United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON THE GOVERNMENT'S MOTION
IN LIMINE ON THE ADMISSIBILITY OF DEFENDANT BAPTISTE'S
SIGNED STATEMENT OF FACTS
ALLISON D. BURROUGHS U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Government's motion in
limine and supplemental memorandum concerning the
admissibility of Defendant Joseph Baptiste's signed
statement of facts. [ECF Nos. 79, 141].
motion in limine, supplemental memorandum, and
previous representations made by the Government evidence its
intent to use at trial a statement of facts signed by
Defendant Baptiste in the course of plea negotiations that
did not ultimately culminate in a guilty plea. See
[ECF No. 80 at 1; ECF No. 141 at 8]. As the Government
correctly points out, although Federal Rule of Evidence 410
would generally preclude the use of this statement, the
protections afforded by Rule 410 can be waived so long as the
waiver was knowing and voluntary. See [ECF No. 141
at 3 (citing United States v. Mezzanatto, 513 U.S.
196, 210 (1995))]; see also Fed.R.Evid. 410.
case, the waiver relied upon by the Government is part of the
terms of the plea agreement. See [ECF No. 141-1 at
1, 8]. In construing the terms of the waiver, the Court
relies on general principles of contract law, including that
any ambiguity in the language of the plea is construed
against the drafter, here the Government. See United
States v. Clark, 55 F.3d 9, 12 (1st Cir. 1995)
(“We are guided in our interpretation of plea
agreements by general principles of contract law.”);
United States v. Anderson, 921 F.2d 335, 337 (1st
Cir. 1990) (“It is black letter law that plea
agreements, ‘though part and parcel of criminal
jurisprudence, are subject to contract-law standards in
certain respects.'” (quoting United States v.
Hogan, 862 F.2d 386, 388 (1st Cir. 1988)). Further,
because this is a criminal case, the Court is particularly
careful to resolve all ambiguities in favor of the Defendant.
See United States v. Newbert, 504 F.3d 180, 185 (1st
Cir. 2007) (“Ambiguities in plea agreements are
construed against the government.”); see also
United States v. Melvin, 730 F.3d 29, 37 (1st Cir. 2013)
(“[A]n ambiguous term in a contract normally should be
construed against the interest of the drafter, and this
praxis applies to proffer agreements.”).
support of its view that there was a voluntary and knowing
waiver, the Government points to two different provisions of
the plea agreement. See [ECF No. 80 at 2; ECF No.
141 at 1-2].
it relies on the section of the plea agreement captioned
“Change of Plea, ” specifically the language that
Defendant agrees to the accuracy of the attached Statement of
Facts and, notwithstanding Fed.R.Evid. 410, stipulates to the
admissibility thereof in any proceeding against him in the
United States or elsewhere. Defendant also agrees to waive
venue, any applicable statute of limitations, and any legal
or procedural defects in the Information.
[ECF No. 141-1 at 1]. This entire section, however, arguably
only obligates Defendant Baptiste once he has actually pled
guilty. This is evidenced by the title of the section as well
as by the fact that the paragraph includes other waivers as
to venue, statute of limitations, and any defects in the
charging document that would clearly not be enforceable
absent an actual change of plea.
Government next relies on paragraph 13 of the plea agreement
which is captioned “Breach of the Plea
Agreement.” [Id. at 8]. The pertinent language
here reads as follows:
Defendant recognizes that his breach of any obligation under
this Plea Agreement shall not give rise to grounds for
withdrawal of Defendant's guilty plea but, will give the
Government the right to use against Defendant before any
grand jury, at any trial or hearing, or for sentencing
purposes, any statements made by Defendant and any
information, materials, documents or objects provided by
Defendant to the Government, without any limitation,
regardless of any prior agreements or understandings, written
or oral, to the contrary. In this regard, Defendant hereby
waives any defense to any charges that Defendant might
otherwise have based upon any statute of limitations, the
constitutional protection against pre-indictment delay, or
the Speedy Trial Act.
[Id.]. In the view of the Government, the language
that allows the use of a defendant's statement in the
event of a breach gives the Government the right to use the
signed statement at issue here at trial. See [ECF
No. 141 at 7-8]. The first part of that same sentence,
however, seems to presuppose that the guilty plea has already
taken place (“. . . shall not give rise to grounds for
withdrawal of Defendant's guilty plea . . . .”),
thus suggesting again that terms of the plea agreement
contemplate the Government having the right to use such a
statement in the event of a post-plea breach, or in other
words, that it does not have the right to use the statement
without a prior guilty plea.
sure, the Government could have written the plea agreement to
allow the use of a signed statement without a guilty plea. In
this case, however, where the language is ambiguous and can
be read to allow the use of a signed statement only after a
guilty plea, the Court must find in favor of Defendant
Baptiste and bar the use of the signed statement at trial.
See Mezzanatto, 513 U.S. at 201-02, 210 (allowing
for enforcement of agreements to waive evidentiary rules);
Newbert, 504 F.3d at 185 (stating well-established
rule that ambiguity in plea agreements are construed against
for the reasons stated herein, the Government's motion
in limine on the admissibility of Defendant
Baptiste's signed statement of facts [ECF No. 79] is