United States v. Tyler, 032608 FED6, 06-2487

Docket Nº:06-2487
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MATTHEW TYLER, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:March 26, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

MATTHEW TYLER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 06-2487

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 26, 2008

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN

BEFORE: MOORE, CLAY, and ROGERS, Circuit Judges.

CLAY, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Matthew Tyler appeals his conviction and sentence of 360 months of imprisonment for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), and 846. For the reasons stated below, we AFFIRM Tyler's conviction and sentence.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Matthew Tyler was indicted on February 9, 2005 for conspiracy "to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture containing methamphetamine" in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), and 846. His co-defendants were listed as Donald Norton York, David Warren Tice, Jr., Shelli Tice, Jonathan Patrick Rose, and Sergio Coria. The indictment alleged that Tyler and others distributed methamphetamine obtained from Sergio Coria. Tyler pleaded not guilty to this offense on August 8, 2005. Tyler subsequently moved to sever his case from that of the other defendants due to the minor extent of Tyler's alleged involvement in the conspiracy. The district court granted this motion in part as well as a severance motion brought by Sergio Coria. The district court ruled that Tyler and Coria would be tried separately from the remaining defendants but that Tyler and Coria should be tried together. Because Coria failed to appear for trial, Tyler was tried individually. On April 4, 2006, a jury found Tyler guilty of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. Tyler was sentenced to 360 months in prison on November 13, 2006. Tyler filed a timely notice of appeal to this Court.

A. Testimony Presented at Trial

Randall Scott Tyler

Randall Scott Tyler ("Randy"), Matthew Tyler's brother, testified against Tyler at trial. Randy is currently serving two life sentences for murder that were being appealed at the time of trial. For his testimony, Randy received immunity from prosecution for the conspiracy to sell methamphetamine.

The relevant aspects of Randy's account of Tyler's involvement in the drug conspiracy follow: In 1995, Tyler told Randy that he was buying methamphetamine from one of their childhood friends, Billie Fox. Billie Fox told Randy that Tyler owed Fox $10,000 for methamphetamine, which would be the cost of approximately one pound of methamphetamine. Fox was being supplied methamphetamine by Sergio Coria beginning in 1995, but Fox soon became heavily indebted to Coria. Because Coria could not recoup the debt Fox owed him, Coria collected from Tyler the money Tyler owed Fox. This incident occurred between eight months and a year after Coria began supplying Fox. After this incident, Tyler began distributing methamphetamine for Sergio Coria instead of buying from Fox. Randy then began buying methamphetamine from Tyler at least once a week in quantities of one to two ounces. Tyler was receiving shipments of five pounds of methamphetamine every couple of weeks. David Tice, another of Fox's major customers, became Tyler's customer, and Tyler would deliver five pounds of methamphetamine at a time to Tice.

Randy moved to South Carolina in late 1997 or early 1998. Immediately after this move Randy stopped selling methamphetamine, but eight months to a year after he moved to South Carolina he began selling methamphetamine again. Randy's supplier in South Carolina did not have good quality methamphetamine, so Randy called Tyler and told him that the supplier would be interested in buying large amounts of methamphetamine. Tyler then traveled to South Carolina and met the supplier. To get the methamphetamine for the supplier, Tyler called Coria, who mailed two pounds of methamphetamine to Randy's South Carolina home. On another occasion Tyler brought Randy four pounds of methamphetamine to sell. Tyler also brought Randy five pounds of methamphetamine to sell to a local supplier, but the local supplier would not accept the drugs because they were not good quality. In 2000, Tyler moved to South Carolina and remained there for approximately ten months. On a few occasions, Randy sold one or two pounds of methamphetamine that Tyler had received from Coria. While Tyler was in South Carolina, Coria stopped sending him drugs to distribute because Tyler was not always giving Coria the money he owed him.

During the period of time that he was distributing methamphetamine, Tyler carried a pistol as was his usual habit. At one point, Tyler went with Randy and other friends to the house of a person who owed Tyler money for drugs. Tyler used a semiautomatic gun to shoot the house of the person who owed him money.

