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United States v. Gaskell

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

April 17, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
TREVOR GASKELL, Defendant.

          ORDER

          John J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge

         Trevor Gaskell pled guilty to a two-count Information charging him with robbing two federally insured banks in the Town of Warren and the City of Cranston. He was sentenced to 34 months in prison. Mr. Gaskell now alleges in his § 2255 petition that the State of Rhode Island had promised that the federal government would not prosecute him for these bank robberies. Because he failed to raise this issue during his federal prosecution or on direct appeal, and he has not demonstrated cause and prejudice, Mr. Gaskell has procedurally defaulted this argument, so the Court must deny his motion.

         Facts

         Mr. Gaskell went on a three-state bank-robbing spree in the beginning of 2013. In addition to robbing two banks in Rhode Island, Mr. Gaskell was also convicted of and sentenced to prison for robbing banks in two other states-Massachusetts and Connecticut-around the same time as the Rhode Island bank robberies.

         This was not Mr. Gaskell's first brush with the law. At the time of these crimes, he was serving multiple terms of probation for prior crimes in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Based on these new criminal charges, the State of Rhode Island charged him with being a probation violator. He waived a violation hearing in state court, admitted that he "failed to keep the peace and being of good behavior," and was sentenced to serve three and a half years for the probation violation.

         The transcript of the state probation violation plea reveals the following colloquy:

[DEFENSE ATTORNEY]: It's also my understanding that as a condition of this admission, that the State is going to put on the record that neither the State nor the federal government are going to prosecute the underlying case. It's my understanding that the State case has already been dismissed and won't be recharged.
[PROSECUTOR]: I believe that's the State's agreement, your Honor.
[THE COURT]: In addition, based upon the agreement of the parties, as stated by [defense counsel], the State will not prosecute this matter. I believe it's been previously dismissed and will not be recharged. And the parties have also represented that the agreement is that the federal government will not be bringing charges, as much as the State controls that.

ECF No. 19-3 at 12-13, 15.

         After the state probation violation adjudication, and despite the above-quoted state-court colloquy, Mr. Gaskell voluntarily agreed to be charged by way of Information in federal court for the two Rhode Island bank robberies. After entering a knowing and voluntary plea to the federal bank robbery charges, and being sentenced, Mr. Gaskell filed this habeas petition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. He asserts four grounds for relief-two based on alleged due process violations and two based on equal protection grounds. Each of the claims revolve around the same factual assertion: At his state probation violation hearing, as alleged by Mr. Gaskell, he was "informed by his State criminal defense lawyer that the U.S. attorney agreed not to prosecute the bank robbery charges at the federal level if [he] entered a plea of guilty at the state court level." ECF No. 19 at 4.

         Analysis

         Initially, it is questionable if Mr. Gaskell can utilize 28 U.S.C. § 2255 because he is not currently serving a sentence imposed by this Court. Mr. Gaskell is currently in the custody of the State of Connecticut serving time for his bank robbery in that state. He is not expected to be transferred to federal custody until April 7, 2018, at the earliest. ECF No. 28-2 at 2. Because the record clearly shows waiver, as set forth below, the Court will assume, without deciding, the validity of the petition.

         Twenty-one months after the state court probation violation plea and sentence, Mr. Gaskell voluntarily agreed to waive his right to an indictment and instead agreed to plead guilty to a federal Information (ECF No. 1) charging him with two counts of unarmed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a). He signed a plea agreement acknowledging his waiver and agreeing "to have his case resolved in United States District Court." ECF No. 2 at 1. The Court conducted a plea colloquy and determined that his plea was knowing and voluntary. During the plea ...


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