455 F.3d 336 (D.C. Cir. 2006), 02-3015, United States v. Carson

Docket Nº:02-3015, 02-3016, 02-3017, 02-3018, 02-3019, 02-3046.
Citation:455 F.3d 336
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee v. Samuel CARSON, a/k/a Chin, Appellant United States of America, Appellee v. Vincent Hill, a/k/a Vito, Appellant United States of America, Appellee v. William Kyle Sweeney, a/k/a Draper, Appellant United States of America, Appellee v. Jerome Martin, Jr., a/k/a Pimp, Appellant United States of America, Appellee v.
Case Date:July 21, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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455 F.3d 336 (D.C. Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee


Samuel CARSON, a/k/a Chin, Appellant

United States of America, Appellee


Vincent Hill, a/k/a Vito, Appellant

United States of America, Appellee


William Kyle Sweeney, a/k/a Draper, Appellant

United States of America, Appellee


Jerome Martin, Jr., a/k/a Pimp, Appellant

United States of America, Appellee


Sean Coates, a/k/a Birdy, Appellant.

Nos. 02-3015, 02-3016, 02-3017, 02-3018, 02-3019, 02-3046.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

July 21, 2006

Argued December 12, 2005

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 98cr00329-01, No. 98cr00329-02, No. 98cr00329-03, No. 98cr00329-04, No. 98cr00329-06.

Stephen C. Leckar, appointed by the court for Sean Coates, Steven R. Kiersh, appointed by the court for William Sweeney, and Reita P. Pendry, appointed by the court for Jerome Martin, argued the cause for all appellants. Paul Rosenzweig, appointed by the court for Samuel Carson at the time the brief was filed, Christopher M. Davis, appointed by the court for Vincent Hill, Mary E. Davis, appointed by the court for Vincent Hill, and Jensen E. Barber, appointed by the court for Vincent Hill, were on the joint brief. Edward Charles Sussman, appointed by the court for Samuel Carson, entered an appearance.

Mary B. McCord, Assistant United States Attorney, argued the cause for the appellee. Kenneth L. Wainstein, United States Attorney, Peter R. Zeidenberg, Attorney, United States Department of Justice, John R. Fisher, Assistant United States Attorney at the time the brief was filed, and Roy W. McLeese III and Anjali Chaturvedi, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on brief. Elizabeth Trosman and Patricia A. Heffernan, Assistant United States Attorneys, entered appearances.

Before: Henderson, Randolph and Griffith, Circuit Judges.



The five appellants challenge their convictions and sentences on various counts of

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criminal activity involving drugs, guns and violence. For the reasons set out below, we affirm their convictions and their sentences in toto.

I. Facts

This case is a story of mayhem and disorder in and around the 200 block of K Street, Southwest, in the District of Columbia from the 1980s until 1998. Underlying the violence was appellants' organized and massive business of selling drugs, for which they stand convicted of participating in a narcotics conspiracy to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana. According to evidence believed by a jury, that drug business led to an astonishing amount of violence and a seemingly complete repudiation of civil society and respect for human life. Individual appellants in this case, sometimes acting in concert, stand convicted of the murders of eleven people: Melody Anderson, Anthony Fortune, Alonzo Gaskins, Chrishauna Gladden, Maurice Hallman, Leonard Hyson, Terita Lucas, Darnell Mack, Teresa Thomas, Donnell Whitfield, and Larry Wright. Some appellants also were convicted for numerous attempted murders, crimes of violence, and firearms offenses. All appellants were convicted for a racketeering conspiracy.

The beginning of the end of the K Street drug network came in late 1995, when the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI" or "Bureau") started a comprehensive investigation into illegal drug sales in the area. FBI Special Agents set up an observation post from an apartment overlooking the 200 blocks of K and L Streets, Southwest, and started videotaping drug transactions, sometimes taping transactions they initiated through undercover work but often capturing unsolicited purchases. FBI video cameras captured appellants Vincent Hill, Jerome Martin, Samuel Carson, and Sean Coates in the midst of drug transactions, and an undercover Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") officer made several controlled purchases of marijuana from appellants Hill and Martin. Appellant William Sweeney was incarcerated when some of these purchases took place.

