United States v. James Alfred Miller

Court Case Details
Court Case Opinion

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No. 95-2210EA
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United States of America,

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*

Appellee,

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On Appeal from the United

v.

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States District Court

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for the Eastern District

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of Arkansas.

James Alfred Miller,

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Appellant.

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Submitted: June 10, 1996

Filed: August 6, 1996

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Before RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge, MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit

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Judge, and ROSENBAUM, District Judge.

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RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Chief Judge.

James Alfred Miller was convicted of three drug-related felonies and

sentenced to a prison term of twenty-four years and four months. We affirm

these convictions, but remand this case to the District Court for

resentencing.

I.

At trial, the government introduced evidence showing that from

January 1993 through April 1994, James Miller sold methamphetamine

*The Hon. James M. Rosenbaum, United States District Judge for

the District of Minnesota, sitting by designation.

to a number of people. One of Miller's principal buyers was Don Roe, who

was a drug dealer. Roe testified that he generally bought four ounces of

methamphetamine at a time, at a cost of $5,000 per purchase. On two

occasions, Roe purchased one-pound quantities. The defendant sometimes

"fronted" these drugs, that is, he gave them to Roe and did not demand

payment until a later date. Roe testified that on September 5, 1993, he

and Jackie Bingham Williams went to Miller's house to buy methamphetamine.

Roe took this purchase back to his home, where the police discovered it

later that day.

A number of witnesses corroborated Roe's testimony. Lisa Gulledge

stated that she accompanied Roe, whom she described as a well-known drug

dealer, on trips to Miller's house to purchase methamphetamine. Mark

Kenyon, who sold methamphetamine for Roe, testified that in early 1993, he

and Roe purchased methamphetamine from Miller. Donna Carter said that she

bought methamphetamine from Roe, and had seen the defendant dispense this

drug to Gulledge, Kenyon, and Kathy Reeves. Also, Jackie Bingham Williams

confirmed Roe's account of the events of September 5, 1993.

Two other important witnesses were Jerry Wilson and Veronica Simone.

Wilson testified that, beginning in the spring of 1993, he purchased one-

eighth of an ounce of methamphetamine from Miller every month. Eventually,

he started buying a pound at a time. The defendant sometimes fronted these

drugs to Wilson, who resold them. Veronica Simone testified that when she

was seven and one-half months' pregnant, Miller sold her methamphetamine.

The jury convicted Miller of conspiring to distribute and to possess

with intent to distribute methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. § 846, distributing

methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and distributing methamphetamine

to a pregnant person, 21 U.S.C. § 861(f). Determining that Miller was the

"organizer or leader of a criminal activity that involved five or more

participants,"

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U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(a), the District Court increased Miller's base offense

level by four levels and sentenced him to a prison term of twenty-four

years and four months.

II.

On appeal, Miller argues that there was insufficient evidence to

support his conspiracy conviction, and that the District Court erred by

refusing to grant his request for a continuance and by not permitting a

number of proposed defense witnesses to testify. Miller also asserts that

in sentencing him, the District Court should not have applied a four-level

enhancement.

A.

We begin with Miller's claim that the government did not produce

enough evidence to support his conspiracy conviction. At trial, the

government introduced evidence that Miller sold one-pound quantities of

methamphetamine, worth $10,000 each, to Don Roe, a known drug dealer, and

to Jerry Wilson. The government argues that the jury could have inferred

that because Miller made such large sales, he knew that his purchasers were

reselling the methamphetamine. According to the government, the fact that

Miller "fronted" the methamphetamine to Roe, Wilson, Mark Kenyon, and Kathy

Reeves also shows that Miller knew that the methamphetamine was being

resold, because the only way that Miller's buyers could have paid him back

was to resell the drugs.

To convict Miller of conspiracy, the government had to "establish

that an agreement to engage in distributing drugs existed between two or

more people, including the defendant." United States v. Rodgers, 18 F.3d

1425, 1428-29 (8th Cir. 1994). Although "numerous sales of small amounts

. . . for personal use are insufficient to support a [conspiracy]

conviction," United States v. Eneff, 79 F.3d 104, 105 (8th Cir. 1996), we

have held

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that "evidence of multiple sales of resale quantities of drugs is

sufficient in and of itself to make a submissible case of conspiracy to

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distribute." Ibid. The government did show that Miller sold resale

quantities of drugs. This evidence was, therefore, sufficient to convict

Miller of conspiracy.

B.

Next, Miller asserts that the District Court erred by not granting

his request for a continuance. There is "little question that a district

court has wide discretion in ruling on motions for continuances, and a

court's exercise of that discretion will rarely be overturned." United

States v. Pruett, 788 F.2d 1395, 1396 (8th Cir. 1986). We do not believe

that the District Court abused its discretion in this case.

Miller based his request for a continuance, which he made on the

morning of trial, on three grounds. First, Miller noted that the

prosecution had not disclosed that its principal witness, Don Roe, had been

arrested in 1993 for drug possession and had tried to bribe the police

officers who had arrested him. (The government says that its failure to

disclose these facts was inadvertent.) Miller's counsel did discover this

information the week before trial and was able to use it to cross-examine

Roe. Miller suffered

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A number of circuits disagree with this view. See United

States v. Lennick, 18 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir.) ("[t]o show a
conspiracy, the government must show not only that [the defendant]
gave drugs to other people knowing that they would distribute them,
but also that he had an agreement with these individuals to so
further distribute the drugs."), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct. 162
(1994); United States v. Lechuga, 994 F.2d 346, 347 (7th Cir.) (en
banc) (the sale of "large quantities of controlled substances,
without more, cannot sustain a conspiracy conviction"), cert.
denied, 114 S. Ct. 482 (1993); United States v. Howard, 966 F.2d
1362, 1364 (10th Cir. 1992) ("[t]he huge quantity of crack cocaine
involved in this case permits an inference of conspiracy, but by
itself this is not enough to convict defendant"). Nevertheless, as
a panel, we are not free to depart from our precedents.

