United States v. Fields, 081314 FED6, 13-5685

Docket Nº:13-5150, 13-5685, 13-5907
Opinion Judge:MARBLEY, District Judge.
Party Name:United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Demetrious Fields (13-5150); Clinton Lewis (13-5685); Martin Lewis (13-5907), Defendants-Appellants.
Attorney:Michael J. Stengel, Memphis, Tennessee, Appellant in 13-5150. David Pritchard, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee in 13-5150. James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for Appellant in 13-5685. Marty Brett McAfee, MCAFEE & MCAFEE, Memphis, Tennessee for Appellant...
Judge Panel:Before: SUTTON and COOK, Circuit Judges; MARBLEY, District Judge.
Case Date:August 13, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Demetrious Fields (13-5150); Clinton Lewis (13-5685); Martin Lewis (13-5907), Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 13-5150, 13-5685, 13-5907

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 13, 2014

Argued: June 25, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis. No. 2:02-cr-20449—Samuel H. Mays, Jr., District Judge.

COUNSEL

ARGUED:

Michael J. Stengel, Memphis, Tennessee, Appellant in 13-5150.

David Pritchard, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee in 13-5150.

James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for Appellant in 13-5685.

Marty Brett McAfee, MCAFEE & MCAFEE, Memphis, Tennessee for Appellant in 13-5907.

David Lieberman, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., David Pritchard, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee in 13-5685 and 13-5907.

ON BRIEF:

Michael J. Stengel, Memphis, Tennessee, Appellant in 13-5150.

David Pritchard, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee in 13-5150.

James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, for Appellant in 13-5685.

Marty Brett McAfee, MCAFEE & MCAFEE, Memphis, Tennessee for Appellant in 13-5907.

David Lieberman, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C. for Appellee in 13-5685 and 13-5907.

Before: SUTTON and COOK, Circuit Judges; MARBLEY, District Judge. [*]

OPINION

MARBLEY, District Judge.

Defendant-Appellant Demetrius Fields appeals his conviction and sentence following his guilty plea to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Defendants-Appellants Clinton and Martin Lewis appeal their sentences of life imprisonment following their convictions on multiple counts of racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and conspiracy to commit murder for hire, after a twenty-eight day trial in February and March 2012.

We hold that the United States did not breach its plea agreement with Fields and that the Lewis's seven-week trial was not marred by reversible error. Accordingly, the district court's judgments in these cases are hereby AFFIRMED.

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves one of the largest drug-trafficking and violent-crime organizations in the southeastern United States. Beginning in the mid-1990s, an individual named Craig Petties conducted a drug trafficking organization ("DTO") in and around Memphis, Tennessee, receiving shipments of marijuana and cocaine from contacts with Mexican drug cartels, smuggled to Tennessee on trucks and in delivery crates, to be distributed throughout the region. (R. 1422, Tr. 2/13/2012, PageID 75014-15, 7525-27; R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, PageID 7583-85). Petties' associates would receive the deliveries at gas stations outside Memphis, transfer the drugs into various vehicles, and spirit them away to stash houses for repackaging, distribution, and sale. (R. 1422, Tr. 2/13/2012, PageID 7514-16; R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, PageID 7587).

Law enforcement first noticed this DTO in 2001, when police discovered 650 pounds of marijuana during the raid of a home near Memphis. (R. 1422, Tr. 2/13/2012, PageID 7429-43, 7518-19). When law enforcement began targeting members of the DTO, Petties, fearing arrest, fled to Mexico, where he controlled his organization remotely, directing shipments, contacting his lieutenants, and expanding his network. (R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, 7644-45, 7669). His organization eventually spread to reach as far as Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Missouri. (R. 1422-4, Tr. 2/17/2012, PageID 8432; R. 1424, Tr. 2/21/2012, PageID 8950, 9816-19; R. 1425, Tr. 2/27/2012, PageID 9856). Semi-trucks continued to arrive, carrying up to 500 kilograms of cocaine, to be distributed for millions of dollars in profit. (R. 1424, Tr. 2/21/2012, PageID 8955-62). Petties also employed violence, including multiple murders, to ensure the safety and success of his organization. (R. 1422-2, Tr. 2/15/2012, PageID 7812; R. 1424-2, Tr. 2/23/2012, PageID 9599, 9608-10; R. 1422-4, Tr. 2/17/2012, PageID 8451-52). Ultimately, Mexican authorities arrested Petties in 2008.

