Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Few Kilos Short of 10-Year Mandatory Minimum Sentence, but Conspiracy Conviction Stands

A group accused of drug distribution appealed their convictions and sentences for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute five kilos or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(ii). The defendants argued that evidence provided at trial was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict regarding drug quantity. Since only 1.535 kilograms were offered as physical evidence to the jury, the panel agreed that evidence did not support a finding that the conspiracy involved five kilograms or more. The Government’s failure to prove the five kilo quantity did not invalidate the conspiracy convictions but did call for resentencing (resentencing under 21 U.S.C. § 841 (b)(1)(B)(ii) was deemed appropriate in this case). The panel also vacated Daniels’ sentence on unlawful use of a communication facility and remanded to the district court for resentencing.

On 9/5/2013, the panel decided pursuant to a petition for rehearing by several defendants that those defendants’ sentences on the substantive counts would also be vacated and the case remanded for resentencing since the “Guidelines range calculations were driven by the conspiracy’s non-vacated 5 kilogram finding.”

Thanks to FPD Intern Matthew Gonzalez for this blog post.

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