Tenth Circuit Discusses Split Re Inter-District Treatment of Federal Plea Agreements

Per U.S. v. Crobarger, No. 04-4264 (10th Cir. Dec. 07, 2005):

The circuit split involves the question of whether an agreement between an AUSA of one district and an individual should be construed as binding on another district where the agreement itself is ambiguous. The Second Circuit has held that while an AUSA of one district may theoretically bind another district, any ambiguity must be construed in the other district's favor. United States v. Annabi, 771 F.2d 670, 672 (2d Cir.1985) (holding that "[a] plea agreement binds only the office of the United States Attorney for the district in which the plea is entered unless it affirmatively appears that the agreement contemplates a broader restriction"). The Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits have held that any ambiguity must be construed against the government, and in favor of enforcing the agreement. Gebbie, 294 F.3d at 552 (construing ambiguity in plea agreement "against the Government and hold[ing] that .... [the] agreement [ ] bars the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania from prosecuting [the defendants] for the same crimes and offenses that were at issue in the Ohio plea agreements"); United States v. Johnston, 199 F.3d 1015, 1021 (9th Cir.1999) (holding that while ambiguities in plea agreement must be construed against the government, where language is clear in binding only a particular district, another district is not bound by agreement); United States v. Harvey, 791 F.2d 294, 303 (4th Cir.1986) (construing ambiguity in plea agreement against the Government and thus holding agreement was binding on another federal district).


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