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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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  1. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  2. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  3. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  4. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  5. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

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