U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona authorized yesterday the disclosure of certain attorney-client communications in the case against a notary public who wants to withdraw his guilty plea in an indictment charging him with lying in a U.S. passport application for another person.
In granting the U.S. government’s motion, Manglona authorized Liang Li’s former counsel, Mark Scoggins, and Rene Holmes to give information to the government about attorney-client communications they had with Li, both written and oral.
Manglona said the extent of such communications involve or is related to the claims made in Li’s motion to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea.
Last April 3, Li pleaded guilty to lying in a passport application.
Last May 29, Li’s new counsel, Janet H. King, entered an appearance for Li.
Last Aug. 8, Li filed a pre-sentence motion to allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. He alleged that his former counsel pressured him to take the prosecution’s plea offer by giving him less than a day to consider it, telling him he had no chance of winning if he went to trial, and threatening him with prison time if he did not accept the offer.
Last Aug. 31, the U.S. government filed a motion for partial waiver and attached as an exhibit a copy of Li’s email sent last Aug. 12 to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the email, Li alleged that his former counsel had told him the case against him was “silly and frivolous” and would eventually be dismissed.
He further alleged that his former counsel scared him by saying he would be sexually assaulted in prison.
Manglona heard the motion yesterday.
Manglona said Li concedes that by raising claims based on ineffective assistance of counsel, he has impliedly waived attorney-client privileged “with respect to communications with his attorneys necessary to prove or disprove his claims.”
Li asserts, however, that the scope of the waiver should be time-limited to the period from March 30 through April 3, 2018—from the date he received the plea agreement until the date he pleaded guilty.
The prosecutor asserted that any communications between his former counsel and Li concerning plea negotiations, throughout the course of the representations, have a bearing on whether the representation was adequate with respect to plea offers.
Manglona agreed with the U.S. government that the court needs to be able to explore communications outside the period when a written plea agreement was on the table so as to give context to the advice the former counsel gave Li.
The judge said to the extent doubt should exist as to whether a communication is subject to this order, Scoggins and Holmes shall submit them under seal for the court’s review.
She said Scoggins and Holmes shall submit to King copies of any written materials that are disclosed to the U.S. government.
The indictment charged Liang Li and Yanan Li with lying in a passport application and false document.