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United States v. Triplett

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, Pikeville

November 10, 2014



DANNY C. REEVES, District Judge.

Defendant Darrell Triplett was sentenced on January 8, 2008, to a term of imprisonment of 148 months based upon his involvement in a conspiracy that distributed a large quantity of cocaine in eastern Kentucky. [Record No. 514] On this date, Triplett has moved the Court to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) based on recent changes in the drug tables used to determine non-binding guideline ranges for incarceration applicable to certain federal drug offenses. [Record No. 800] For the reasons explained below, the relief requested is not appropriate. Therefore, Triplett's motion will be denied.[1]

Triplett was named in a second superseding indictment returned on May 24, 2007[2], along with twelve other defendants. [Record No. 203] While several co-defendants eventually proceeded to trial and were convicted, Triplett entered a guilty plea on July 30, 2007, to the conpiracy charge (Count 1) and two forfeiture counts (Counts 36 and 37) of the second superseding Indictment. [Record No. 251]

The factual basis supporting Triplett's guilty plea is contained in paragraph 3 of his written Plea Agreement. It provides:

(a) The Defendant, Darrell Triplett, during dates charged in the Indictment conspired with Pamela Justice, Timothy Neal Howard, Roy Branham, Terry Branham, Stephen Randy Gearheart, Steve Tackett, and Louvella Tackett and others known and unknown to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine.
(b) The FBI and Kentucky State Police conducted numerous controlled purchases of cocaine from associates of the Defendant including Terry Branham during 2006 of approximately 42 ounces of cocaine. These transactions were audio/video recorded by the Kentucky State Police. On September 17, 2006, Kentucky State Police traffic stopped Stephen Randy Gearheart in possession of approximately 1 ounce of cocaine and after being advised of his rights Gearheart admitted that he obtained the cocaine from Darrell Triplett at his residence in Langley, Kentucky. On September 18, 2006, Kentucky State Police conducted surveillance on the Defendant and in a trash pull recovered four kilogram cocaine wrappers disposed by the Defendant and Pamela Justice.
(c) On November 4, 2006, the Defendant was subject to a traffic stop by the Kentucky State Police and along with Pamela Justice was found in possession of approximately 2 kilograms of cocaine. Upon interview after being advised of his rights the Defendant admitted to obtaining the cocaine from an out of state source who was hispanic and delivered to customers in Kentucky. On November 4, 2006, a search of the Defendant's residence in Langley, Kentucky revealed various amounts of currency, vehicles, firearms, ammunition, and equipment which had been purchased by drug proceeds or used to facilitate the drug offense. In addition, officers searched the travel camper and found approximately 1/3 of kilogram of cocaine concealed therein.
(d) Numerous cooperating witnesses stated that they have witnessed the Defendant Pamela Justice and Timothy Neal Howard distribute approximately 40 kilograms of cocaine. The FBI in a long term investigation pursuant to Court order intercepted numerous calls placed over the telephones of the Defendant and Terry Branham which revealed that numerous drug transactions occurred between the conspirators named in the Indictment.
(e) The substances seized have been laboratory tested and confirmed to be cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance.

[Record No. 502]

The Presentence Investigation Report ("PSR") prepared in Triplett's case recommended a non-binding guideline range of incarceration of 168 to 210 months based on: (i) the drug quantity attributed to him; (ii) his possession of a weapon during the offense; and (iii) his acceptance of responsibility. [Record No 519] Additionally, Triplett faced mandatory minimum term of incarceration of not less than ten years. However, based on his cooperation, the United States moved the Court to consider a lesser sentence under U.S.S.G. §5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). [Record No. 490]

As Tackett indicates in his present motion, after hearing arguments of counsel, the Court determined that a sentence of 148 months would be sufficient, but not greater than necessary to serve all statutory goals as outlined in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Although the Court was not obligated to impose a sentence at or above the mandatory minimum term otherwise applicable, or within the range calculated under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, in light of all facts presented, a sentence of 148 months of imprisonment was and is necessary to meet all statutory goals and objectives.

While this sentence reflects cooperation by the defendant, his testimony during trial was not entirely believable. Further, in reaching the ultimate determination of an appropriate sentence, the Court considered the seriousness of the offense and its consequences as well as the need to provide specific deterrence to Triplett and general deterrence to others inclined to commit similar offenses. The Court concluded at the time that a lower term of incarceration was not appropriate. That conclusion has not changed with the passage of time or with the recent amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Finally, while the costs of incarceration are significant, those costs are not factors to consider under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), and they do not overcome the relevant considerations outlined above.

In summary, this Court recognizes that it has the authority and ability to reduce Defendant Triplett's sentence based on the amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. However, the fact that the Court may reduce the defendant's sentence does not mean that it must reduce his sentence. Here, a lesser term of incarceration would unduly diminish the seriousness of the ...

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