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United States v. Baker

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

May 30, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Demond Baker, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: March 16, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Akron. No. 5:15-cr-00245-12-James S. Gwin, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Brian R. McGraw, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Daniel R. Ranke, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Brian R. McGraw, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellant.

          Daniel R. Ranke, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

          Before: KEITH, BATCHELDER, and MCKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          ALICE M. BATCHELDER, Circuit Judge.

         Demond Baker appeals his 50-month sentence for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and heroin, arguing that his sentence is both procedurally and substantively unreasonable. The district court's method of determining the extent of Baker's involvement in the drug conspiracy raises concerns, but we ultimately must affirm Baker's sentence because it was neither procedurally nor substantively unreasonable.

         I.

         In 2015, Baker pled guilty to participating in a large-scale drug trafficking conspiracy. In exchange, the government agreed to recommend that Baker be sentenced within a range agreed upon by the parties. Baker had a criminal history category of IV, and the parties' plea agreement stipulated that 100 to 200 grams of cocaine be attributed to Baker and that his total offense level be set at 12, resulting in an agreed Guidelines range of 21 to 27 months' imprisonment.

         During sentencing proceedings, the district court became concerned that the plea agreement did not accurately reflect the drug quantity for which Baker was responsible. The government explained that it could not prove a drug amount in excess of 172 grams of cocaine, but the district court was unconvinced. To resolve the issue, the district court requested and reviewed Baker's confidential proffer statement, developed after Baker agreed to provide the government information about the drug conspiracy. The district court then found Baker responsible for 500 grams to two kilograms of cocaine, thereby significantly increasing Baker's base offense level and the resulting total offense level. The district court acknowledged that it could not use the information found only in Baker's confidential proffer statement to determine the applicable Guidelines range. Instead, the district court based its drug-weight finding on (1) a post-arrest recorded phone call in which Baker stated that police ...


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