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United States v. Lawrence

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 14, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Martin Thomas Lawrence Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: January 13, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Cedar Rapids

          Before WOLLMAN, MURPHY, and MELLOY, Circuit Judges.

          MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

         A jury found Martin Lawrence guilty of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and attempt to obstruct justice. The district court[1] sentenced Lawrence to 300 months' imprisonment. Lawrence appeals, arguing the district court improperly calculated the drug quantity attributable to him.[2] We affirm.

         I.

         In July 2015, Lawrence was indicted for conspiracy to distribute at least 500 grams of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams of actual methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846; and possession with intent to distribute at least five grams of actual methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B). In October 2015, the Government filed a superseding indictment, adding a charge for attempt to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(b)(1), 1512(b)(2)(A), and 1512(b)(2)(C). Lawrence proceeded to trial and a jury returned a guilty verdict on all three charges.

         At trial, the Government presented testimony regarding the drug quantity attributable to Lawrence, including testimony from coconspirators and from law enforcement officers involved in the investigation. Testimony from officers described a number of controlled buys from Lawrence and Kevin Ridler, a coconspirator. During a controlled buy on October 1, 2013, Ridler sold 2.54 grams of actual methamphetamine. During two controlled buys, on October 13 and October 24, 2014, Lawrence sold 25.98 grams of actual methamphetamine and 36.45 grams of actual methamphetamine, respectively. Additionally, on October 11, 2013, officers executed a search warrant at Ridler's residence and seized 28 grams of methamphetamine mixture.

         Officers also testified regarding methamphetamine seized from Troy Lawrence, another coconspirator. On July 12, 2014, Troy Lawrence was stopped for a traffic violation and officers seized 6.56 grams of ice methamphetamine. On September 12, 2014, Troy Lawrence was involved in a traffic accident. Because the vehicle did not have insurance, officers impounded the car and, during an inventory search, found 23.29 grams of actual methamphetamine and 4.83 grams of methamphetamine mixture.

         Finally, officers testified regarding a traffic stop of Mark Fuehrer, a third coconspirator, on January 11, 2015. During the traffic stop, officers seized 25.58 grams of actual methamphetamine.

         Ridler also testified at trial. Ridler had participated with law enforcement in the controlled buys from Lawrence. Ridler described his past drug use and his relationship with Lawrence. Specifically, Ridler testified he obtained ice methamphetamine from Lawrence for three to four years. Ridler testified he bought ice methamphetamine from Lawrence at least 20 to 35 times, beginning with smaller quantities of a gram or two and increasing to as much as one ounce at a time. Ridler stated that he distributed ice methamphetamine for one and a half to two years and regularly used 0.5 to one gram per day during that period.

         Finally, Carrie Maskewit, Troy Lawrence's girlfriend, also testified at trial. Maskewit testified that Lawrence was Troy Lawrence's supplier for ice methamphetamine. Maskewit stated that Lawrence obtained methamphetamine from "Rusty" in Omaha, Nebraska. Maskewit also stated that she had observed Lawrence with half-full gallon-sized plastic Ziploc bags of ice methamphetamine. An investigator later testified that this was consistent with a pound of ice methamphetamine.

         Following Lawrence's conviction, the district court held two sentencing hearings. At the first hearing, on January 14, 2016, the court heard testimony from Daniel Grother, who had known Lawrence for a number of years and had bought a gram of methamphetamine from Lawrence on approximately six occasions. Grother testified that he had traveled with Lawrence to Omaha at least ten times in March and April 2015. During those trips, Grother stated, Lawrence would stop at Rusty's home, where Grother observed drug activity between Lawrence and Rusty. Grother testified that over the course of those trips, he believed he observed Lawrence in possession of three to four pounds of ice methamphetamine.

         Based on Grother's testimony, the PSR attributed 1.3608 kilograms of methamphetamine to Lawrence. The PSR also attributed 424.4 grams of marijuana to Lawrence, based on marijuana seized during a search of Lawrence's home on January 27, 2015. Finally, the PSR attributed 42.52 grams of cocaine base to Lawrence, based on a report to law enforcement by a man to whom Lawrence had sold that cocaine base. The PSR attributed a total of 27, 368.26 kilograms of marijuana equivalency to Lawrence, resulting in a base offense level of 34. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines ยง 2D1.1(c)(3). The PSR also added a two-level enhancement based on evidence that Lawrence had attempted to obstruct justice by persuading his ...


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