Christopher Scott Perry

Christopher Scott Perry grew up with Tyler in Harrison, Michigan and testified against Tyler at trial. In return for his testimony, the government promised to recommend a more than fifty percent reduction in Perry's 295-month sentence for conspiracy to distribute 500 grams to 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine and various drug-related crimes.

Perry testified as follows: Perry began buying methamphetamine from Tyler some time prior to 2000. He would buy an ounce of methamphetamine for $1,000 every week or two. At times Perry would buy quarter pounds of methamphetamine from Tyler. This arrangement continued sporadically until 2001. In 2001, Tyler moved to South Carolina, and Perry began getting his methamphetamine directly from Coria.1 When Tyler returned to Michigan from South Carolina in 2002, Perry sold Tyler a pound of methamphetamine on two occasions. Perry also sold Tyler small quantities of methamphetamine on approximately four occasions. Perry saw Tyler with hunting guns and handguns during the time they were involved in methamphetamine distribution.

Robyn Kelke

Robyn Kelke, Tyler's ex-girlfriend, testified against him at trial. In exchange for her testimony and cooperation in other matters, she received eighteen months of probation for a state conviction for possession of methamphetamine and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana instead of a possible three- to five-year sentence of imprisonment. She also was promised that she would not be charged in federal court for these drug offenses which would carry a federal sentence of at least five years.

The aspects of her testimony relevant to Tyler's appeal are as follows: Kelke and Tyler lived together between 1993 and 1998. Although Tyler never had a permanent job, he always had money. Kelke never saw methamphetamine in the house that she shared with Tyler, but Tyler talked about selling methamphetamine. Coria frequently came to visit Tyler, and during these visits Tyler would discuss plans for Coria to bring methamphetamine for Tyler to sell. Kelke had no knowledge of the quantities of methamphetamine Coria brought to Tyler. Kelke used methamphetamine twice, and both times Tyler supplied her with methamphetamine. Tyler had both shotguns and handguns during the time Kelke lived with him. Kelke possessed pictures taken in 1997 showing Tyler holding firearms.

Kelke broke up with Tyler in August of 1998. After approximately one year, Tyler began supplying her methamphetamine to sell. Kelke would buy methamphetamine approximately once a month from Tyler in one-ounce quantities. This pattern was not consistent since Tyler left Michigan for a period of time during which Kelke relied on other suppliers. Kelke last bought methamphetamine from Tyler in June of 2004.

James Besteman

James Besteman was a friend of Tyler who met him in Harrison, Michigan between 1985 and 1986. Besteman testified against Tyler at trial. In exchange for his testimony, Besteman expected to receive leniency with respect to pending federal charges of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Besteman had been previously convicted for a variety of theft and drug-related crimes.

Tyler's role in trafficking methamphetamine as recounted by Besteman follows: Beginning in the mid-nineties, Billie Fox supplied Tyler with methamphetamine that Tyler sold to Besteman. Fox's involvement lasted for approximately a year, but Tyler continued to sell Besteman methamphetamine throughout the 1990s. Besteman started buying small quantities at first, but the amount increased until he was buying quarter-pound quantities of methamphetamine from Tyler. Besteman last purchased methamphetamine from Tyler between 2000 and 2001. In total Besteman purchased methamphetamine from Tyler between fifty and 100 times. At one point, Tyler sent Besteman to pick up five pounds of methamphetamine for him. During the time that Tyler was selling methamphetamine Besteman would frequently see him with handguns.

Dexter Hughes

Dexter Hughes, Tyler's stepfather, testified regarding Tyler's possession of handguns. Hughes testified that Tyler once gave him a handgun that was wrapped in a rag and asked Hughes to put it into Hughes's safe.

Other Testimony Presented at Trial

Early Maxey, a methamphetamine user, testified that he had never been offered methamphetamine by Tyler even though he had stated the opposite in conversations with FBI agents. David McWhorter, a confidential informant, testified that Tyler was present when McWhorter came to purchase drugs from David Tice. However, McWhorter testified that Tyler was not present during the actual sale of drugs. Mark Caplan, a methamphetamine user who has known Tyler since high school, testified that he never bought methamphetamine from Tyler even though Caplan had told FBI agents that he had done so. Caplan testified that Tyler had said that he got methamphetamine from Coria. John...

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