The FBI's investigation lasted three years and suggested a long history of drug-dealing and an extraordinary breadth of violent acts. Crucial to the government's case was testimony from former associates of appellants and nearby residents--testimony that was undoubtedly difficult to obtain given evidence, as discussed below, that some of the appellants have a history of murdering or attempting to murder potential witnesses against them. Not every detail is known about appellants' lengthy pattern of lawlessness that preceded their indictment in 1998. Largely recounting the testimony of those cooperating witnesses, we provide below a chronological overview of the vast drug activity and violent acts underlying the jury's guilty verdicts. Our summary is by no means exhaustive of all facts underlying that activity. It serves to set the factual background upon which we later build in the analysis section of our opinion, where we address in greater detail the facts needed to understand appellants' specific challenges.

A. Factual Background.

This story begins with the criminal actions of appellant Vincent Hill. Several associates of appellants, cooperating with the government either voluntarily or pursuant to plea agreements, testified at trial that they grew up learning to sell drugs from Hill beginning as early as ages eleven to fourteen. One cooperating witness described it as a "big brother/little brother relationship," where he would beat up others at age eleven, get congratulated by

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Hill, be promoted to the role of "lookout" where he could protect Hill's drug activity, and eventually "graduat[e] into [dealing] drugs as the other guys" did. Hill would sell drugs in Southwest D.C. and have other individuals sell drugs for him, providing binoculars and walkie-talkies so that his underlings could warn him if police were approaching.

By the 1990s, appellants and a number of individuals (collectively, the "K Street dealers" or "K Street members"), were selling marijuana in and around the 200 block of K Street, Southwest, which continued through 1998. Over time, the K Street dealers developed an increasingly large and loosely organized drug-selling network. For example, as one seller described it, the group would "go in a sequence," with each seller taking a turn in serving the next arriving buyer. If a buyer "was to pull off with somebody's bag" and without paying, the dealers would "yell down the street" and "before that car could get out of the area somebody would have thrown a brick . . . [or] bottle" and, "[i]f someone had a gun at night . . . they would actually fire at the car."

The K Street dealers sold marijuana in and around K Street throughout the morning, afternoon, and evening. During 1994 and 1995, appellant Hill made the most money out of the group, taking in approximately $200 to $1,000 per day selling drugs. By 1996, appellant Hill made roughly $3,000 to $4,000 in illicit profits per week, while appellants Coates, Martin, and Sweeney made a little less. In addition to dealing marijuana, appellants Carson and Sweeney would help supply other members of the group. Perhaps predictably, appellants' drug-dealing was surrounded by a culture of violence and intimidation, which, according to the evidence introduced at trial, grew each year.

i. 1989.

The widespread violence that runs through this case begins in 1989 with the murder of Larry Wright, a victim in a drug-dealing turf war. A local dealer, Andre Murray, testified at trial that he and Tyrone Brawner sold drugs together at First and P Streets, Southwest, while appellant Hill, along with Wayne Perry, sold drugs in another part of the K Street neighborhood. In the beginning of the summer of 1989, Murray testified, Wright was released from prison and resumed dealing drugs, but did so on what Murray and Hill viewed as the wrong side of K Street. A short time later, on the evening of June 29, 1989, Murray heard gunshots fired and saw Hill at the corner of First and O Streets, Southwest, running away. Larry Wright had been murdered.1

Several murders followed. In late 1989, Carson, along with another K Street dealer who cooperated with the government, James Montgomery, murdered Maurice Hallman as revenge for a previous fight. According to Montgomery, while Montgomery was "hustling" on Delaware Avenue, Southwest, Hallman punched him, at first in a playful manner and in an effort to show off to appellant Hill. Montgomery asked Hallman to stop. When he did not, Montgomery "put [his] stash down and . . . came back and . . . hit him . . . to the body hard." Hallman, Montgomery testified, "got mad" and hit Montgomery on the head with a gun. That altercation prompted

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Montgomery to tell Hallman, in front of several witnesses, that he was "going to get him." Appellant Carson chided Montgomery for having "threatened [Hallman] in front of other people" and suggested that "if something happened to [Hallman], then [Montgomery] would be the first one they would come and get." Montgomery then apologized to Hallman in front of "everybody" so "everybody could see that [they] made up."

That apology did not go far. Montgomery killed Hallman on December 19, 1989. According to his own testimony, Montgomery was in possession of Hallman's gun and used it to lure him to an alley--"somewhere where [he] could kill him." Carson accompanied Montgomery. Another individual, Leonard Hyson, was present and would not leave, despite Carson's request that Hyson "go ahead about his business." Montgomery shot Hallman until he ran out of bullets. When he was done, he saw Hyson lying on the ground, with Carson walking away. Montgomery later told Carson that when he was shooting Hallman, he had not heard Carson's gun go off. Carson told him "that's because he's sharp"...

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