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United States v. Sydnor

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

March 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MAURICE SYDNOR, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DANNY C. REEVES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Maurice Sydnor has submitted objections to the § 851 notice filed in this case and the imposition of enhanced statutory penalties. [Record No. 365');">365');">365');">365] The United States has filed a response, and the matter is ripe for decision.[1] [Record No. 369] After careful review, Sydnor's objections will be overruled.

         I.

         Count One of the Superseding Indictment charges Defendant Maurice Sydnor with conspiring to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine and 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. [Record No. 20] A defendant who is convicted under § 846 is subject to the following enhanced statutory penalties:

If any person commits such a violation after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 20 years and not more than life imprisonment . . . a fine not to exceed . . . $20, 000, 000 if the defendant is an individual . . . [and] a term of supervised release of at least 10 years in addition to such term of imprisonment.

21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

         Sydnor decided to plead guilty to Count One of the Superseding Indictment, and filed a motion for rearraignment on December 14, 2017. [Record No. 297] In accordance with 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), Sydnor's written plea agreement states that he is subject to a statutory punishment of not less than 20 years and not more than life, a fine of not more than $20, 000, 000, and a term of supervised release of at least 10 years. [Id. ¶ 4] The plea agreement explains that Sydnor “is eligible for the above-reference enhanced sentence based on a prior qualifying felony drug conviction.” [Id.]

         On the same day that Sydnor filed his motion for rearraignment, the United States filed a § 851 notice, stating that:

[I]f Maurice Sydnor is convicted . . . he shall be subject to an enhanced statutory punishment pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) because he has a prior final drug felony conviction for Dealing in Cocaine or Narcotic Drug, for which he was sentenced on October 07, 2009 by the Floyd Superior Court 3 in New Albany, Indiana in Case Number 22D03-0902-FA-00373.

[Record Nos. 298, 300]

         Sydnor's rearraignment hearing was held on December 18, 2017. [Record No. 304] The Court reviewed the § 851 notice with Sydnor and the enhanced penalties listed in his plea agreement. Sydnor stated that he understood that the prior conviction listed in the § 851 notice would subject him to the higher penalties and affirmed the prior conviction. The Court also advised Sydnor that any challenge to the prior conviction would have to be raised prior to his sentencing proceeding. Ultimately, the Court concluded that Sydnor's plea was knowingly and voluntarily made, and accepted his plea of guilty.

         II.

         Sydnor now raises three challenges to the imposition of enhanced statutory punishment in this case: (i) the government's § 851 notice failed to provide him with sufficient advance notice of the increased statutory penalty because it was filed after he filed his motion for rearraignment; (ii) the 2009 Indiana conviction for Dealing in Cocaine referenced in the § 851 notice is not a qualifying felony drug offense; and (iii) imposing the mandatory minimum sentence violates 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e)'s instruction to impose a sentence that is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary, ” and violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment. [Record No. 365');">365');">365');">365] Each of these arguments will be evaluated in turn.

         A. The Timing of the ...


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