Tag: possession of drugs

Plea Bargain

CONSPIRACY TO DISTRIBUTE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE

Criminal Charge: Conspiracy to Distribute Controlled Substance and Unlawful Use of a Communication Facility
Case: U.S. v. Tasmin Stewart [3:15-cr-44-D(22)][NDTX]
Result: Defendant sentenced to time served


Summary:

Mr. Stewart was charged in a two-count indictment for [i] conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance [oxycodone & hydrocodone] in violation of 21 U.S.C. 846, and [ii] unlawful use of a communication facility in violation of 21 U.S.C. 843[b].  The U.S. Attorney alleged he bought pills from a man engaged in a large-scale corruption of Texas health-care facilities.

While the allegations contended only a single purchase, conspiracy law casts a broad legal net that can make even someone who had no idea about the greater scheme nonetheless guilty of conspiring to advance the scheme. The use of a telecommunication facility statute criminalizes the use of devices as common as cell phones when used during the commission of a crime.

In this case, the DOJ dropped the much more serious conspiracy count.  However, the government sought the statutory maximum 48 month sentence for the remaining count phone count.

After a sentencing hearing that involved witnesses called to the stand and examined by Haslam before the federal judge, the Court sentenced Mr. Stewart to only 27 months in prison.  After the hearing, however, the government advised it expected Mr. Stewart to be held for a substantial amount of time before his release. Haslam promptly challenged this position, and persuaded the Bureau of Prisons that an accurate accounting of his time credits warranted immediate release.

Mr. Stewart was released from custody to just one year of supervised probation the day after his sentencing.

Plea Bargain

CONSPIRACY TO POSSESS WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE

Criminal Charge: Count 1: Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance, Count 2: Possession with Intent to Distribute a Controlled Substance.
Case: US v Christopher Alexander [3:14-cr-367-B(35)][NDTX]
Result: Guilty Plea


Summary:

In this case with almost 70 codefendants, the federal government alleged Mr. Alexander drove a man to a Dallas area motel put him together with a seller of meth.  To increase the sentencing ramifications, the government further alleged the meth was from Mexico.

Federal drug prosecutions increase the sentence as the drug amount increases and as the defendant’s criminal history increases.  In this case, the Garland DPS lab conducted the lab tests.  In a fascinating development, lab analysts refused to qualify the meth presented to it by law enforcement as “actual” meth rather than a meth mixture, a characterization that vastly increases the sentence. In response to this refusal, the the U.S. Probation and Parole Office employed an equation to up-convert the quantity reported by the lab to a greater quantity of actual meth.  And, then, of course, the USP&P Office reported that greater amount to the Court in its Presentence Report after Mr. Alexander plead guilty.

Haslam challenged this process as a deception on the Court: the proposition that federal probation officers are conducting organic chemical analysis in felony prosecutions is unauthorized, and for good reason. When confronted with this issue by Haslam, the AUSA prosecuting the case agreed to plea Mr. Alexander to the low end-point of his sentencing range under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines to avoid an evidentiary hearing that would reveal this practice to the federal judge.

Case Dismissed

POSSESSION OF CDS AFTER FORMER CONVICTION OF TWO FELONIES

Criminal Charge: Possession of CDS after former conviction of two felonies
Case: State v. Shellie Coffman
Court: [CF-08-20, Choctaw County]
Result: Case Dismissed
Docket View: Oklahoma State Courts Network


Summary:

Ms. Coffman was the passenger in a car stopped at a roadblock. A Hugo police officer claimed he found a tin foil of crack cocaine in the floorboard by her seat, so he arrested her, searched her and claimed he found more cocaine in her jacket. She was charged with possession, and because she had two former felony convictions the new charge subjected her to a sentencing range of 6 years to life in the penitentiary.

Haslam moved to suppress the search of both the vehicle and Coffman because the officer illegally detained the vehicle longer than necessary to effect the purposes of the roadblock [license, insurance and equipment checks] and because her arrest was not supported by probable cause.

Traffic stops are the subject of a great deal of law. Oklahoma roadblocks are particularly closely watched by the courts because there is no probable cause supporting the stop. In Lookingbill v. State [2007 OK CR 7], the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set strict new rules for this kind of stop. Specifically, it explained law enforcement simply cannot detain cars longer than necessary to effect the purpose of the roadblock, and that purpose must be clearly determined by officials before the roadblock is begun.

Here, the trial judge proceeded cautiously because Ms. Coffman was not the driver of the car and therefore might not have “standing” to object to the way the roadblock was handled. However, Haslam brought a new U.S. Supreme Court case, Brendlin v. California, to the attention of the Court, a case which recently, finally accorded passengers the right to object to the unlawful search of a vehicle.

The judge suppressed the fruits of this illegal arrest and search and dismissed the case.