7th Circuit affirms lifetime imprisonment for gang member convicted in deadly drug conspiracy

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An Indiana gang member convicted of conspiracy and racketeering in a scheme to distribute illegal drugs will keep his lifetime imprisonment sentence and convictions, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

Jeremiah Farmer, a member of the Latin Kings street gang since the mid-1990s, bludgeoned Marion Lowry and Harvey Siegers to death with a sledgehammer in 1999.

Lowry, 74, owned Calumet Auto Rebuilders where Siegers, 67, worked, located within the Latin Kings territory adjacent to a convenience store and laundromat where gang members dealt drugs.

In the months leading up to the June 1999 attack, many Latin Kings, including Farmer, believed Lowry and Siegers were “snitching” on the gang’s activities to police. Farmer and other Latin Kings smashed car windows at Calumet Auto to intimidate Lowry and Siegers and deter them from speaking with police.

On the day of the attack, bypasser Clarissa Holodick saw a white man with blond hair who was later believed to be Farmer running away from Calumet Auto. When Holodick entered the car shop, she discovered Lowry and Siegers lying dead in a pool of blood.

A sketch artist produced a rendering of the man that Holodick had described seeing run from the scene, but it was two years before officers showed Holodick a six-person photo identification array. She was unable to affirmatively identify Farmer from the lineup.

By May 2001, Hammond police executed a search warrant at Farmer’s father’s house and recovered photographs of Farmer, among other things.

In October 2018, Farmer was charged in a Fifth Superseding Indictment with one count of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to possess illegal narcotics with intent to distribute.

Specifically, Farmer was charged with “knowingly and intentionally conspir[ing] to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the [Latin Kings] enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity … consisting of multiple acts involving murder[;] … robbery[;] … Hobbs Act Robbery[;] … multiple acts [involving sex trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion[;] … and multiple acts involving narcotics trafficking.”

The indictment also listed several specific acts alleged against Farmer, including murdering Lowry and Siegers. It additionally notified Farmer of the government’s intent to seek enhanced sentencing based on the Lowry and Siegers murders and conspiracy to possess and distribute illegal narcotics.

A federal jury in 2019 convicted Farmer of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity and conspiracy to possess illegal narcotics with intent to distribute.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana sentenced Farmer in 2020 to a term of life imprisonment, which the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in United States of America v. Jeremiah S. Farmer,20-3119.

The 7th Circuit concluded that none of Farmer’s bases for appeal — either raised by appointed counsel or pro se — were meritorious.

“Farmer argues the government presented insufficient evidence to link the Lowry and Siegers murders or the Coffman assault to gang activity. To be clear, Farmer does not argue he did not commit these acts. Instead, Farmer merely claims he did so pursuant to motives independent of his Latin Kings membership,” 7th Circuit Judge Amy St. Eve wrote. “… Farmer faces a ‘nearly insurmountable’ hurdle in challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. None of Farmer’s arguments meet this heavy burden.”

The apellate court noted that the government presented ample evidence from which a jury could conclude Farmer was a Latin King when he killed Lowry and Siegers in 1999, although the exact date of when his membership began is unclear. It also found that a jury could easily conclude from the government’s evidence that Farmer’s activity with the Latin Kings motivated him to murder Lowry and Siegers based on their alleged “snitching.”

The 7th Circuit also found sufficient evidence from another attack in which Farmer shot a rival gang member twice and her boyfriend once after stealing $600 from her. It concluded that the government also offered sufficient evidence of other qualifying predicate crimes, including Farmer’s act of hitting a man with a brick and stealing money from him on behalf of the Latin Kings; Farmer’s act of buying, making and selling drugs; and Farmer’s act of selling illegal guns in exchange for drugs, among other things.

“Farmer’s RICO conspiracy conviction is supported by overwhelming evidence,” the 7th Circuit concluded, also finding that the government provided more than enough evidence linking the murders to Farmer’s gang activity.

Additionally, the 7th Circuit found three of Farmer’s pro se arguments to be new suppression arguments he failed to present to the district court and therefore precluded by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(c)(3).

The 7th Circuit further concluded no plain error was committed on three of Farmer’s claims, and any error on a fourth claim was harmless; the district court’s decision to rely upon the pattern jury instructions was also not an abuse of its discretion; and there was no legal error in the district court’s denial of Farmer’s motion to suppress Holodick’s composite sketch.

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