37 F.3d 1210 (7th Cir. 1994), 93-2170, United States v. Phillips

Docket Nº:93-2170, 93-3352.
Citation:37 F.3d 1210
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Steven D. PHILLIPS and Willie B. Meredith, Jr., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:October 06, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1210

37 F.3d 1210 (7th Cir. 1994)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Steven D. PHILLIPS and Willie B. Meredith, Jr., Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 93-2170, 93-3352.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

October 6, 1994

Argued April 12, 1994.

Rehearing Denied Feb. 2, 1995.

Page 1211

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 1212

Thomas Edward Leggans, Office of U.S. Atty., Crim. Div., Fairview Heights, IL (argued), Michael C. Carr, Asst. U.S. Atty., Benton, IL, for U.S.

John D. Long, Patrick Moloney Long (argued), Chicago, IL, for Steven D. Phillips.

Samuel G. Beggs, Harrisburg, IL (argued), for Willie B. Meredith, Jr.

Before WOOD, Jr., COFFEY, and KANNE, Circuit Judges.

KANNE, Circuit Judge.

Tyrone A. Johnson, Willie B. Meredith, Jr., Anson Young, Stacy Shipp, and Steven Phillips were all charged with conspiring to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine in Jefferson County, Illinois. Only two of the five defendants, Willie B. Meredith and Steven Phillips, are parties to this consolidated appeal.

Most of the factual circumstances of this conspiracy are immaterial for our purposes. In a nutshell, Tyrone Johnson operated a discotheque called the Steppin Out Disco. He hired Steven Phillips to manage the disco, and Willie Meredith as a security officer. The Steppin Out Disco was also the site of Johnson's cocaine business. Johnson stored drugs and large amounts of cash at the disco. Drugs were distributed to purchasers from the bar and from a drive-through window at the establishment.

In addition to his duties as disco manager, Phillips also carried a gun and sometimes delivered cocaine to Meredith and others. Meredith was likewise involved in Johnson's cocaine business. Meredith was not only security officer for the disco: he also acted as an "enforcer" for the cocaine distribution conspiracy. Meredith carried a gun and enforced the collection of drug debts and unpaid loans owed to Tyrone Johnson.

Meredith and Phillips both pled guilty to Count Five of the indictment. Both entered into plea agreements in which they consented to cooperate with the government. The government agreed, pursuant to U.S.S.G. Sec. 1B1.8, that it would not use incriminating evidence supplied by the defendants under the plea agreements at sentencing to increase their guideline ranges. Presentence reports were prepared on each of the two defendants, and each was sentenced at a separate sentencing hearing. We now consider in turn Meredith's and Phillips' arguments on appeal.

Willie Meredith

Because Willie Meredith was convicted of conspiring to distribute cocaine, the district court calculated Meredith's base offense level under U.S.S.G. Sec. 2D1.1. Section 2D1.1 specifies a base offense level of 32 for a defendant responsible for at least 5 but less than 15 kilograms of cocaine. The district court increased Meredith's base offense level of 32 by 2 points for having a firearm during the commission of his offense, but reduced his offense level by 2 points for acceptance of responsibility. The district court concluded that, with a criminal history category of 3, Meredith's guideline sentence range was 151

Page 1213

to 188 months. The court sentenced Meredith at the top of the sentencing range, to 188 months imprisonment.

Meredith contends that the district court erroneously sentenced him on the basis of responsibility for more than 5 but less than 15 kilograms of cocaine. He first claims that the district court erred by attributing to him amounts of cocaine that the conspiracy distributed before his involvement, amounts which were not reasonably foreseeable to him. In a related argument, he alleges that the district court failed to make its cocaine quantity findings with sufficient specificity.

The district court's determination of the amount of cocaine reasonably foreseeable to Meredith is a factual determination, which we will reverse only if clearly erroneous. United States v. Wagner, 996 F.2d 906, 913 (7th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 720, 126 L.Ed.2d 685 (1994). However, "[b]ecause the quantities of drugs are so important to sentencing in a narcotics case, the court must make an explicit finding as to the calculation of drug quantity and offense level and how it arrived at the sentence." Id. (citing United States v. Leichtnam, 948 F.2d 370 (7th Cir.1991)).

At Meredith's three-day sentencing hearing, the government offered evidence of the amount of drugs involved in the conspiracy through FBI Special Agent Isaac Bratcher. Prior to the hearing, Bratcher was asked to summarize his reports and interviews with individuals...

To continue reading