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verify that ‘the defendant’s plea is voluntary and that the defendant understands his or her applicable
constitutional rights, the nature of the crime charged, the consequences of the guilty plea, and the
factual basis for concluding that the defendant committed the crime charged.’” Id. (quoting United
States v. Webb, 403 F.3d 373, 378–79 (6th Cir. 2005)). The record should reflect a full
understanding of the direct consequences of the plea so that it “represents a voluntary and intelligent
choice among the alternative courses of action open to the defendant.” North Carolina v. Alford,
400 U.S. 25, 31 (1970). When no objection is raised before the district court, as in this case, we
review an alleged violation of Rule 11 for plain error. United States v. Vonn, 535 U.S. 55, 59 (2002).
The district court did not plainly err when it accepted Weatherspoon’s guilty plea.
Weatherspoon argues that the district court violated Rule 11(c)(3)(B) when it failed to warn him that
he would be unable to withdraw his guilty plea in the event that the district court declined to follow
the sentencing recommendations set forth in the plea agreement. He points specifically to the
government’s agreement to recommend a downward departure based on substantial assistance.
Although the district court did not provide Weatherspoon with such a warning, “[a] technical failure
to comply with Rule 11” does not require vacating the guilty plea. United States v. Syal, 963 F.2d
900, 904 (6th Cir. 1992). Instead, “a reviewing court may consult the whole record when
considering the effect of any error on substantial rights.” Vonn, 535 U.S. at 59.
In this case, the plea agreement advised Weatherspoon that he would not be able to withdraw
his guilty plea if the district court determined “that a reduction for substantial assistance is not
warranted or [the court] refuses to depart the number of levels recommended by the parties.”
Moreover, Weatherspoon acknowledged that he had reviewed the entire plea agreement, discussed
it with his attorney, and initialed each page of the agreement to show that he understood the
provisions of the agreement. Weatherspoon was thus aware that he would be unable to withdraw his
guilty plea if he was not sentenced pursuant to the parties’ sentencing recommendations.
Weatherspoon has also failed to establish that the district court accepted his guilty plea in the
absence of a sufficient factual basis for the plea. In determining whether a factual basis exists, we
may examine all of the record, including proceedings that occurred before and after the plea hearing.