United States v. Dibe

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Sentencing
  • Date Filed: 01-13-2015
  • Case #: 13-50515
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gilman for the Court; Circuit Judges Graber and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

Ineffective legal counsel is not to be considered as a sentencing factor in criminal cases.

Claudio Uche Dibe was involved in a conspiracy that made money by defrauding individuals over the telephone. Dibe and others would call unsuspecting victims in the United States and tell them that they had just won the lottery and that they needed to wire-transfer money to Dibe to pay the initial fees and taxes on their winnings. Once the “fees” were transferred, the victims would never hear from Dibe or his co-participants again. Dibe and the others collected over one million dollars and in 2009, Dibe pled guilty to 15 counts of wire fraud. Dibe then appealed his sentence, claiming that he would have received less jail time but for his ineffective legal counsel. At the time of sentencing, Dibe was presented with a plea offer for a lower sentence but denied the offer. Dibe is contending that he denied the initial plea offer because the benefits of accepting the offer were not fully explained to him by his attorney at the time. The district court refused to change his sentence because ineffective legal counsel is not a mitigating sentencing factor. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court by explaining that ineffective counsel is neither a “mitigating” nor an “aggravating” factor, and therefore, a change in sentencing would be inappropriate. The panel explained that the most appropriate remedy would have been to allow Dibe to change his guilty plea, or to force the prosecutor to re-extend the initial plea offer. However, Dibe sought neither remedy. AFFIRMED.

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