Heroin dealer’s conviction vacated, resentencing ordered

An Indianapolis heroin dealer who was sentenced to 25 years in prison after she was convicted of dealing that led to an overdose and conspiracy persuaded a federal appeals court that she should be resentenced and one of the charges against her vacated.

A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana convicted Teria L. Anderson of distributing a controlled substance and conspiracy to distribute. The jury also applied an enhancement for serious bodily injury resulting from Ian Buchanan’s nonfatal overdose on May 30, 2017. As a result, Anderson was sentenced to 300 months in prison, which was below the guidelines range of 30 years to life.

Anderson was arrested two months later and a grand jury subsequently indicted several other defendants, including Michael Sublett, who cut the heroin Anderson supplied then provided it to Frankie Ray, who sold the end product to Buchanan.

“There is no evidence from which a rational trier of fact could conclude that Anderson aided and abetted the May 30 transaction between Ray and Buchanan,” Judge Diane Wood wrote in United States of America v. Teria L. Anderson, 19-2361, vacating Anderson’s distributing conviction.

“Anderson contends that if we reverse her distribution conviction, we logically must vacate her entire sentence and remand for resentencing without the serious-bodily-injury enhancement. The problem is, she argues, that the verdict form failed to make clear to which conviction the enhancement applied: Conspiracy? Distribution? Both? The answer to that question matters. At stake is whether Anderson will be subject to a resentencing range of 10 years to life on her basic conspiracy conviction, or a range of 20 years to life on the aggravated offense of conspiracy resulting in serious bodily injury.”

The jury form read, “With respect to Count One, Count Two, or both, we the jury, find that the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt Ian Buchanan suffered serious bodily injury and that the serious bodily injury suffered by Buchanan resulted from the use of heroin distributed by Defendant Teria Anderson.”

The ambiguity in which charge should be enhanced led the panel to remand to the district court for resentencing on the conspiracy conviction without the serious-bodily-injury enhancement. The 7th Circuit, however, found the district court did not err in computing a two-level leadership enhancement to determine Anderson’s advisory sentencing guidelines range.

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