Monday, January 31, 2011

No Leadership Enhancement In Drug Conspiracy

US v. Slade: Slade pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine and crack. His role in the conspiracy:
According to the PSR, which the district court adopted, Slade was a 'mid[-] to upper-level' member of the drug conspiracy who sold or delivered cocaine and cocaine base both to his own clientele and to other members of the conspiracy, who, in turn, sold the drugs to their clientele. Certain coconspirators also sold cocaine and cocaine base 'for' Slade on various occasions. The PSR reveals further that an unindicted co-conspirator drove Slade to various locations to deliver cocaine base to his clients.
At sentencing, the district court applied a three-level enhancement (among others) for Slade's leadership role in the offense. Slade was sentenced to 365 months in prison, the top of the advisory Guideline range.

On appeal, Slade argued that he should not have been subject to an enhancement for a leadership role because there was no evidence that he actually managed or supervised anyone. The Fourth Circuit agreed, holding that the facts set forth above "do not justify imposition of an enhancement for a management or supervisory role." There was no evidence that Slade "actively exercised some authority over other participants" in the conspiracy. Although reviewing for plain error, the court found the error plain, prejudicial, and worthy of notice on appeal. Therefore, the court vacated Slade's sentence (briefly turning away two other Guideline challenges) and remanded for resentencing.

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