June 19, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Defendant’s Conviction of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Patterson on Friday, April 5, 2013.

The events that gave rise to Adrian Patterson’s indictment stem from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation into whether Bernard Redd was distributing cocaine in Wichita, Kansas. A substantial portion of the evidence presented against the co-conspirators was obtained through wiretaps of their telephone conversations, which was presented at trial. Patterson was convicted by jury trial of a number of drug charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

On appeal, Patterson raised a number of challenges to his conviction and sentence. He contended:

(1) The district court erred in denying his request for a pretrial hearing to determine his competency to stand trial.

A defendant’s right to a competency hearing is governed in part by 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a), which requires a district court to grant a motion for a hearing in limited circumstances. These include “if there is  reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense. Based on the district court’s observations of Patterson, the Tenth Circuit held the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his request for a competency hearing.

(2) The evidence offered by the government was insufficient to support his conviction and to provide a basis for the admission of testimony under the coconspirator exception to the hearsay rule.

The Tenth Circuit found that the district court’s factual finding as to the existence of a conspiracy was not clearly erroneous. Further, in the light most favorable to the government, a rational juror could draw the conclusion from the evidence that Patterson was involved in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

(3) His Sixth Amendment rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated when hearsay testimony linking him to the conspiracy was introduced at trial.

Patterson argued that the admission of hearsay testimony violated principles established by the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), and Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968). The Court held that the admission of statements violated neither Crawford nor Bruton because both statements were made in furtherance of a conspiracy and were therefore nontestimonial.

(4) The district court improperly instructed the jury.

The district court made statements about its schedule. Patterson argued the statements exerted undue coercion on the jury. The Tenth Circuit held Patterson’s interpretation of the comments as coercive had no basis in the record or in the law. The district court did not plainly err in its interaction with the jury over scheduling matters.

(5) The district court’s finding at sentencing that he was responsible for the distribution of fifteen kilos of cocaine is clearly erroneous.

Patterson next challenged the district court’s factual finding at sentencing that he was responsible for distributing fifteen kilograms of cocaine. The Tenth Circuit found Patterson did not meet his burden of showing clear error. The testimony supported a finding that up to sixty kilograms of cocaine was actually or intended to be distributed during the conspiracy.

(6) The indictment was insufficiently specific as to the counts charged against him.  

The two principal criteria by which the sufficiency of an indictment is assessed are “first, whether the indictment contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged, and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and, secondly, in case any other proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense[,] whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction.” United States v. Washington, 653 F.3d 1251, 1259 (10th Cir. 2011).

Based on this standard, the Tenth Circuit found no error.

(7) The district court erred in failing to exclude evidence obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

Patterson’s last claim is that the district court erred in not granting his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the government’s alleged illegal use of cell site location information. By failing to develop any argument on this claim in the Tenth Circuit, Patterson waived this claim.

AFFIRMED.

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