Argued: November 1, 2018
from the United States District Court for Northern District
of West Virginia, at Clarksburg. Irene M. Keeley, Senior
District Judge. (1:16-cr-00045-IMK-MJA-1)
Richard Walker, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER,
Clarksburg, West Virginia, for Appellant.
Stephen Donald Warner, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY,
Elkins, West Virginia, for Appellee.
Kristen M. Leddy, Research and Writing Specialist, OFFICE OF
THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Clarksburg, West Virginia, for
William J. Powell, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE
UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Wheeling, West Virginia, for
GREGORY, Chief Judge, NIEMEYER and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.
HARRIS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
negotiating a plea agreement with the government, Johnny
Sylvester Edgell pleaded guilty to one count of possessing a
firearm as an unlawful drug user and one count of
distributing methamphetamine. In exchange for that plea, the
government agreed to a stipulation limiting Edgell's
total drug conduct to "less than five (5) grams of
substances containing a detectable amount of
methamphetamine," J.A. 193, which corresponded to an
advisory sentencing range of 10 to 16 months'
imprisonment. But after the agreement was signed, the
government received lab results showing that the substances
in question were actual methamphetamine, and once the
government shared that information with the probation office,
Edgell's sentencing range increased to 30 to 37 months.
At sentencing, the government advocated for a sentence
consistent with that elevated range, and Edgell was sentenced
to 30 months in prison.
contends that the government breached his plea agreement in
two respects: first, by disclosing the post-plea lab report
to the probation office and sentencing court; and second, by
failing to honor the agreement at sentencing, and instead
advocating for a sentence inconsistent with its original
stipulation. We cannot agree that the government breached its
plea agreement by disclosing relevant and accurate
information to the sentencing court. But we agree with Edgell
that the government's conduct at the sentencing hearing
denied him the benefit of his bargain. Given the
government's breach, we vacate Edgell's sentence and
remand for resentencing before a different district judge.
three controlled buys in July 2015, Johnny Sylvester Edgell
was indicted by a federal grand jury on three counts of
distributing methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and one count of
unlawfully possessing a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§§ 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2).
and the government negotiated a plea agreement. For his part,
Edgell agreed to plead guilty to the single firearm charge
and to one count of distributing methamphetamine. In
exchange, the government agreed to a stipulation that
Edgell's drug conduct involved "less than five (5)
grams of substances containing a detectable amount of
methamphetamine" - that is, substances of a lower purity
level than actual methamphetamine. J.A. 193. Pursuant to that
stipulation, Edgell's advisory sentencing range would be
10 to 16 months' imprisonment. The government additionally
agreed to "recommend that any sentence of ...