130 F.3d 451 (D.C. Cir. 1997), 96-3108, United States v. Seals

Docket Nº:96-3108, 96-3109.
Citation:130 F.3d 451
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. William H. SEALS, a/k/a Puddin, a/k/a William Brooks, Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Gary W. SWEATT, Appellant.
Case Date:December 05, 1997
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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130 F.3d 451 (D.C. Cir. 1997)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


William H. SEALS, a/k/a Puddin, a/k/a William Brooks, Appellant.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Gary W. SWEATT, Appellant.

Nos. 96-3108, 96-3109.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

December 5, 1997

Argued Sept. 5, 1997.

Rehearing Denied Feb. 10, 1998.

Page 452

[327 U.S.App.D.C. 223] Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 95cr00284-01 & 03).

Daniel H. Bromberg, appointed by the court, Washington, DC, argued the cause for appellant William H. Seals.

Lisa K. Coleman, Washington, DC, argued the cause for appellant Gary W. Sweatt. John P. Dean, appointed by the court, was on brief.

Mary-Patrice Brown, Assistant United States Attorney, argued the cause for the appellee. Eric H. Holder, Jr., United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and John R. Fisher, Thomas J. Tourish, Jr., and G. Bradley Weinsheimer, Assistant United States Attorneys, Washington, DC, were on brief.

Before: WILLIAMS, GINSBURG and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.


The appellants, William Seals and Gary Sweatt, appeal their convictions on federal conspiracy, kidnapping and extortion charges. They contend that the Speedy Trial Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3161 et seq., and Article III of the United States Constitution require dismissal of the indictment underlying their convictions. In addition, Sweatt argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of kidnapping and that the district court improperly sentenced him as a "career offender" under section 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (Guidelines). We affirm the appellants' convictions but vacate Sweatt's sentence and remand to the district court to resentence him not as a career offender.


On August 2, 1995 Seals and Sweatt were arrested and a criminal complaint was filed

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[327 U.S.App.D.C. 224] against them in D.C. Superior Court, charging them with armed kidnapping in violation of D.C.Code Ann. §§ 22-2101, 22-3202 (1981 & Supp.1995). They were not, however, immediately indicted on these charges. After their arrest by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, the FBI and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department continued their joint investigation into the kidnapping. The investigation resulted in the arrest of two other suspects and additional evidence which persuaded the United States Attorney to alter his tentative decision to lodge D.C. charges against them and to instead indict them on federal charges. As a result, on October 31, 1995 a D.C. Superior Court grand jury returned an indictment in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Before trial Seals and Sweatt moved to dismiss the indictment on Speedy Trial Act and constitutional (Article III) grounds. The lower court denied the motion, finding that the United States Attorney had not sent "the case back to D.C. Superior Court ... for the purpose of gaining additional time for federal prosecution." Pre-Trial Mot. Tr. 225. It further held that the Congress, with plenary authority over the District of Columbia, validly authorized the D.C. Superior Court, an Article I tribunal, to supervise a grand jury that can indict for both D.C. and federal offenses. Id. at 201.

At the appellants' trial the Government presented evidence showing that Sweatt had assisted in detaining the kidnap victim and in retrieving the ransom money. There was no evidence, however, from which the jury could infer that Sweatt had either been present at or assisted in the abduction and transport of the victim across state lines. At the close of the Government's case, Sweatt moved for acquittal on the ground that he could not be found guilty of kidnapping unless he was shown to have participated in the abduction or transport of the victim across state lines. His motion was denied.

The district court charged the jury on the kidnapping and extortion counts of the indictment under three theories: (1) liability as a principal under 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a) (kidnapping) and 18 U.S.C. § 1951 (extortion); (2) liability as an aider and abettor under 18 U.S.C. § 2; and (3) liability as a Pinkerton co-conspirator (Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640, 647-48, 66 S.Ct. 1180, 1184-85, 90 L.Ed. 1489 (1946)). The jury returned a general verdict, finding both Seals and Sweatt guilty of conspiracy, kidnapping and extortion. Seals and Sweatt were subsequently sentenced to identical, concurrent terms of imprisonment. They each received 60 months for conspiracy, 240 months for extortion and life imprisonment for kidnapping.