On June 26, 2008, Fields, Clinton, and Martin Lewis were named in the Sixth Superseding Indictment. (R. 356, PageID 1153). Clinton Lewis was charged with racketeering conspiracy (Count 1), violent crime in aid of racketeering conspiracy (Counts 2–4), conspiracy to commit murder for hire (Count 11), conspiracy to distribute cocaine (Count 14), conspiracy to commit money laundering (Count 18), and criminal forfeiture (Count 25). (Id.). Martin Lewis was named in Counts 2 and 11, as well as Count 24 (money laundering). (Id. at PageID 1178, 1188, 1206). Fields was charged with racketeering conspiracy, violent crime in aid thereof, conspiracy to commit murder for hire, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute, and to distribute, cocaine, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. (Id. at PageID 1153-1215).

A. Fields

On October 19, 2011, Fields pleaded guilty to Counts 1, 14, and 18 of the Sixth Superseding Indictment, charging him with racketeering conspiracy, drug conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. (R. 1125, Plea Agreement, PageID 3023-30; R. 1508, Tr. 10/19/11, PageID 12721-821). Sentencing was held on January 31 and February 1, 2013. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12584-685; R. 1506-1, Tr. 2/1/13, PageID 12685-719). In relevant part, the Plea Agreement states, in Paragraph nine:

[t]he United States anticipates, but does not commit to, filing motions for a downward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). The filing of either motion is not part of this plea agreement. Mr. Fields understands that the government's determination of whether he has provided substantial assistance as contemplated by U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), and the government's assessment of the value, truthfulness and completeness of any assistance Mr. Fields offers is solely within the judgment of the government and that its decision on whether to file either or both motions shall be binding upon the defendant. Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(B), if, in the exercise of its discretion, the government does file a motion for a downward departure pursuant to either or both U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and or 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), it will recommend that Mr. Fields be sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed twenty years. In this regard, it is understood by the parties if a motion for downward departure is made and granted, there will be no mandatory minimum sentences which apply to the defendant. The defendant will be free to argue for any sentence; and the United States may recommend a sentence of less than twenty years, depending on the nature and extent of Fields' truthful cooperation.

(R. 1125, Plea Agreement, PageID 3026). Furthermore, Paragraph fourteen provides:

Should it be judged by the government that the defendant has committed or attempted to commit any additional crimes or has engaged in any conduct constituting obstructing or impeding justice within the meaning of U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, . . . the government will be released from its obligations under the agreement and would be free to argue for any sentence within the applicable statutory limits. Such a breach by Mr. Fields would not be grounds for him to withdraw his guilty plea.

(Id., PageID 3028-29).

After pleading guilty, Fields cooperated with the United States in its prosecution of his co-conspirators, culminating in two days of testimony against Clinton and Martin. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12655-63, 12672). As a result, the United States stipulated that Fields provided substantial assistance. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12655-63, 12672).

Nevertheless, the United States did not move for a downward departure at Fields' sentencing because Fields was involved in a cocaine deal with an individual named Tamara Richardson, while he was detained at CCA Mason after his guilty plea and testimony. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12649-50, 12672-73, 12675-77). In support of its contention, the United States offered the testimony of Sgt. Tony Parks, who reported that Richardson was arrested on March 31, 2012, with over a kilogram of cocaine inside of her girdle, as well as a cell phone, the records of which included a phone number matching a phone found in Fields' prison cell. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12630-42). The United States also introduced a statement obtained from Richardson, which explained that Richardson collected the cocaine from Texas and transported it by bus to Tennessee, where individuals working for "Meat, " that is, Demetrius Fields, received it. (R. 1493, United States Sentencing Memo, PageID). Richardson herself did not testify at Fields' sentencing. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, PageID 12630-42).

After hearing Sgt. Parks' testimony, the district court found that:

[a]s far as the Government's decision, I've looked at these exhibits and I have to say that it seems to me — I've already said the Government doesn't have the obligation to establish that the agreement was breached but it has met its burden by a preponderance of the evidence and it can reasonably — its position is reasonable. I mean, it's absolutely reasonable that the Government, looking at these documents, going over these documents, hearing from Detective Parks, hearing a proffer from Ms. Richardson, would conclude that a 5K1 motion is inappropriate in this case. So, whether one wants to say as a matter of law or a matter of preponderance of the evidence proof, I think the Government's fully justified in...

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