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7th Circuit finds meth dealer was acting like a merchant, not a manager

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Although an Indiana man determined how much and how often his buyers received methamphetamine as well as pressured them to sell, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded his sentence should not have been enhanced because his actions were not coercive.

Jeffrey Weaver pled guilty to conspiring with two buyers to possess and distribute methamphetamine. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana found that the way Weaver fronted his drugs merited him receiving a 3-level manager/supervisor enhancement on his sentence. Weaver was then sentenced to 235 months imprisonment, the bottom of the range calculated by the court.

In USA v. Jeffrey Weaver, 12-3324, Weaver appealed, arguing there was no evidence that he managed or supervised his buyers. The Circuit Court agreed, vacating the sentence and remanding for resentencing.

The 7th Circuit found that the U.S.S.G. 3B1.1 enhancement requires an exercise of control and authority. A key indicator of control that is suggestive of managerial responsibility is the ability to coerce the underlings.

Describing Weaver as providing insufficient ongoing supervision and coercive authority, the court said he simply fronted methamphetamine to his buyers. In fact, the court found Weaver was like any other business that extends credit to customers. He encouraged behavior that would protect his investment and insure payment of the debt owed to him.

The Circuit Court noted Weaver did not tell his buyers what price they had to charge, impose territorial limits on their sales or set distribution quotas. Moreover, if the buyers did not sell the drugs, they remained indebted to Weaver at $1,700 per ounce.

Weaver pushed his wares aggressively and demanded prompt payment, the court said, but his interest in a quick turnaround does not make his buyers his underlings.

“Weaver simply ‘instructed them to promptly sell’ the methamphetamine ‘so he could distribute more to them,’” Judge Joel Flaum wrote for the court. “Trying to sell more while getting paid is what merchants – not necessarily managers and supervisors – do.”


 

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