7th Circuit affirms drug conspiracy conviction

A man convicted in a drug conspiracy could not convince the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that he pleaded guilty to a lesser amount than what the government indicted him for.

Rashad Robinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine after he was caught in a controlled buy. After one of his customers sold drugs to a confidential informant and was later arrested, the customer gave up Robinson’s name, leading to Robinson’s arrest.

Robinson and four others were convicted in the meth conspiracy, and he ultimately pleaded guilty to an indictment stating he participated in a conspiracy involving 500 grams or more of meth. But when he appealed, Robinson asserted that he entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute meth without admitting to any quantity.

To support his claim, Robinson pointed to two anomalies in the plea hearing. First, later in the plea colloquy, Robinson asserted that he personally only distributed a much smaller amount of the drug. Second, at the tail end of the plea agreement when asking for the plea, the Southern Indiana District Court did not reference any subsection of 21 U.S.C. § 841, but instead cited the U.S. Code provision for conspiracy in general.

But finding that his assertions lacked legal relevance, the 7th Circuit first found that Robinson’s objections to the amount he personally delivered “have no relevance to the amount the conspiracy distributed, which is the only relevant amount for sentencing purposes.” Additionally, the circuit court found that the district court judge’s shorthand language when accepting the plea did not change any of the earlier agreements and understandings.

“Given the circumstances as a whole — the number of times Robinson agreed to the facts, the multiple proceedings in which he did so, and the fact that there was a reasonable strategic reason for acquiescing, we find that Robinson waived his argument that he did not plead guilty to a conspiracy involving 500 grams or more of methamphetamine,” Judge Ilana Rovner wrote in United States of America v. Rashad Rae Robinson, 19-2441.

“… Even if Robinson did not knowingly and intentionally waive any objection to the drug quantity necessary for a conviction under §841(b)(1)(A), his failure to object would have constituted forfeiture. A defendant forfeits his rights to object by failing to assert them in a timely manner due to neglect rather than intent,” Rovner wrote . “… A right that has been forfeited can only be reviewed for plain error. In this case there was no error at all. Robinson pled guilty (to) a conspiracy involving 500 grams or more of methamphetamine; the district court accepted that plea and sentenced him accordingly. We find no error.”

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