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7th Circuit upholds drug convictions, remands for resentencing

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed three defendants’ convictions stemming from a cocaine distribution ring in Indianapolis but found that there were errors in sentencing the defendants.

Kenneth Jones, Devon Young and Elisha Drake were connected to Ramone Mockabee through FBI and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department investigations. The investigators wiretapped phones, including that of Mockabee, considered a leader of the drug distribution ring. These conversations, along with evidence obtained following a search of Jones’ home, supported the government’s charges against the defendants. Jones, Young and Drake went to trial and were convicted. Mockabee pleaded guilty.

In the consolidated appeals of United States of America v. Kenneth Jones, Ramone Mockabee, Devon Young and Elisha Drake, 11-2267, 11-2288, 11-2535, 11-2687, the 7th Circuit affirmed Jones’, Young’s and Drake’s convictions. The judges found no error in denying Jones’ pre-trial motion to suppress evidence found at an Indianapolis home, finding investigators provided sufficient evidence to the magistrate issuing the warrant that the address was a residence of Jones.

The judges also found sufficient evidence to support the finding Jones has a substantial connection to that Indianapolis address and the crack cocaine located in it. And while the District Court erred under Federal Rules of Evidence 702 and 704 in admitting a detective’s testimony concerning the meaning of drug-related telephone conversations involving Drake, it was a harmless error as to Drake. The government also presented sufficient evidence to establish that Young conspired to distribute crack cocaine.

But the 7th Circuit found sentencing errors related to Mockabee, Jones and Drake. The government admitted an error occurred when Jones was denied his request to be sentenced under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, because it applied to him at the time of sentencing. Mockabee should have been sentenced under the 2009 version of the guidelines in place at the time the crimes were committed instead of the 2010 version in place at sentencing. The more recent version provides for a higher sentencing guideline range, so he must be resentenced. The judges rejected his argument that the District Court erred in applying a four-level sentence enhancement based on the finding he was a leader or organizer of the criminal activity.

Drake must be resentenced based on Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151, 2155 (2013), which held that any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an element of the crime that must be submitted to the jury. The jury failed to make specific findings regarding the drug quantities, which increased her mandatory minimum sentence by 10 years.

 

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