480 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2007), 05-4312, United States v. Luster

Docket Nº:05-4312.
Citation:480 F.3d 551
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Dewayne LUSTER, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:March 15, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 551

480 F.3d 551 (7th Cir. 2007)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Dewayne LUSTER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 05-4312.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

March 15, 2007

Argued May 1, 2006.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 553

Melanie C. Conour, Cynthia J. Ridgeway (argued), Office of the United States Attorney, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Jack F. Crawford (argued), Crawford & Devane, Indianapolis, IN, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before EASTERBROOK, Chief Judge, and MANION and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

SYKES, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted Dewayne Luster of conspiring to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, and the district court sentenced him to 200 months' imprisonment. Luster claims the trial evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. He also argues the district court erred in admitting testimony that he purchased drugs from one of the coconspirators prior to the charged conspiracy. Lastly, he challenges his guidelines sentencing enhancement for possession of a firearm by his coconspirators. We find none of Luster's arguments persuasive and affirm his conviction and sentence.

First, ample evidence supported the jury's finding that Luster participated in an extensive cocaine distribution operation headed by codefendant Prentice Davis. Numerous recordings of telephone conversations between Luster and Dramane Johnson, Davis's primary distribution agent, showed Luster placing frequent orders for large quantities of cocaine he knew were tied to Davis. This and other evidence permitted the inference that Luster worked cooperatively with Johnson and Davis to distribute cocaine and was not merely in a "buyer-seller" relationship with them, as he maintains. Second, the evidence Luster argues should have been excluded--Davis's testimony that Luster bought cocaine from him in 2000--was properly admitted under the "inextricably intertwined" doctrine because it provided the jury essential background information about the origins and operational structure of the charged conspiracy. Third, the district court properly applied the firearms sentencing enhancement because Luster reasonably could have foreseen that Davis and Johnson possessed firearms in furtherance of their large cocaine distribution enterprise.

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I. Background

Federal agents linked Dewayne Luster to a cocaine distribution ring Prentice Davis ran out of his Indianapolis music studio. Davis would purchase large quantities of cocaine on credit from a supplier in Chicago and then pay Dramane Johnson, his cousin, to resell most of it to smaller distributors in the Indianapolis area. The government alleged Luster was one such distributor because on several occasions agents observed him (either via wiretaps or surveillance) placing and discussing orders with Johnson for "tank tops" and "tee shirts," words the government contended were code for 4.5 and 9 ounces of cocaine, respectively. The government ultimately charged Davis, Johnson, Luster, and four others with conspiracy to distribute cocaine from September 2003 to May 2004, but only Luster proceeded to trial. A jury convicted him and the district court sentenced Luster to 200 months' imprisonment.

At trial the government presented three categories of evidence against Luster: (1) wiretap and surveillance records of Luster's dealings with Davis and Johnson; (2) physical items seized from Luster's apartment; and (3) Davis's testimony detailing the system by which he and Johnson structured their cocaine transactions, some of which involved Luster. The wiretap and surveillance evidence included several recordings of phone conversations from 2003 and 2004 in which Luster ordered "tank tops" from Johnson. Acting on one of these conversations, local law enforcement officers observed Luster and Johnson meeting in person in a liquor store parking lot in February 2004 to discuss a "tank top" order. The evidence seized from Luster's apartment included detailed ledgers and a cocaine "rebricker," two items a testifying federal narcotics agent identified as common tools of the cocaine trade.

Davis, testifying pursuant to his plea agreement, explained at length the inner workings of his cocaine distribution operation. After driving to Chicago to pick up multiple kilograms of cocaine, Davis would return to Indianapolis and pay Johnson to do most of the leg work. Though Davis occasionally sold cocaine directly to customers, it was generally Johnson who brokered individual transactions and found new customers, and Davis paid him at a rate of $500 per kilogram...

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