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United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
April 12, 2006, Argued ; July 19, 2006, Decided
[*657] POSNER, Circuit Judge. Bryan Spilmon, a dentist, was indicted for defrauding Medicaid by submitting claims for work that he had not performed, billing for unnecessary procedures, concealing overpayments to him by Medicaid, and committing related offenses. He agreed to plead guilty and receive a 57-month sentence. As part of the plea agreement, the government dismissed charges against his wife. A couple of months after the district judge accepted the guilty plea in a hearing in which Spilmon admitted his guilt, Spilmon moved to withdraw his plea. The judge denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing and sentenced Spilmon to the 57-month prison term to which [**2] he had agreed in the plea agreement (plus three years of supervised release) as well as to pay restitution in excess of $ 2.4 million. Spilmon appeals from the judgment, arguing that the district [*658] judge should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea.
His main ground is that the plea was coerced: he says that he believed (in fact knew) all along that he was innocent but that his love for his wife had moved him to admit his guilt so that the charges against her would be dropped. ] "Package" plea agreements in which dismissal of charges against a spouse or other family member of the principal malefactor is part of the deal are common. They are not improper or forbidden. E.g., Politte v. United States, 852 F.2d 924, 929-30 (7th Cir. 1988); United States v. Marquez, 909 F.2d 738, 741-43 (2d Cir. 1990); United States v. Mescual-Cruz, 387 F.3d 1, 7-8 (1st Cir. 2004); United States v. Hodge, 412 F.3d 479, 490-91 (3d Cir. 2005). It would be in no one's interest if a defendant could not negotiate for leniency for another person. From the defendant's standpoint the purpose of pleading guilty is precisely to obtain a more lenient [**3] outcome than he could expect if he went to trial. It is a detail whether the leniency he seeks is purely selfish or encompasses additional persons, provided that his plea is not coerced.
A number of cases state that such "package deals" require special scrutiny "because they present unique opportunities for coerced pleas." United States v. Bennett, 332 F.3d 1094, 1100 (7th Cir. 2003); see also, e.g., United States v. Mescual-Cruz, supra, 387 F.3d at 7; United States v. Abbott, 241 F.3d 29, 34-37 (1st Cir. 2001); United States v. Carr, 80 F.3d 413, 416 (10th Cir. 1996); United States v. Caro, 997 F.2d 657, 659 (10th Cir. 1993). Some cases, such as Mescual-Cruz, rightly emphasize the risk that the defendant may be agreeing to a package deal under threats or other improper pressure from the beneficiary of the deal. Others suggest that "a threat of long imprisonment for a loved one, particularly a spouse, would constitute even greater pressure on a defendant than a direct threat to him." United States v. Pollard, 295 U.S. App. D.C. 7, 959 F.2d 1011, 1021 (D.C. Cir. 1992). These cases [**4] do not, however, suggest an empirical basis for believing that the typical criminal is so altruistic that he is likely to sacrifice himself impulsively for another person. It could be argued that the decision to sacrifice oneself for another is more likely to be carefully, even agonizingly, considered than to be impulsive.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
454 F.3d 657 *; 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 21482 **
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. BRYAN E. SPILMON, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Spilmon v. United States, 127 S. Ct. 607, 166 L. Ed. 2d 432, 2006 U.S. LEXIS 8648 (U.S., Nov. 13, 2006)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. No. 3:04-CR-70--Allen Sharp, Judge.
United States v. Spilmon, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 42321 (N.D. Ind., Jan. 19, 2006)
innocent, guilty plea, records, plea agreement, package deal, withdraw, cases
Criminal Law & Procedure, Entry of Pleas, Guilty Pleas, General Overview, Coercion, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Self-Incrimination Privilege, Commencement of Criminal Proceedings, Interrogation, Voluntariness, Obstruction of Administration of Justice, Perjury