At sentencing, Sweatt argued that he should be sentenced under the November 1994 version of Chapter 4, Part B, of the Guidelines and that, according to the 1994 version, as modified by United States v. Price, 990 F.2d 1367 (D.C.Cir.1993), he did not have the requisite number of prior convictions to qualify as a career offender. The district court disagreed, concluding that the November 1994 and November 1995 versions of the Guidelines were substantially identical, the only difference being that the 1995 version of section 4B1.1 contained amended Background Commentary. Thus, the lower court ruled that Sweatt's prior convictions of robbery and attempted distribution of heroin required that he be sentenced as a career offender under both the 1994 and 1995 versions of section 4B1.1. 1


Despite the parties' contentions to the contrary, all of the appellants' claims involve the trial court's legal conclusions or its application of legal standards to the facts. Accordingly, we review their claims de novo. See United States v. Abdul-Saboor, 85 F.3d 664, 667 (D.C.Cir.1996).

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[327 U.S.App.D.C. 225] A. Timeliness of Indictment

The Speedy Trial Act (STA) provides that "[a]ny information or indictment charging an individual with the commission of an offense shall be filed within thirty days from the date on which such individual was arrested or served with a summons in connection with such charges." 18 U.S.C. § 3161(b). The appellants contend that the clock began on the date of their August 1995 arrests and expired thirty days later in September 1995. They therefore argue that their October 1995 indictment should be dismissed as untimely pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1). 2 We disagree.

In United States v. Mills, 964 F.2d 1186 (D.C.Cir.) (en banc), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 977, 113 S.Ct. 471, 121 L.Ed.2d 378 (1992), we determined that "[u]nder the most natural reading" of section 3161(b), "an arrest starts the clock only if it is 'in connection with' federal charges" and thus, "[i]f ... the arrest [is] accompanied by a complaint charging violations of the D.C. (not U.S.) Code, it [is] not 'in connection with' federal charges." 964 F.2d at 1189 (emphasis original). Further, we concluded that the remedial provision for an untimely indictment, 18 U.S.C. § 3162(a)(1), "also suggests that the [STA] is triggered only by arrests that are accompanied by the filing of a federal complaint against the defendant." Id. (emphasis original); see also id. at 1193 (Congress adopted "language in 3161(b) that addresses solely federal complaints and their attendant arrests") (emphasis added). We therefore held that because the Mills defendants were initially charged with violations of the D.C.Code, the section 3161(b) clock did not start on their arrest dates and thus the federal indictments (returned, in one instance, one year after arrest) were not untimely. 964 F.2d at 1188-93.

Our Mills decision disposes of the appellants' STA claims. Their August arrests, accompanied by the filing of D.C. charges only, cannot be deemed arrests "in connection with" federal charges and thus cannot start the STA clock. Nonetheless, Seals and Sweatt invite us to fashion an exception to Mills for the "unusual" circumstances of this case which (in their view) consist of (1) the FBI's involvement in the arrests and its continuing role in the post-arrest investigation of the kidnapping, (2) the United States Attorney's "contemplation" of federal charges when they were arrested and charged with violations of the D.C.Code, (3) the alleged tentativeness of the U.S. Attorney's initial decision to bring D.C. rather than federal charges and (4) the identity of the prosecuting personnel. We decline their invitation.

First, the fact that the FBI was actively involved in their August arrests does not make them arrests "in connection with" federal charges. See United States v. Gerald, 5 F.3d 563, 566 (D.C.Cir.1993) (where arrest was followed by indictment for D.C.Code violations, fact that defendant arrested by federal law enforcement officer held not to trigger STA clock), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1144, 114 S.Ct. 2168, 128 L.Ed.2d 890 (1994); cf. Mills, 964 F.2d at 1192 (recognizing "the now well-established principle that a state arrest does not start the clock no matter how extensive the federal involvement in the original arrest") (emphasis added). Nor does the fact that the FBI actively participated in the post-arrest investigation make Seals's and Sweatt's August apprehension an arrest "in connection with" federal charges. See United States v. Iaquinta, 674 F.2d 260, 262-69 (4th Cir.1982) (federal investigation undertaken after defendant's arrest and indictment on state charges and leading to discovery of additional evidence prompting federal indictment did not mean STA clock began on date of original arrest); cf. Gerald, 5 F.3d at 565 [327 U.S.App.D.C. 226]

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(STA clock not triggered by original arrest on D.C. charges even though prosecutor subsequently decided to seek federal indictment as result of postarrest...

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