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no prejudice from the Court's failure to grant a continuance.

The same is true of the other two grounds on which Miller based his

motion for a continuance -- that the prosecution had not told Miller until

the day before trial that Charlotte Kirks, a government witness, had a

criminal record, and that the prosecution did not disclose that Jackie

Bingham Williams, another government witness, had lost custody of her

child. In each case, the prosecution's failure to disclose the

information, which it says was inadvertent, did not interfere with the

ability of Miller's counsel to use these facts during cross-examination.

Thus, the District Court's refusal to grant a continuance was not an abuse

of discretion.

C.

We now address Miller's evidentiary claims. The District Court did

not permit Miller to call a number of witnesses who, Miller asserts, would

have impeached the testimony of Don Roe. Weldon Davis, the Jailor of

Pulaski County, Arkansas, would have testified that on September 6, 1993,

when Roe was detained on state drug charges, Roe told a fellow prisoner

that only two people, neither of whom was Miller, knew about the pound of

methamphetamine the police had discovered in his house on September 5. Roe

testified that he never made this statement.

We believe that the District Court erred by refusing to allow the

defendant to question Weldon Davis. A party may introduce extrinsic

evidence of a witness's prior inconsistent statement if the witness is

given a chance to explain the inconsistency, the opposing party is afforded

an opportunity to question the witness about the inconsistency, and the

inconsistent statements are material to the substantive issues of the

trial. Fed. R. Evid. 613(b); United States v. Roulette, 75 F.3d 418, 423

(8th Cir. 1996). Miller's lawyer asked Roe to explain his prior statement,

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and the government had the opportunity to question Roe on redirect

examination. Also, Weldon Davis's testimony would have been relevant to

whether Miller sold Roe the methamphetamine that the police found in Roe's

house -- certainly a substantive trial issue.

However, this error does not cause us to reverse Miller's conviction.

Jackie Bingham Williams testified that she accompanied Roe on his trip to

Miller's house to purchase the one pound of methamphetamine that the police

discovered on September 5. Williams's testimony corroborates Roe's account

of the events of September 5 and leads us to conclude that the District

Court's refusal to allow Weldon Davis to testify was harmless error.

The defendant also asserts that he should have been permitted to call

as witnesses three police officers who would have testified that Roe had

attempted to bribe them. The officers' testimony would not have shown that

Roe had made an inconsistent statement material to whether Miller was

guilty of the crimes for which he was being tried. Instead, the officers'

statements would have been used purely to attack Roe's character. Trials

are about charges in the indictment, not the character of the witnesses.

Thus, although Federal Rule of Evidence 608(a) permits a party to introduce

evidence regarding a witness's reputation for truthfulness, Rule 608(b)

"does not permit specific instances of a witness's conduct to be proved by

extrinsic evidence." United States v. Johnson, 968 F.2d 765, 766 (8th

Cir.), cert. denied, 506 U.S. 980 (1992) (citation omitted). We agree with

the District Court that the proposed testimony of the three officers was

inadmissible.

D.

Finally, Miller argues that the District Court should not have given

him a four-level enhancement for being the "organizer or leader of a

criminal activity that involved five or more participants." U.S.S.G.

§ 3B1.1(a). Typically, this enhancement

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applies to a defendant who employs or otherwise arranges for intermediaries

to sell his drugs. See, e.g., United States v. McMullen, 86 F.3d 135, 138

(8th Cir. 1996); United States v. Logan, 54 F.3d 452, 456 (8th Cir. 1995);

United States v. Greene, 995 F.2d 793, 802 (8th Cir. 1993). We have,

however, "broadly interpreted the terms `organizer' and `leader,'" United

States v. Maxwell, 25 F.3d 1389, 1399 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 115 S. Ct.

610 (1994). Thus, the defendant need not "directly control" his

intermediaries. Ibid. But, if the words "organizer" and "leader" are to

have their ordinary meaning, a defendant must do more than sell for resale.

See United States v. Rowley, 975 F.2d 1357, 1364 n.7 (8th Cir. 1992) ("we

have always required evidence that the defendant directed or procured the

aid of underlings").

Miller was not the "organizer" or "leader" of a conspiracy. Although

Miller sold large enough quantities of methamphetamine that it is

reasonable to infer that he knew the drugs were being resold, Miller did

not have any involvement in the resales. There is no evidence that Miller

controlled his buyers in their resale of the methamphetamine. The

government contends that the four-level enhancement should, nevertheless,

apply because Miller supplied the drugs that his co-conspirators later

resold. But, as the Fifth Circuit has explained, controlling property does

not make one an "organizer" or a "leader":

Applying a plain-meaning approach to "leader" and "organizer,"
we note that their definitions relate to supervision of people
only. Leader is defined as a person who leads as a commander.
Webster's Third New International Dictionary 1283 (1981).
Organizer is defined as a person who travels for the purpose of
establishing new organizations. Id. at 1590. A commander
commands people, and organizations are composed of people.
Unlike a manager, a leader's or organizer's actions must
directly affect other people. Consequently, a leader or
organizer must control or influence other people.

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United States v. Ronning, 47 F.3d 710, 712 (5th Cir. 1995). We therefore

agree with Miller that the District Court should not have applied a four-

level enhancement on this record.

III.

For these reasons, we affirm Miller's convictions, vacate his

sentence, and remand this case to the District Court for resentencing.

A true copy.

Attest:

CLERK, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS, EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

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