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Name: U.S. v. Heredia
Case #: 12-50331
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 10/08/2014

Government implicitly breached plea agreement, which included a promise to recommend a reduced prison sentence, when it repeatedly and unnecessarily emphasized the defendant’s criminal history. Heredia entered into a fast-track plea agreement under Federal Rules of Procedure, rule 11(c)(1)(C) with the prosecution. He agreed to plead guilty to illegal entry and waive numerous constitutional rights in exchange for the prosecution’s promise to recommend a stipulated sentence, which the parties later determined would be six months imprisonment and three years of supervised release. Although the prosecution did recommend the low-end sentence of six months, it also detailed Heredia’s 20-year criminal record for the court and made disparaging comments about him. The court refused to accept the terms of the agreement. Heredia objected and sought specific performance of the plea agreement, which the court denied. He was sentenced to 21 months in prison and appealed. Held: Sentence vacated. The government may implicitly breach a plea agreement if it agrees to recommend a reduced sentence, but then makes inflammatory comments about the defendant’s prior offenses that do not provide the court with any new information or correct factual inaccuracies. Here, the government breached its agreement by implicitly recommending a higher sentence than agreed upon through its repeated and inflammatory references to Heredia’s criminal history. All of the aggravating factual information had already been provided to the court in a probation officer’s presentence report and served no purpose but to argue for a harsher punishment.