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Name: U.S. v. Leonti
Case #: 01-17113
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 04/24/2003

Following his arrest for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and other related offenses, appellant was approached by a DEA agent about cooperating with the authorities in order to reduce his sentence. Appellant let his attorney know that he was interested in making a deal, but his attorney did not pass the information along to the government. Appellant made further attempts to make the deal, but his attorney failed to facilitate the cooperation, and appellant received no downward departure of his sentence. On appeal, he sought an evidentiary hearing on whether his attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to assist him in his efforts to cooperate. The trial court denied him an evidentiary hearing, and the Ninth Circuit here reversed that decision. The pre-sentencing cooperation period is a critical stage of the criminal process, and obtaining a substantial assistance motion from the government is a critical point in that process. Therefore, the Sixth Amendment guarantee of competent counsel applies and appellant’s factual allegations stated a claim for relief. The district court abused its discretion when it denied an evidentiary hearing.