Was Ant-Man’s Plea Agreement Valid?

When we first see Scott Lang in Ant-Man and the Wasp, he is under house arrest for his participation in the events seen in Captain America Civil War. Scott entered a plea deal for violating the Sokovia Accords by siding with Captain America for the battle at the Leipzig Airport. Scott had worn an ankle bracelet for nearly two years and was days away from his sentence ending. If he violated his plea agreement, he would go to Federal prison (most likely the Raft) for 20 years.

The Supreme Court has held that the Constitution requiress that a defendant may only enter a guilty plea that is “voluntary” and that the defendant must make related waivers “knowingly, intelligently, [and] with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences.” Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 90 S. Ct. 1463, 25 L. Ed. 2d 747 (1970).

Scott’s plea agreement appeared to be “a conditional plea agreement that has two possible binding outcomes, one that results from the defendant’s compliance with the conditions of the plea agreement and one that is triggered by his violation of a condition of the agreement.” Petaway v. Lantz, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 114053, at *1-3 (D. Conn. Oct. 27, 2010). In Scott’s case, leaving the house, or any contact with Hank or Hope Pym, would result in a 20-year prison sentence.

The Lang Plea Agreement would have to been entered under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 11(c). This agreement had to be negotiated by a Federal prosecutor and a defense attorney or by Scott proceeding pro se. Fed Rules Crim Proc R 11(c)(1). The parties had to agree to a specific sentence for the disposition of Scott’s case.

While there could have been valid reasons for Scott to select to go with a plea deal, there are open questions. First, it appeared Captain America’s Avengers were imprisoned on the Raft with serious Constitutional violations, such as being denied the right to an attorney, the Writ of Habeas Corpus, or even a trial. As such, there is a high likelihood the Sokovia Accords are Unconstitutional, so entering a plea agreement without a provision to challenge the Constitutionality of the Sokovia Accords as part of the plea would have been irresponsible for any attorney to recommend to Scott.

If Scott was denied the right to counsel, and forced to take a plea deal on a submarine prison ship without the benefit of a lawyer to advice Scott of his rights, the entire plea agreement would be a gross violation of Scott’s civil rights. There would be questions whether the plea was voluntary or that Scott understood what he was giving up with a guilty plea. Given Scott’s propensity to do the right thing, even at great personal risk, Scott’s case could have been the one to challenge the Constitutionality of the Sokovia Accords. The fact both Ant-Man and Hawkeye opted to not fight a treaty and corresponding laws that cause mass civil rights violations is a disappointment at best or attorney malpractice at worse.

Assuming the charges for violating the Sokovia Accords were valid, there is the issue whether a violation of house arrest would warrant 20-years in Federal prison. If Scott understood the terms of the plea agreement, then it would likely be valid. However, there are still unanswered questions on whether Scott was actually represented by counsel or if he tried challenging the Constitutionality of the Sokovia Accords.