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United States v. Padgett

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 6, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
RACHEL LEE PADGETT, a.k.a. Rachel Tobak, a.k.a. Rachel Rae, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court No. 1:15-cr-00107-JRH-BKE-4 for the Southern District of Georgia

          Before WILSON and BRANCH, Circuit Judges, and VINSON, [*] District Judge.

          BRANCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Rachel Lee Padgett purports to bring a direct criminal appeal, asserting the government breached the terms of their plea agreement. The government has moved to dismiss for failure to file a timely notice of appeal.

         After sentencing, Padgett filed an untitled document in the district court stating her intent to file a collateral attack. We conclude that this filing reflected Padgett's understanding of her waiver of a direct appeal under the plea agreement. Moreover, we conclude that the filing did not comply with the jurisdictional requirements for a notice of appeal under Rule 3 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Padgett's Plea Agreement and Sentencing

         Padgett was indicted as a participant in a drug-trafficking conspiracy. In the indictment, she was charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 (Count 1); possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B), (b)(1)(C) (Count 8); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) (Count 10); and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g), 924(a)(2) (Count 11).

         Padgett later signed a plea agreement in which she agreed to plead guilty to Counts 1 and 11 and the government agreed to drop the other counts. The agreement contained a comprehensive appeal waiver:

Defendant entirely waives her right to a direct appeal of her conviction and sentence on any ground. The only exceptions are that the Defendant may file a direct appeal of her sentence if (1) the court enters a sentence above the statutory maximum, (2) the court enters a sentence above the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range found to apply by the court at sentencing; or (3) the Government appeals the sentence. Absent those exceptions, Defendant explicitly and irrevocably instructs her attorney not to file an appeal.

         Padgett further waived her right to collateral attacks-except for an attack based on ineffective assistance of counsel:

Defendant entirely waives her right to collaterally attack her conviction and sentence on any ground and by any method, including but not limited to a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion. The only exception is that the Defendant may collaterally attack her conviction and sentence based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         The plea agreement also contained a provision that said, "The government will not object to a recommendation by the U.S. Probation Office that Defendant receive a two-level reduction in offense level for acceptance of responsibility . . . ."

         The government's breach of that final provision is what would be at issue in this appeal if we had jurisdiction over it. At sentencing, the government objected to the acceptance-of-responsibility recommendation based on Padgett's conduct in jail, which it said it learned of the day before sentencing. Padgett, the government alleged, had committed the state-law crime of interference with government property. The government said she intentionally clogged her toilet to flood her cell and then smeared feces on the wall. Padgett's attorney objected to evidence about the incident based on relevance, not based on surprise, and the district court overruled that objection. Her counsel later reiterated that he had not had an opportunity to review the government's evidence and was ...


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