January 30th, 2021
Washington v. Louisiana
Opinion Date: January 27, 2021
Judge: Per Curiam
Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Defendant Jamal Washington was indicted for racketeering; human trafficking; and conspiracy to commit human trafficking. With regard to racketeering, the indictment alleged that defendant, his codefendants, and other persons, known and unknown, engaged in conduct that furthered a criminal enterprise involved in narcotics distribution and prostitution. Defendant pleaded guilty to racketeering, and the State in exchange dismissed the remaining charges and agreed to forego recidivist sentence enhancement. The district court sentenced defendant in conformity with the plea agreement to serve eight years imprisonment at hard labor. The court of appeal affirmed. Thereafter, defendant sought clarification that the court had not designated the offense as a crime of violence. A minute entry indicated that the district court had designated the offense as a crime of violence. However, no such designation was evident in the sentencing transcript. The district court denied the motion. The court of appeal determined that racketeering was not a crime of violence because it was not enumerated as such in La. R.S. 14:2(B), and because the use (or attempted use) of physical force was not an element of racketeering, as that crime was defined by statute. Therefore, the court of appeal found that the crime was incorrectly designated as a crime of violence in the district court's minute entry. The Louisiana Supreme Court found defendant did not admit to human trafficking when he pleaded guilty to racketeering, and the State dismissed the charge of human trafficking. Defendant also did not admit that he personally performed any violent acts in the factual basis for his guilty plea. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the court of appeal, which reversed the district court’s ruling denying defendant’s motion to correct the sentencing minute entry to reflect that the offense was not designated as a crime of violence, and which remanded to the district court for correction of the minute entry.
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