Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Fields

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

August 13, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DEMETRIOUS FIELDS (13-5150); CLINTON LEWIS (13-5685); MARTIN LEWIS (13-5907), Defendants-Appellants

Argued, June 25, 2014

Page 444

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 445

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 446

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 447

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.

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.

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

Page 448

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

Page 449

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, Page ID 75014-15, 7525-27; R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 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, Page ID 7514-16; R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 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, Page ID 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, Page ID 8432; R. 1424, Tr. 2/21/2012, Page ID 8950, 9816-19; R. 1425, Tr. 2/27/2012, Page ID 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, Page ID 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, Page ID 7812; R. 1424-2, Tr. 2/23/2012, Page ID 9599, 9608-10; R. 1422-4, Tr. 2/17/2012, Page ID 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, Page ID 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 Page ID 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 Page ID 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, Page ID 3023-30; R. 1508, Tr. 10/19/11, Page ID 12721-821). Sentencing was held on January 31 and February 1, 2013. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, Page ID 12584-685; R. 1506-1, Tr. 2/1/13, Page ID 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

Page 450

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, Page ID 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., Page ID 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, Page ID 12655-63, 12672). As a result, the United States stipulated that Fields provided substantial assistance. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, Page ID 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, Page ID 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, Page ID 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, Page ID ). Richardson herself did not testify at Fields' sentencing. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, Page ID 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

Page 451

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 not making a 5K1 motion.

( Id. at Page ID 12653-54). The court further noted that while a motion under 5K1.1 would allow the court to sentence below the statutory minimum of ten years, this consideration was " irrelevant," since such a low sentence was " really not on the table." ( Id. at Page ID 12653).

At the sentencing hearing, the district court found that Fields had a total offense level of 43 and a criminal history category of VI under the Sentencing Guidelines, resulting in a Guidelines imprisonment range of life. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, Page ID 12605-07). The district court reviewed Fields' substantial criminal history, as well as his family life, his age, and his education. The court concluded that Fields had provided substantial assistance, describing it as " extraordinary." (R. 1506-1, Tr. 2/1/13, Page ID 12703-09). The United States concurred with this characterization. ( Id.). The court heard arguments from Fields' counsel, and solicited a sentencing recommendation from the United States, which it declined to provide. ( Id. at Page ID 12689). The district court assessed the sentencing factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553, and described the offenses to which Fields pleaded guilty as the most serious possible, given the quantity of drugs distributed, and the " many violent acts" involved. (R. 1506-1, Tr. 2/1/13, Page ID 12693-96). The court found that Fields was responsible for the death of Mario Stewart, as well as the kidnapping and murder of Marcus Turner. ( Id. at Page ID 1295-96). The court also found that Fields was " involved in" the murder of Mario McNeil and the solicitation to murder Vacha Vaughn, Craig Jones, and Marcus Howell. ( Id.). The court further reasoned that there was a strong need to promote respect for the law in this case, as well as general deterrence, and protection of the public. ( Id. at Page ID 12702-03). The court purposefully excluded consideration of Fields' continued criminal conduct from its analysis, however, as it could not be satisfied without hearing live testimony from Richardson regarding the allegations against Fields. (R. 1506, Tr. 1/31/13, Page ID 12649-51).

The court concluded that, absent Fields' cooperation, " [t]his [wa]s a case for life in prison." (R. 1506-1, Tr. 2/1/13, Page ID 12703). The court specifically considered U.S.S.G. § 2A1.1, comment n.2(A), which it read to imply that " [t]he guidelines strongly suggest that life [imprisonment] is appropriate in a case like this . . . and a downward departure is discouraged." ( Id. at Page ID 12704-11). The court nevertheless concluded that a variance was warranted, due to Fields' " extraordinary" cooperation and assistance. ( Id. at Page ID 12704-09). Even so, the court found that a substantial sentence was necessary, as Fields was " one of the most culpable members of the conspiracy." ( Id. at Page ID 12713). The court ultimately varied downward from the Guidelines range and imposed a sentence of 444 months. ( Id. at Page ID 12714-15).

B. Clinton & Martin Lewis

Clinton and Martin Lewis pleaded not guilty and proceeded to a joint trial, which began February 6, 2012, and concluded March 23, 2012. Seventy-five witnesses testified and 315 exhibits were presented. Clinton Lewis was found not guilty as to Count 3, and guilty as to Counts 1, 2, 4, 11, 14, and 18. The jury also found the amount of cocaine involved to be in excess of 5 kilograms. (R. 1539, Page ID 12977).

Page 452

Martin Lewis was found guilty on all counts.

On May 14, 2013, Clinton Lewis was sentenced to life imprisonment as to Counts 1, 2, 4, 11, and 14, and twenty years' imprisonment as to Counts 18, to be served concurrently. (R. 1539, Judgment, Page ID 12977). The court also ordered restitution in the amount of $25,000. ( Id.). Martin Lewis was sentenced to life imprisonment as to Counts 1, 2, and 11, and sixty months as to Count 24, to be served concurrently. (R. 1580, Sentencing Tr., Page ID 13160-61).

According to trial testimony, Clinton knew Petties as early as the mid-1990s. (R. 1422, Tr. 2/13/2012, Page ID 7505-06; R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 7611). Starting in 2002, Clinton became increasingly involved in Petties' organization, counting money, purchasing stash houses, and arranging deliveries. (R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 7667-68; R. 1422-3, Tr. 2/16/2012, Page ID 8142-8146; R. 1424-1, Tr. 2/22/2012, Page ID 9150-51, 9162). He traveled to Mexico to meet with Petties (R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 7659), and was one of those trusted with a cell phone capable of reaching Petties. (R. 1425, Tr. 2/27/2012, Page ID 9875).

Martin Lewis provided security for the organization. (R. 1422-1, Tr. 2/14/2012, Page ID 7690; R. 1425-1, Tr. 2/28/2012, Page ID 9970). Martin was tasked with protecting Petties' mother (R. 1427-1, Tr. 3/6/12, Page ID 11258, 11261), and had several violent interactions with police (R. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.