Argued and Submitted Aug. 27, 2013.
Alison K. Guernsey (argued), Assistant Federal Defender of Eastern Washington & Idaho, Yakima, WA, for Defendant-Appellant.
Alexander C. Ekstrom (argued), Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorneys' Office, Eastern District of Washington, Yakima, WA, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, Wm. Fremming Nielsen, Senior District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:08-cr-06033-WFN-1.
Before: M. MARGARET McKEOWN and RICHARD R. CLIFTON, Circuit Judges, and JED S. RAKOFF, Senior District Judge.[*]
RAKOFF, Senior District Judge:
The narrow legal question presented by this appeal is whether a defendant's Alford plea to a state charge is sufficient in itself to warrant a finding of violation of the condition of federal supervised release prohibiting commission of a new state crime when the state itself does not treat the Alford plea as evidence of commission of the crime. We hold that it is insufficient.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Defendant Kenneth Maynard Williams pleaded guilty in 2009 to the federal crime of receiving a stolen motorcycle in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2313 and was sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment to be followed by three years' supervised release. While on supervised release, Williams was charged under Washington state law with second-degree assault with a firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm. Williams denied all the allegations, and eventually a plea agreement was reached in which the charges were reduced to a single charge of assault in the third degree. The new charge was something of a legal fiction, as one of the elements of third-degree assault in Washington is causing bodily harm, which the alleged victims did not accuse Williams of doing. Nevertheless, under the Washington doctrine approved in In re Barr, 102 Wash.2d 265, 684 P.2d 712 (1984), a defendant can plead guilty to a factually unsupported lesser charge if a factual basis exists to support the original charge. Id. at 715.
Williams steadfastly maintained his factual innocence of all charges. Yet on August 22, 2012, Williams entered a guilty plea to the single assault charge, pursuant to the doctrine of North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970), as accepted by Washington, State v. Newton, 87 Wash.2d 363, 552 P.2d 682 (1976), in which a defendant may plead guilty even while maintaining factual innocence. As Williams wrote in connection with his plea: " Alfred [ sic ] plea: I am pleading guilty to accept the offer of the state although I did not commit the offence. I believe I run a substantial risk of being convicted if the [j]ury believed the state[']s [e]vidence."
Because of this plea, Williams was charged with violating the mandatory condition of federal supervised release that requires that a defendant " shall not commit another federal, state or local crime." At a revocation hearing on October 9, 2012, Williams argued that his Alford plea
was not probative evidence of the commission of a crime and instead proved only his conviction, which is not itself a violation of any condition of his supervised release. Williams urged that an evidentiary hearing was therefore necessary ...