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. Shields

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

January 25, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT LEE SHIELDS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C. Reeves, United States District Judge

         This matter is pending for consideration of Defendant Robert Lee Shields' objection to the imposition of statutory enhanced penalties in this case. [Record No. 170] The parties have briefed the issues presented by the defendant's motion. [Record Nos. 170, 175, 179] Additionally, the Court held a hearing and heard arguments on the motion on January 25, 2018. After careful review, the objection will be overruled for the reasons that follow.

         I.

         Shields was the source of drugs that resulted in the death of one person and serious bodily injury to at least three others in Montgomery County, Kentucky, in August 2016. [See Record No. 126.] The United States made a plea offer after Shields was arrested, indicating that it would not file a § 851 notice if he provided substantial assistance to law enforcement. [Record No. 130-1] Upon receiving the offer, Shields' attorney informed him that the filing of a § 851 notice could potentially subject him to a mandatory life sentence, but he could not be subject to a mandatory life sentence if a § 851 notice was not filed. [Id.] Shields rejected the offer. He was indicted the following week for conspiracy to distribute fentanyl and heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. [Record No. 10]

         The letter from Shields' attorney dated September 15, 2016, stated in relevant part:

The Assistant United States Attorney has told me that if you are willing to provide substantial assistance to law enforcement, then he will consider not filing a notice under 21 U.S.C.§ 851 that would potentially subject you to a mandatory life sentence. If he does not file a § 851 notice, then you could not be subject to a mandatory life sentence, although the sentencing guidelines (which are advisory, not mandatory) could still be computed in such a way as to produce a recommended life sentence.

[Record No. 130-1][1]

         The United States filed a § 851 notice two days after the original indictment was returned. [Record No. 15] The notice informed Shields that, if he were convicted, he would be subject to an enhanced punishment under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1), based on the following prior convictions: (i) a 2007 Ohio conviction for trafficking in cocaine; (ii) a 2009 Ohio conviction for trafficking in cocaine; and (iii) a 2011 Ohio conviction for possession of heroin.[2] [Id.]

         Three superseding indictments were subsequently returned against Shields, modifying the original count and adding two additional counts. [Record Nos. 40, 57, 86] The United States did not file an updated or amended § 851 notice after the superseding indictments were returned. The third superseding indictment charged Shields with three counts: (i) conspiracy to distribute carfentanil, fentanyl, and/or heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846; (ii) distribution of carfentanil, the use of which resulted in death, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and (iii) distribution of carfentanil, the use of which resulted in serious bodily injury, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). [Record No. 86] Shields was found guilty of all three counts following a four-day jury trial. [Record No. 126]

         The Court conducted a § 851(b) colloquy with Shields at the close of the trial. [Record No. 139, p. 51-56] The Court explained that the prior felony convictions listed in the § 851 notice could subject Shields to an increased penalty of 30 years of imprisonment for count one and life imprisonment for count two, and that Shields must raise any challenge to the prior convictions before his sentence was imposed. [Id. at p. 52-3] The Court then read the convictions listed in the § 851 notice to Shields, and he affirmed that the information was accurate. [Id. at p. 53-54] The Court also advised Shields that if he later denied the could challenge them by filing a written response to the notice, at which point the Court would hold a hearing to resolve any issue raised by his response. [Id. at 54-55]

         The United States Probation Office prepared a Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) in advance of the sentencing hearing. The PSR identified the applicable base offense level as 43 under United States Sentencing Guideline (“U.S.S.G.”) § 2D1.1(a)(1), because Shields was convicted of an offense involving the distribution of drugs that resulted in death or serious bodily injury and had a prior conviction for a “similar offense.” The PSR also determined that Shields is a career offender under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a), because he was at least 18 years old at the time he committed a felony controlled substance offense and he has at least two prior felony convictions for controlled substance offenses.[3] The resulting criminal history category is VI under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b). The non-binding guideline sentence range based on a total offense level of 43 and a criminal history category of VI is life imprisonment.

         The PSR also noted that Shields is subject to statutory penalties. Under the applicable statutory provision, “[i]f any person commits [a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841] after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not more than 30 years and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be sentenced to life imprisonment . . . .” 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C). The PSR indicated that count one is subject to a maximum term of 30 years' imprisonment because Shields has a prior conviction for a “felony drug offense” and count one does not involve death or serious bodily injury. Because the statutory maximum sentence is less than the applicable guideline range, the guideline range for count one becomes 360 months under U.S.S.G. §5G1.1(a). However, because counts two and three involve death and serious bodily injury, they carry a statutory minimum term of life imprisonment, and the guideline sentence range is life imprisonment for those counts.

         Shields objects to the determination that he is subject to a mandatory life sentence for counts two and three. He argues that (i) the § 851 notice referenced only count one and did not give him sufficient notice of the government's intent to seek an enhanced statutory penalty for counts two or three; (ii) the convictions listed in the § 851 notice are not prior convictions for “felony drug offenses”; and (iii) ...


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.