly waived the benefits” of the holding of Bridgeman v. District Attorney for the Suffolk Dist., 471 Mass. 465 (2015).2 We affirm.

On November 15, 2006, the defendant pleaded guilty to trafficking in cocaine and trafficking in cocaine within a school zone (2006 plea).3 In October 2012, he filed a motion to vacate the plea based on the misconduct of Dookhan. On January 3, 2013, with the assent of the Commonwealth, the plea judge allowed the defendant's motion to vacate his guilty plea. The defendant then pleaded guilty to a single count of trafficking in cocaine (2013 plea). The school zone charge was nolle prossed. The defendant received a sentence that amounted to time served and was released that day.

As part of the 2013 plea, the defendant acknowledged that he was aware that the Hinton Laboratory investigation was not complete but that he was still willing to plead guilty even though information might come to light in the future about the laboratory that might be helpful to his case. Additionally the defendant signed a form entitled “Waiver of Defendant's Rights,” in which he verified that the waiver of his rights was not the result of force or threats.

Six years later, on January 30, 2019, the defendant filed a motion to vacate his 2013 plea, contending that his due process rights had been violated as a result of the plea (2019 motion). He claimed that his plea was not voluntary because he was induced to plead by the prospect of facing greater punishment, either by new sentences or revival of the original charges, and that the retroactive application of the protection of the Bridgeman sentencing cap made his 2013 plea invalid. A different judge found however that the 2013 plea was made knowingly and voluntarily by the defendant and denied the 2019 motion. This appeal followed.

Discussion. “A motion to withdraw a guilty plea is treated as a motion for a new trial pursuant to Mass. R. Crim. P. 30 (b), as appearing in 435 Mass. 1501 (2001).” Commonwealth v. DeJesus, 468 Mass. 174, 178 (2014). “Under Mass. R. Crim. P. 30 (b), a judge may grant a motion for a new trial any time it appears that justice may not have been done. A motion for a new trial is thus committed to the sound discretion of the judge. Commonwealth v. Moore, 408 Mass. 117, 125 (1990).” Commonwealth v. Scott, 467 Mass. 336, 344 (2014). Generally, we review the denial of a motion to withdraw a plea for a significant error of law or other abuse of discretion. See Commonwealth v. Cano, 87 Mass. App. Ct. 238, 240 (2015).

“Due process requires that a plea of guilty be accepted only where ‘the contemporaneous record contains an affirmative showing that the defendant's plea was intelligently and voluntarily made.’ Commonwealth v. Furr, 454 Mass. 101, 106 (2009), citing Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238 (1969), and Commonwealth v. Foster, 368 Mass. 100, 102 (1975). A guilty plea is intelligent if it is tendered with knowledge of the elements of the charges against the defendant and the procedural protections waived by entry of a guilty plea. Commonwealth v. Duest, 30 Mass. App. Ct. 623, 630-631 (1991). A guilty plea is voluntary so long as it is tendered free from coercion, duress, or improper inducements. Id. at 631.” Scott, 467 Mass. at 345.

The defendant's contention that his 2013 plea was not voluntary and intelligent and therefore violated his due process rights is not supported by the record here. As part of the 2013 plea the defendant acknowledged his willingness to plead guilty even though the Hinton Laboratory investigation was not complete, signed a waiver of rights form in which he acknowledged that he was pleading guilty “voluntarily and freely,” and received a far more favorable deal than he received in his 2006 plea. Even though the defendant submitted an affidavit in support of his 2019 motion in which he attested that he felt pressured by the possibility of receiving a more severe penalty if he chose to go to trial, the judge was free to assign the weight, credibility, and impact of the assertions regarding the plea negotiations, even where undisputed, see Commonwealth v. De Christoforo, 360 Mass. 531, 543 (1971), and find that the plea was “free from coercion, duress, or improper inducements.” Scott, 467 Mass. at 345.

The defendant's claim that he was entitled to the relief provided in Bridgeman fares no better. The terms of the 2013 plea did not violate the rules announced in Bridgeman, as the plea resulted in a single conviction with a shorter period of incarceration than originally imposed. See Commonwealth v. Camacho, 483 Mass. 645, 646 (2019) (“Where ․ a defendant negotiated his ․ second plea agreement in the shadow of the original charges, but ultimately was not convicted of more severe charges and did not receive a harsher punishment, the defendant is not entitled to withdraw the second guilty plea on the basis of ․ Bridgeman”).

Thus, on this record, we discern no abuse of discretion, much less one that “produce[d] a manifestly unjust result.” Commonwealth v. Pingaro, 44 Mass. App. Ct. 41, 48 (1997).

Order denying motion to withdraw guilty plea affirmed.


2.   The Supreme Judicial Court held that in cases where a defendant seeks to withdraw a guilty plea as a result of Dookhan's misconduct and the motion is allowed, the defendant “cannot be given a more severe sentence than that which originally was imposed.” Bridgeman, 471 Mass. at 477.

3.   The indictments stemmed from the execution of a search warrant during which “approximately 2.3 pounds” of crack cocaine was seized.

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Docket No: 19-P-1363

Decided: April 29, 2021

Court: Appeals Court of Massachusetts.

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