In the 2019 Fifth Circuit criminal case, United States v. Gentry, the jury found seven defendants guilty on a single count of conspiracy to possess 50 or more grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Two of the defendants appealed their sentences, but only one succeeded.
The first defendant appealed his two-level sentence enhancement, originally applied because the district court found that he had obstructed justice during the court proceedings. Defendant Bounds had filed repeated requests to obtain new counsel because of “an irreconcilable conflict of interest” and “a complete breakdown in communication” between himself and his defense attorney. The court determined Bounds intentionally obstructed justice, not because he requested a new attorney, but because he created a “false, contrived conflict” as a means of disrupting the judicial proceedings. When Bounds appealed the enhancement, the court cited United States v. Siddons and affirmed the sentence.
The second defendant, however, successfully appealed his sentence. According to the PSR (pre-sentencing report), Killough allegedly delivered upwards of 50 kilograms of methamphetamine to an individual named Priest over the course of four months, from December 4, 2013 to April 14, 2014. Killough objected to the amount because he had been incarcerated for nearly three of those months (from January 14th to April 12th), but the district court ignored his objection and sentenced him to life in prison.
When Killough appealed, he explained that the court relied on statements in the PSR without considering exculpatory evidence. Because he was incarcerated for over 67% of the time in which he allegedly delivered the methamphetamine, he could not have been responsible for the entire amount. The Fifth Circuit recognized that the PSR contained a “patently incorrect statement,” which inherently lacks sufficient indicia of reliability. In a criminal case, indicia include circumstantial evidence demonstrating that a crime is probable. By considering this incorrect statement at Killough’s sentencing, the court’s original finding “constituted clear error” and lacked sufficient indicia of reliability in calculating drugs attributable to Killough. Thus, the sentence was vacated (overturned) and remanded, or sent back to a lower court for resentencing.
Have You Been Accused of a Drug Crime?
At Zendeh Del & Associates, PLLC, our attorneys have a thorough, in-depth understanding of Texas drug laws. The successful resolution of your case depends not only on your legal strategy but also on your relationship with your lawyer. Every step of the way, we will provide personalized support, implement airtight litigation tactics, and work tirelessly to expose exculpatory evidence and gaps in the prosecution’s argument. We understand how much is at stake with this type of criminal accusation, and we will devote our time and resources to preserving your rights and clearing your name.
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