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United States v. Holt

United States District Court, D. Colorado

January 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
1. MATTHEW HOLT, Defendant-Movant.

          ORDER ADOPTING MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S JULY 9, 2018 RECOMMENDATION, AS MODIFIED, AND DENYING § 2255 MOTION

          William L. Martinez United States District Judge.

         The Court sentenced Defendant Matthew Holt (“Holt”) to 55 years in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons based on his plea of guilty to three counts of producing child pornography. Currently before the Court is Holt's Motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody. (ECF No. 110.) The Court referred this motion to U.S. Magistrate Judge Nina Y. Wang for a recommended disposition. (See ECF Nos. 111, 125.) After resolving requests for discovery and similar matters, [1] Judge Wang issued her recommendation on July 9, 2018, recommending that Holt's motion be denied in all respects. (“Recommendation, ” ECF No. 145.) Holt filed a timely objection. (ECF No. 148.) The Government filed a response to that objection. (ECF No. 149.) Holt then filed a motion to strike the Government's response (ECF No. 152), which is also currently before the Court. The Government filed no response to the motion to strike.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court agrees with Judge Wang that Holt's motion fails in all respects, although the Court's reasoning is at times somewhat different than Judge Wang's. Accordingly, the Court will adopt the Recommendation in full, as modified herein, and deny Holt's motion. The Court will deny Holt's motion to strike as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Holt was arrested on May 18, 2015, under a criminal complaint charging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), which prohibits production of child pornography.[2](ECF Nos. 1, 7.) The eventual indictment contained twenty-one counts, thirteen of which were directed at Holt. (See ECF No. 13.) Twelve of those thirteen counts charged violations of § 2251(a). The remaining count charged a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2), which prohibits distribution of child pornography.

         Holt, through counsel, filed a notice of disposition on September 15, 2015. (ECF No. 38.) He chose to accept a plea agreement that, in its final form, was an agreement to dismiss the indictment and to charge Holt through a superseding information that alleged three counts of violating § 2251(a)-to which he would plead guilty. (See ECF No. 62 at 1-5.) The Government also agreed not to pursue charges based on any other violations then known to it. (Id. at 5.)

         After numerous continuances for reasons no longer important, the Court held a change-of-plea hearing on February 23, 2016. (ECF No. 61.) At that hearing, the undersigned addressed Holt as follows:

Q. Mr. Holt, do you understand that you are under oath and that if you answer any of my questions falsely, your answers may later be used against you in a separate prosecution for perjury?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you understand you have the right to remain silent and not to answer any of my questions?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you give up your right to remain silent in order to answer the questions I need to ask you at this hearing?
A. Yes.
* * *
Q. Is there anything about the way you feel right now that prevents you from understanding what is happening at this hearing?
A. No.
(ECF No. 115 at 4-5.) The undersigned then announced, “Based on the statements of the defendant and my observations, I find that he is competent to proceed with this hearing.” (Id. at 5.)
The undersigned then continued his colloquy with Holt:
Q. . . . Now, Mr. Holt, have you read and discussed the charges to which you will be pleading guilty with your attorney?
A. I have.
Q. Do you understand the charges to which you will be pleading guilty?
A. I do.
Q. . . . Mr. Holt, have you read Court Exhibits 1 and 2 [i.e., the plea agreement (now filed at ECF No. 62) and the statement in advance of pleading guilty]?
A. Yes.
Q. Have you discussed these documents with your lawyer?
A. Yes, I have.
Q. Has your lawyer answered any questions you may have had regarding Exhibits 1 and 2?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. And when you signed Exhibits 1 and 2, did you do so voluntarily?
A. Yes.
Q. All right. You've told me you've already reviewed the Plea Agreement, Exhibit 1, and discussed it thoroughly with your lawyer. So hopefully it won't take too long, but I am going to need to ask you to review to yourself the factual stipulations contained in your agreement at pages 11 through 24. And let me know when you are done reviewing those allegations.
A. I am done, sir.
Q. The record will reflect the defendant took 15 minutes to review the facts in the Plea Agreement. Mr. Holt, these are the facts the government believes it could prove at trial. By entering into this Plea Agreement, you are admitting these facts and I will treat them as true for purposes of considering your plea and for purposes of sentencing.
Do you agree that the facts on pages 11 through 24 of the Plea Agreement that you have just reviewed are true?
A. I do.
Q. Is there any inaccuracy in these facts that you would like to correct at this time?
A. No.
Q. Can you turn to page 6, please, of your Plea Agreement. One, 2 and 3 are the elements of the offense that you are pleading guilty to, and this is the statutory legal language of the offense; and you can refer to that, if you would like to, but I would like you to state in your own words what it is that you did with respect to the counts you are pleading guilty to and what brings you in front of me today.
A. I made pictures and videos depicting sexual images with a device that crossed state lines with two different minors.
Q. All right. What were the ages of these minors?
A. One was a two-year-old and one was eight.
Q. All right. And [you] persuaded or in some fashion had these minors engage in sexually explicit conduct?
A. Yes.
Q. And you did so for purposes of creating a visual depiction of them engaging in sexually explicit conduct?
A. Yes.
Q. And you knew that these visual depictions were going to be transmitted to other states and/or other foreign countries-or foreign countries?
A. I did.

(Id. at 6-8.)

         The undersigned then confirmed Holt's willingness to give up the constitutional rights he would enjoy by going to trial, his understanding of the potential maximum sentence, and similar matters. (Id. at 9-16.) Following Holt's affirmative responses, th undersigned continued:

Q. Has anyone threatened you or your family in order to force you to plead guilty in this case?
A. No.
Q. Are you satisfied with the representation your attorney has ...

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