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United States v. Baines

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 9, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BAINES, Defendant-Appellant

Argued November 5, 2014.

Page 960

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 08 CR 562 -- Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Judge.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Stuart D. Fullerton, Thomas D. Shakeshaft, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL.

For CHRISTOPHER BAINES, Defendant - Appellant: Thomas W. Patton, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Peoria, IL; Elisabeth R. Pollock, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Urbana, IL.

Before BAUER, ROVNER, and TINDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 961

Bauer, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant, Christopher Baines (" Baines" ), pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 846. The district court sentenced Baines to 240 months' imprisonment. Baines appeals his sentence on three grounds. First, he argues that the district court improperly attributed significant quantities of heroin to him as relevant conduct in determining his sentence. Second, he contends that the district court failed to sufficiently account for his arguments in mitigation. Lastly, he requests that this court remand his case for resentencing in light of a recent amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which reduces the offense level applicable to many drug trafficking offenses. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In February 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service, Chicago Police Department, and Cook County State's Attorney's Office began conducting a joint investigation of Baines and his suspected drug trafficking organization. Over the course of the investigation, agents gathered information and evidence through surveillance, confidential informants, cooperating defendants, consensually recorded conversations, and judicially authorized wire intercepts from telephones used by Baines. The investigation also included a series of controlled purchases through which agents seized heroin from Baines and his cohorts in increments of 29.5 grams, 41.3 grams, 49 grams, 50 grams, and 165 grams.

A criminal complaint was filed on July 16, 2008, charging Baines and three members of his illicit organization, Christine Burgos, Craig Smith, and Charles Parker, with conspiring to distribute in excess of one kilogram of heroin. On September 25, 2008, a grand jury returned a thirteen-count indictment against the same four defendants, naming Baines in seven of the thirteen counts. Each of the four defendants pleaded guilty pursuant to written plea agreements.

Baines pleaded guilty to Count One of the indictment, which charged that " beginning in or around 2007, and continuing until in or around March 2008," Baines conspired with Burgos, Smith, Parker, and others to distribute one kilogram of heroin or more in and around the west side of Chicago.[1] See 21 U.S.C. § 846. As reflected in the plea agreement, the parties disputed the amount of drugs involved in the charged conspiracy and attributable to Baines as relevant conduct. Baines refused to accept responsibility for any drug quantity in excess of 334 grams of heroin--the amount of heroin that law enforcement seized from him. The government maintained in the plea agreement, and sought to prove at sentencing, that the charged conduct and relevant conduct attributable to Baines exceeded 30 kilograms of heroin, in addition to kilogram quantities of cocaine. A two-day sentencing hearing regarding the disputed drug quantity, among other issues not relevant to this appeal, ensued.

At the sentencing hearing, the government presented the admissions contained in Baines' plea agreement, together with the plea agreements of Baines' codefendants, each of which testified to Baines' leadership role in distributing wholesale quantities of heroin in and around the west side of Chicago. The government offered ...


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