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Guilty Plea to Assaulting Cooperator In Doubt 4 Years Later Now MCC Subpoena By Dec 18

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Pod Patreon
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, Dec 14 – Robert Gist came to plead guilty on February 15, 2018 to selling marijuana in The Bronx and to assaulting Cicero Williams while in prison a year before. Now the MCC prison's subpoena response is due to December 18.

At the change of plea proceeding his lawyer Aaron Goldsmith began by apologizing for not having changed his clothes and instead being dressed casually, saying that the plea deal had come together very quickly. 

 It should have been apparent that something was wrong.  

 That day, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge Gregory H. Woods accepted the plea.

He asked Robert Gist, "please tell me what it is that you did that makes you believe that you are guilty of these offenses."  

Robert Gist said, "on February 4, 2017, I assaulted Cicero Williams while both of us were incarcerated at MCC. At the time, I knew it was wrong to assault him. I also believed that he was cooperating with the government." 

  Now on December 8, 2020, in a SDNY courthouse nearly emptied amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Robert Gist appeared before Judge Woods again, from inside a plexiglass box.

 Inner City Press was the only one in the courtroom gallery, so empty that when pulling out a pen to take notes brought out a quarter to fall on the bench, the noise distracted the court reporter. 

  This was an evidentiary hearing in a habeus corpus proceeding brought by Robert Gist. There were only two witnesses: him and then, for the government, Aaron Goldsmith.

To get this far, Gist had been required to waive his attorney client privilege.    Gist recounted being involved of the plea deal he agreed to only shortly before the proceeding, and having told Goldsmith he has assault Williams because Williams had called him a "rat," not the other way around.

He said Goldsmith told him he would probably get a sentence of 24 to 36 months, and to take the deal before he, Goldsmith, had to fly to Los Angeles for a week.   

 Judge Woods didn't know any of this, back then. He accepted the plea, and months later sentenced Robert Gist to 77 months. Gist on December 8 recounted how he had been confused and shocked.  

  Goldsmith, who testified by Skype, argued that he had made all the required disclosures to Gist.

 He acknowledged he had been on his way to Los Angeles but said he would have taken his laptop there and continued to work on the case if Gist had not pled guilty.  

While insisting that Gist never told him to file a notice of appeal, he added that if he had, he would have told Gist that he was quitting, as there was not basis to appeal, Gist's deal also waive appellate rights for any sentence below 96 months.  

 A key issue at the hearing, not yet decided by Judge Woods, was whether the Assistant US Attorney had handed Goldsmith a piece of paper with what Gist was supposed to say in his allocution (that he "believed that [Cicero Williams] was cooperating with the government"), or whether Goldsmith had written the word and showed them to the prosecutor to make sure they were sufficient.

His original notes were somehow not in the supposedly complete file for the case. 

  After two and a half hours, Judge Woods asked the parties to submit briefs on whether he could consider written testimony from Gist's grandfather, given health issues, and said he would be awaiting any subpoena returns from the MCC.

Now docketed on December 14, this: "ENDORSED LETTER addressed to Judge Gregory H. Woods from Rebekah Donaleski/Kimberly Ravener/Jilan J. Kamal dated 12/10/2020 re: The Government writes in response to the Court's order of December 8, 2020 (Dkt. 827). ENDORSEMENT: The Court appreciates the Government's status update. The Government is directed to complete the MCC's production no later than December 18, 2020. If Petitioner wishes to submit supplemental materials in support of his petition from the Government's production, he is directed to provide an affidavit containing the relevant materials and a memorandum of law with respect to any arguments supported by the newly disclosed materials no later than December 28, 2020. (Signed by Judge Gregory H. Woods on 12/11/2020)."

So, don't expect the habeus corpus petition to be ruled on by Christmas. Early January 2021? Inner City Press will continue to report on the case. It is Gist v. US, 19-cv-5095 (Woods)


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