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7th Circuit affirms drug convictions, sentence

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld an Indiana man’s convictions and 360-month sentence for drug-related offenses, rejecting his claims that his right to a speedy trial was violated and the starting time of his offenses was incorrectly determined by the District Court.

In United States of America v. Danny Harmon, 12-1502, Danny Harmon was indicted on several drug charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. His trial was set for July 18, but the government sought and received one 30-day continuance to gather evidence that since his indictment, Harmon tried to have a witness killed, attempted to intimidate a witness, and attempted to dissipate assets. The trial began Aug. 22, and he was found to have trafficked an average of 113.4 kilograms of marijuana per month for 10 months of the year from December 2001 until January 2011 based on the presentencing report.

Harmon argued that the actual beginning of the trafficking period should have been August 2002, which would have reduced the amount of the drug attributable to him to under 10,000 kilograms, leading to a lesser sentence.

On appeal, he claimed the trial continuance violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial and the disclosure of a prior drug conviction by a witness deprived him of a fair trial. He also claimed the District Court erred in its fact finding at sentencing.

The 7th Circuit noted that Harmon’s trial date began within 3 ½ months of the date of his indictment and that the “delay is so short that Harmon cannot get past the threshold requirement.”

In addition, some of the delay was attributable to Harmon. The government brought additional charges of attempted murder, witness intimidation and disposing of assets that didn’t occur until after he was indicted and it had to gather more evidence on these for trial. It does not matter that he was not convicted of these charges.

The judges also found that his second argument – that the District Court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial which was based on the disclosure of his prior drug conviction – didn’t fare any better. A witness mentioned a prior conviction of Harmon's but did not specify it was a drug conviction. Harmon argued the jury didn’t disregard the stricken testimony and that striking the testimony was insufficient to outweigh its prejudicial impact.

“The testimony that Harmon had a prior conviction did not deprive Harmon of a fair trial and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial. And even if there was error in the introduction of the fact of Harmon’s prior conviction, the error was harmless given the overwhelming evidence of guilt on the counts of conviction,” Judge John D. Tinder wrote.

The judges also found it was reasonable for the court to conclude that the conspiracy did not start from scratch when Bradford Raines joined in August 2002 but that it ran for years prior to that. As such, the drug quantity easily exceeded 10,000 kilograms.

 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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