977 F.2d 866 (4th Cir. 1992), 91-5167, United States v. Williams

Docket Nº:91-5167, 91-5427.
Citation:977 F.2d 866
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Buck WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Charles J. McNEAL, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 07, 1992
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

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977 F.2d 866 (4th Cir. 1992)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Buck WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Charles J. McNEAL, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 91-5167, 91-5427.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 7, 1992

        Argued June 4, 1992.

        As Amended Nov. 3, 1992.

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        Nelson Rufus Bickley, Jr., Charleston, W.Va., argued for defendant-appellant McNeal.

        Thomas W. Smith, Thomas W. Smith Law Offices, Charleston, W.Va., argued, for defendant-appellant Williams.

        John Kirk Brandfass, Asst. U.S. Atty., Charleston, W.Va., argued (Thomas W. Carey, U.S. Atty., on the brief), for plaintiff-appellee.

        Before SPROUSE and LUTTIG, Circuit Judges, and LEGG, United States District Judge for the District of Maryland, sitting by designation.


        LEGG, District Judge:

        Buck Williams and Charles McNeal appeal their respective convictions and sentences for distribution of and possession with intent to distribute, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 846 (1988). Appellants

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present two issues: (i) whether the district court erroneously denied appellants' motions to suppress the fruits of an allegedly improper search warrant; and (ii) whether the district court erroneously attributed 67 grams of cocaine base to appellants as "relevant conduct" in determining their guideline sentencing range. Additionally, Williams contends that the district court's refusal to compel the government to disclose prior to trial the quantity of cocaine it intended to attribute to him in the event he was convicted and sentenced denied him effective assistance of counsel and due process of law. We conclude that the district court did not err in any of the above concerns and accordingly affirm the judgment of the district court.

       I. Facts

        At approximately 7:05 p.m. on January 29, 1991, Williams and McNeal were arrested in, or just outside of, an apartment in the Orchard Manor public housing project in Charleston, West Virginia. Participating in the arrest were approximately twelve members of the Charleston Metropolitan Drug Enforcement Task Force ("MDENT") and Agent Stan Kennedy, a federal officer who had accompanied the MDENT officers as part of his training. Immediately prior to their arrest, McNeal and Williams sold crack cocaine to an MDENT informant and part-time dealer named William Sayles.

        Because the apartment's leaseholder was not present at the time that McNeal and Williams were arrested, the officers waited to search the apartment until Detective Steve Neddo obtained a search warrant from a Kanawha County Magistrate. Based upon information provided by Sayles, the warrant was issued to Detective Neddo at approximately 8:20 p.m. that evening. Shortly thereafter, Neddo radioed the officers waiting at the apartment and told them that he had received the warrant. 1 The officers then searched the apartment and found cocaine on a table in the living room and cocaine base in the refrigerator.

        Prior to Detective Neddo's arrival at the apartment, Williams and McNeal were taken to the Charleston Police Department Patrol Division Office ("PDO"), where they underwent standard processing. After the cocaine base was discovered, one of the arresting officers, Detective Mick, also returned to the PDO. Upon arrival, Mick telephoned Assistant United States Attorney ("AUSA") J. Kirk Brandfass to ask whether the United States would be prosecuting the case. Detective Mick briefly informed the AUSA that two out-of-state defendants had been arrested for selling cocaine base and that an additional quantity of the drug had been found in the Orchard Manor apartment. Upon hearing these facts, AUSA Brandfass replied that the United States would prosecute.

        The government asserts that Detective Mick telephoned the AUSA before the appellants were booked federally; appellants, however, maintain that the call was made afterward. The booking ticket reflects that appellants were booked at 8:42 p.m. as federal prisoners. 2

        Williams and McNeal were initially tried together. On May 13, 1991, the district court, after hearing testimony from six law enforcement officers and informant Sayles, denied appellants' pretrial motion to suppress the fruits of the search. Appellants contended that the search warrant was invalid under Fed.R.Crim.P. 41(a) because it had been issued by a county magistrate, rather than a federal magistrate or a state court of record. Under appellants' argument, the police intended to have them prosecuted federally from the beginning, and the county magistrate was not a proper source for a federal warrant. The court rejected appellants' contention, finding

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that: (i) the decision to proceed federally was made after the search warrant was obtained and executed, (ii) there was no violation of Fed.R.Crim.P. 41(a), and (iii) historically, not all MDENT cocaine base cases were prosecuted federally; twenty-six such cases had been prosecuted by the state authorities.

        Later, McNeal retained new counsel and received a severance. Williams' trial began on May 14, 1991 and Williams was found guilty on both counts. Before McNeal's trial began, McNeal again sought suppression of the search results under Rule 41(a). The district court denied McNeal's motion to suppress after hearing testimony from four officers. 3 McNeal was subsequently found guilty on both counts of his indictment.

        On August 23, 1991, the first portion of a contested sentencing proceeding was held for the purpose of determining the amount of cocaine base attributable to each appellant as relevant conduct. Detective Mick testified that he had interviewed Sayles, who claimed to have seen a golf-ball sized piece of cocaine in appellants' possession on January 28, 1991, the day preceding appellants' arrest. Sayles also testified that he saw the cocaine on January 28. Dr. Robert Myers, a chemistry professor at West Virginia Tech., testified that the weight of a similarly-sized piece of cocaine base would be approximately 67.5 grams. 4

        The second and final sentencing hearing was held on September...

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