Alton man wants plea changed; Defendant claims wife, informant framed him

This story was published on Feb. 11, 2005 on Page B1 in all editions of the Bangor Daily News

BANGOR – A Hell’s Angels member facing decades in federal prison has filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that his wife framed him along with the police informant with whom she was having an affair.

William Leland, 48, of Alton pleaded guilty Jan. 27, 2004, in U.S. District Court in Bangor to seven charges. They included conspiracy with intent to distribute methamphetamine, oxycodone and cocaine and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The plea agreement, which Leland signed, included a recommended maximum sentence of 171/2 years in federal prison. If Leland succeeds in withdrawing his plea and is found guilty, he would lose a sentence reduction for acceptance of responsibility and could be sentenced to anywhere from 30 years to life in prison, according to prosecutors.

Leland was arrested on a return trip from California in April 2003 while traveling north on Interstate 95 in Pittsfield. He had been under surveillance by law enforcement personnel, who allege that he had been selling drugs in Maine since 1998. Nearly 2 pounds of methamphetamine were found hidden in the spare tire of his 1996 Ford Crown Victoria.

Christopher Largay, Leland’s Bangor attorney, filed the motion to withdraw the guilty plea on Jan. 19. In it, he argued that Leland’s wife, Ganessa, and a confidential informant who provided information to federal prosecutors about Leland’s drug dealing were having an affair and conspired to put Leland in prison.

Largay also alleged that prosecutors have withheld evidence from the defense.

When pleading guilty, federal defendants are warned by judges that they have a limited ability to withdraw their pleas and seek trials. Federal court rules state that “a fair and just reason” must be given for changing a plea.

Largay said Thursday that his client’s case met that standard.

“Mr. Leland received voluminous documentation … just immediately prior to his plea and did not have a full and fair opportunity to review that prior to his plea,” he said. “Other information was not provided to him in sufficient time to fairly evaluate it.

“[Ganessa Leland] is now alleged to have perjured herself at his detention hearing. [Mr. Leland] found out later that she was engaged in an ongoing affair with a confidential informant,” Largay said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry, who is prosecuting the case, disagreed in his response opposing Largay’s motion filed on Tuesday. Perry wrote that Leland should not be allowed to withdraw his plea because it’s been more than a year since he entered it.

“The timing of the motion clearly exposes the defendant’s true motive in filing this motion,” Perry wrote. “Prior to [a recent U.S. Supreme Court] decision, the defendant held hopes that [a previous decision] would limit the potential jail sentence he would face for the crime for which he pleaded guilty.”

The federal sentencing guidelines were called into question in June when the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional similar guidelines in Washington state. Last month, the high court ruled 5-4 that the mandatory federal sentencing guidelines were unconstitutional, but that federal judges should consider them advisory. Since then, federal judges in Maine and around the country have followed the guidelines more often than not.

If Leland had been sentenced before the recent ruling, his sentence would have been between 10 and 14 years, prosecutors have said.

Largay has asked U.S. District Judge John Woodcock to hold a hearing on his motion. Woodcock has not issued his decision.