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United States v. Coleman

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

December 9, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on the Government's objection to the Presentence Report (“PSR”), as submitted to the Court in the Addendum to the PSR [ECF No. 136]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court SUSTAINS the Government's objection.


         From approximately November 2017 through August 2018 a heroin drug trafficking operation (“DTO”) was operating out of an apartment building at 4104 Madison Street in Gary, Indiana. PSR ¶¶ 8, 10, 24-27, ECF No. 135. The DTO was comprised of Defendant Coleman and his four co-defendants: Lamont Coleman, Katrina Owens, Tony Petty, and Augustine Pike. Id. ¶¶ 8-10. The PSR indicates that Co-Defendant Coleman owned the apartment building and was the leader of the DTO. Id. The PSR also details that Co-Defendant Owens maintained a leadership position in the DTO, while the Defendant and remaining co-defendants were only minor participants, operating as “runners” at the direction of the DTO's leaders. Id. Additionally, each of the co-defendants lived in the apartment building. Id. ¶¶ 9, 25.

         The DTO's organization and business methodology was relatively simple. Co-Defendants Coleman and Owens would take calls from customers and dispatch a runner to deliver heroin and collect payment. Id. ¶¶ 8-10. On twelve occasions confidential informants went through this process to purchase heroin. Id. ¶¶ 11-22. The Defendant was involved in three such exchanges: Specifically, on November 6, 2017, November 16, 2017, and November 27, 2017, when the Defendant exchanged, respectively, 1.140 grams, 1.170 grams, and .976 grams of heroin for money. Id. ¶¶ 11-13. Co-Defendants Perry and Pike served as runners for the remainder of the observed exchanges. Id. ¶¶ 14-22. The last exchange involving a confidential informant took place on August 14, 2018. Id. ¶ 22.

         On August 16, 2018, a nine-count Indictment [ECF No. 1] was filed and an arrest warrant was issued for the Defendant [ECF No. 4]. On August 28, 2018, law enforcement executed a search warrant at 4104 Madison Street, Apartment 1, Gary, Indiana. PSR ¶ 24. Co-Defendants Coleman and Owens were in the apartment at the time of the search. Id. Law enforcement recovered approximately 11.500 net grams of heroin, 3.451 net grams of cocaine base, and 12.500 gross grams of clonazepam pills. Id. ¶ 25. Additionally, $21, 392 and two firearms were recovered during the search. Id. On the day of the search each of the five defendants were arrested. Id. After their arrest, Co-Defendants Petty and Pike confirmed the operations described above. Id. ¶ 26.

         The Defendant's Initial Appearance [ECF No. 10] occurred on August 28, 2018. On September 20, 2018, a Superseding Indictment [ECF No. 37] was filed with the Court. A Second Superseding Indictment [ECF No. 93] was then filed on July 17, 2019. The Defendant was arraigned [ECF No. 102] under the Second Superseding Indictment on July 26, 2019. On August 6, 2019, the Defendant pled guilty [ECF No. 112] to Count 1 of the Second Superseding Indictment pursuant to the Plea Agreement [ECF No. 106], which was filed with the Court on July 30, 2019. Count 1 charged the Defendant with participating in a conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. On September 4, 2019, the Court adjudged the Defendant guilty to Count 1 of the Second Superseding Indictment. [ECF No. 119].

         On October 18, 2019, the Draft PSR [ECF No. 126] was filed. On October 23, 2019, the Government filed an objection to the Draft PSR [ECF No. 128]. The Final PSR and the Addendum to the PSR [ECF Nos. 135, 136] were then filed on November 6, 2019. The Addendum to the PSR indicates that the Government objects to the drug quantity calculation and base offense level prescribed by the PSR. Addendum to the PSR 1, ECF No. 136. As the objection concerns facts and issues that are relatively straightforward, no additional briefing was ordered.


         Section 2D1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines sets forth the method by which sentencing courts are to determine the base offense level for a conviction under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C). U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 2D1.1 (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2018). For offenses where death or serious bodily injury did not result from the use of the relevant controlled substance, such as in the instant case, Section 2D1.1(a)(5) directs the sentencing court to calculate the offense level by using the Drug Quantity Table set forth in Section 2D1.1(c). Id. at § 2D1.1(a)(5). In order to use the Drug Quantity Table, the sentencing court must first determine the type and quantity of controlled substance that was involved in the offense. See Id. at § 2D1.1(c).

         Drug quantity must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. United States v. Turner, 604 F.3d 381, 385 (7th Cir. 2010). However, calculating drug quantity is not an “exact science, ” and “a district court is allowed to make reasonable estimates of drug quantity based on the record before it.” United States v. Sewell, 780 F.3d 839, 849 (7th Cir. 2015) (citing United States v. Acosta, 534 F.3d 574, 582 (7th Cir. 2008)). “Estimates are reasonable if they are grounded in ‘evidence possessing . . . sufficient indicia of reliability and not nebulous eyeballing.'” Id. (quoting United States v. Durham, 211 F.3d 437, 444 (7th Cir. 2000)). Consequentially, “[a] district court may rely on facts asserted in the PSR if the PSR is based on sufficiently reliable information.” United States v. Rollins, 544 F.3d 820, 838 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Schroeder, 536 F.3d 746, 752 (7th Cir. 2008); United States v. Artley, 489 F.3d 813, 821 (7th Cir. 2007)).

         When calculating the drug quantity for a particular offense, the sentencing court must consider a wide array of conduct. Id. at § 1B1.3. Of course, the sentencing court must consider the acts and omissions of the defendant. Id. at § 1B1.3(a)(1)(A). Additionally, in instances of jointly undertaken criminal activity, such as a criminal plan, scheme, or conspiracy, the sentencing court must also consider “all acts and omissions of others that were- (i) within the scope of the jointly undertaken criminal activity, (ii) in furtherance of that criminal activity, and (iii) reasonably foreseeable in connection with that criminal activity; that occurred during the commission of the offense of conviction . . . .” Id. at § 1B1.3(a)(1)(B); see also United States v. Jackson, 733 Fed.Appx. 313, 315 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing United States v. Austin, 806 F.3d 425, 430 (7th Cir. 2015); Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.3(a)(1)(B) (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2018)). Thus, for defendants involved in a drug trafficking conspiracy, the sentencing court must consider “not only [the] drug quantities directly attributable to [the defendant] but also [the] amounts involved in transactions by co-conspirators that were reasonably foreseeable to [the defendant].” United States v. Jones, 900 F.3d 440, 446 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing Austin, 806 F.3d at 431); see also Turner, 604 F.3d at 385 (quoting Acosta, 534 F.3d at 585).

         The “essential factor” a sentencing court must consider when determining whether relevant conduct was reasonably foreseeable to a defendant is “[t]he degree of [the defendant's] participation in the joint undertaking.” United States v. Lomax, 743 Fed.Appx. 678, 682 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing United States v. Goodwin, 496 F.3d 636, 642-43 (7th Cir. 2007); United States v. Edwards, 945 F.2d 1387, 1393-94 (7th Cir. 1991)). Notably, “reasonable foreseeability ‘does not require that a coconspirator be aware of the precise quantity ...

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