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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. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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