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United States v. Coleman

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
ISAR COLEMAN, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Judge]

          Sarah A. Churchill and Nichols & Churchill, P.A., on brief for appellant.

          Renée M. Bunker, Assistant United States Attorney, and Thomas E. Delahanty II, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

          TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

         Defendant-appellant Isar Coleman ("Coleman") pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), 846. He was sentenced to a forty-six-month term of imprisonment, at the lower end of his United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G." or "Guidelines") imprisonment range. Coleman now appeals, challenging the district court's application of a two-level enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon under the U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), and the substantive reasonableness of his sentence. After careful consideration, we affirm.

         I. Facts

         In 2014, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency began investigating Coleman for illegal drug trafficking. As part of the investigation, in October 2014, the agents intercepted various phone calls between Coleman and another related defendant, Christian Dent, in which Coleman ordered an "eight ball" (3.5 grams) of cocaine base from Dent for $250 and inquired about "blues" (Oxycodone).

         On November 26, 2014, the agents seized .3 grams of cocaine base from a confidential source, who admitted to purchasing the illegal substance from Coleman. Later, on December 8, 2014, the agents listened to recorded calls between Coleman and the confidential source, in which they agreed to meet at Coleman's location for the confidential source to purchase $50 to $100 of cocaine base. Later that day, agents arrived at Coleman's location, seized drugs, drug paraphernalia, and drug-related money, and arrested Coleman, a resident, a female, and a juvenile. Coleman informed the agents that the juvenile was going to sell the drugs to the confidential source because Coleman was awaiting a re-supply of cocaine base.

         After Coleman's arrest, he told the agents about a drug-trafficking scheme, and admitted, among other things, that a related defendant, Tasheem Carter ("Carter"), from whom he purchased three "eight balls" per month for $350 each "from April through November, " "traded guns for drugs." Coleman also admitted that, while he was in an apartment with Carter, "Carter traded drugs for a black handgun and that the transaction appeared to be 'second nature' for Carter." Coleman further admitted that on one occasion Carter had been in a "feud" with a related defendant, Sabree Branch, and "Carter bragged about shooting at Branch." Finally, Coleman admitted that on one occasion, he was in an apartment with Carter waiting for Branch to deliver what he "assumed was a gun, " but Branch was arrested right in front of the apartment.[1] This was the same apartment where Coleman was arrested and where the confidential source had bought cocaine base from Coleman.

         On January 15, 2015, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Coleman with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), 846. On June 15, 2015, Coleman pleaded guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement.[2]

         At sentencing, the district court calculated a total offense level of twenty-three, which resulted from a base offense level of twenty-six pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1; a two-level enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1); a two-level reduction pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2 for meeting the requirements of the safety valve provision; and a three-level reduction pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) and (b) due to Coleman's timely acceptance of responsibility. The total offense level of twenty-three, combined with a criminal history category I, yielded a guideline sentencing range ("GSR") of 46-57 months of imprisonment. The district court then proceeded to consider the relevant statutory factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Specifically, the district court stated that it had "listened carefully" to defense counsel's statements and Coleman's "sincere" allocution, and had read the revised Presentence Report and Coleman's sentencing memorandum, "as well as all the other written materials." The sentencing court also took notice of Coleman's "very difficult childhood." However, the sentencing court stated that these factors needed to be balanced with others, such as the seriousness of the offense, the significant quantity of drugs involved, the severe effects to other people, and the presence of a juvenile when Coleman was arrested. The district court ultimately sentenced Coleman to forty-six months of imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release.

         On appeal, Coleman challenges both the procedural and substantive reasonableness of his sentence. He submits that the district court procedurally erred in calculating his GSR by applying a two-level enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1), and that the district court abused its discretion by imposing a sentence at the lower end of his GSR -- ...


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