United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
OPINION AND ORDER
P. WAITERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Giovanni Rodrick Shawl's motion to withdraw
his guilty plea to count 5 of the indictment. (Doc. 41). For
the following reasons, the Court denies Shawl's motion.
following facts are taken from the offer proof, exhibits
attached to briefs, the change of plea hearing, motion
hearing testimony, and motion hearing exhibits. The motion
hearing testimony is cited as (Tr.).
summer of 2017, Charles Moffet, a detective with the
Yellowstone County Sheriffs Office, received information that
Giovanni Shawl was distributing methamphetamine from his
residence in Billings, Montana. (Tr. at 37:8-38:6). After
performing surveillance, Detective Moffet and members of a
drug task force conducted a series of successful controlled
purchases from Shawl using a confidential informant. (Tr. at
38:1-6); (Doc. 19 at 3-4). During each transaction, Shawl was
seen driving a black Chevy Silverado. (Tr. at 38:7-25); (Doc.
19 at 4). The Silverado was registered to Kyla Harper, who
law enforcement understood to be Shawl's girlfriend. (Tr.
September 20, 2017, the team executed search warrants on
Shawl's residence and the Silverado. (Tr. at 39:7-44:3);
(Doc. 19 at 4-5). Inside the residence, law enforcement
recovered a Pioneer arms 7.62 rifle, .40 caliber ammunition,
.40 caliber magazines, marijuana, and a digital scale. (Doc.
19 at 4-5). The team did not find the Silverado's keys
inside the residence but one way or another gained access
inside the truck. Inside the Silverado, law enforcement found
.223 ammunition, a loaded Smith and Wesson .40 caliber
pistol, a loaded Taurus 9mm pistol, and 5.4 grams of
methamphetamine. (Doc. 19 at 5). Additionally, the Silverado
had days old receipts with Shawl's name on them,
Shawl's backpack, and construction equipment. (Tr.
43:3-44:3; 65:10-22). Shawl worked construction at the time.
November 2017, Detective Moffet met with Harper to discuss
Shawl's case. (Tr. 44:4-45:16); (Doc. 40 at 1). Harper
requested the meeting because she was concerned she would
lose her Silverado. (Tr. 44:11-24); (Doc. 40 at 1). At the
meeting, Harper told Detective Moffet she purchased a firearm
for Shawl as a gift, which she described as a silver pistol.
(Tr. 44:19-45:16; 53:4-22); (Doc. 40 at 1). Detective Moffet
believed Harper was referencing the Taurus 9mm found in the
Silverado. (Doc. 40 at 1); (Tr. 55:16-21). Harper didn't
say anything else of substance at the meeting. (Doc. 40 at
1); (Tr. 44:19-45:16).
months later, Harper requested to meet with Detective Moffet
again because she said she had information regarding Shawl
which would be useful to the investigation. (Tr. 45:20-25);
(Doc. 40 at 1). The second meeting, which was recorded,
covered a wide range of topics, including the nature of
Harper's relationship with Shawl and his family and other
potential crimes. (Tr. 46:7-47:12). Relevant to Detective
Moffet's investigation of Shawl, Harper stated she had
given the Silverado to Shawl so he could start a business.
(Tr. 46:13-14; 47:6-12). Harper said she rarely drove the
Silverado and it was almost exclusively Shawl's vehicle.
(Tr. 47:10-12); (Doc. 48 Ex. B at 13:00-14:30).
Indictment and defense
17, 2018, Shawl was indicted on four counts of distributing
methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school, one count of
possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking
crime, and one count of being a prohibited person in
possession of a firearm. (Doc. 1). The indictment stated the
firearm Shawl used in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime
was a Taurus 9mm.
methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school carries a
mandatory minimum one year prison sentence. 21 U.S.C. §
860(a). Possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime carries a mandatory minimum five-year
prison sentence consecutive to any other sentence. 18 U.S.C.
Shawl's arraignment, Federal Defender David Merchant was
appointed to represent him. (Doc. 6). Merchant assigned
himself and his support staff tasks to complete in
Shawl's defense, such as interviewing witnesses,
reviewing video and audio, and parsing the discovery. (Tr.
58:1-8). Merchant spoke with Harper three times. (Tr.
58:20-59:2). During the first conversation, Merchant went
over Harper's meetings with Detective Moffet. (Tr.
59:8-60:1). His practice was to read a witness the statement
he or she provided to law enforcement and then ask the
witness if he or she had any comments or corrections. (Tr.
59:20-60:1). When Merchant read Harper her statements to
Detective Moffet that she had given a silver pistol to Shawl
as a gift and given the Silverado to Shawl so he could start
a business, she did not correct either statement. (Tr.
next conversation with Harper was to advise her to hire an
attorney if she was called to testify at trial. (Tr.
60:24-61:6). The final conversation with Harper was a
discussion about Shawl's potential prison time. (Tr.
61:12-62:13). Harper did not correct or otherwise indicate
her statements ...