US v. Tony Puryear

Filing 920090702

Download PDF
UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 08-4951 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee, v. TONY L. PURYEAR, Defendant - Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Richmond. Henry E. Hudson, District Judge. (3:08-cr-00077-HEH-1) Submitted: June 11, 2009 Decided: July 2, 2009 Before MICHAEL and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. Robert L. Flax, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellant. Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney, Peter S. Duffey, Assistant United States Attorney, Richmond, Virginia, for Appellee. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. PER CURIAM: Tony L. Puryear appeals his convictions and 108 month sentence for distribution of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(iii), (b)(1)(C) (2006). counseled appellate brief raises ten claims: Puryear's Puryear's convictions violated Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) (Claim 1); his convictions violated the Commerce Clause (Claim 2); the judge erred in excluding evidence of the prior conviction of a trial witness, Alice Chambers (Claim 3); the district court should have excluded evidence of purchases made by Chambers's friend, Earl (Claim 4); the court erred in denying Puryear's motions for judgment of acquittal (Claim 5) and for a mistrial (Claim 6); the evidence was insufficient to support Puryear's conviction (Claim 7); Puryear's conviction should have been reversed as he was a victim of entrapment (Claim 8); Puryear's house should not have been forfeited (Claim 9); and Puryear's sentence is unreasonable (Claim 10). While Puryear's counsel contends that Claim 7 is meritorious, he asserts that the remaining issues are raised pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). Further, as to Claims 1-6 and 8-9, counsel explicitly concedes that each issue is without merit. Because we conclude that counsel's effort to combine a meritorious claim with claims conceded to be lacking in merit does not comport with the Anders framework, see 2 id. at 744-45 finds this (setting "case appeal to forth be procedure to be followed we when to the counsel consider wholly to frivolous"), Anders. decline pursuant Accordingly, judgment of the district court is affirmed as to Claims 1-6 and 8-9. As to Claim 10, however, while it is generally identified as submitted pursuant to Anders, counsel does not concede that it is without merit. Accordingly, out of an abundance of caution, we consider that Claim 10 (a challenge to Puryear's sentence), along with Claim 7 (an attack on the sufficiency of the evidence), are properly before the Court. claims to be without merit, however, we affirm. Finding these I. Sufficiency of the Evidence "A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence faces a heavy burden." United States v. Foster, 507 F.3d 233, 245 (4th Cir. 2007), cert. denied, 128 S. Ct. 1690 (2008). We review a sufficiency of the evidence challenge by whether, viewing the evidence in the light most determining favorable to the Government, any rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. 2005). In order to prove distribution of crack cocaine, the Government must show: (1) knowing or intentional distribution 3 United States v. Collins, 412 F.3d 515, 519 (4th Cir. of crack cocaine, and (2) knowledge, at the time of distribution, that the substance distributed was a controlled substance. Cir. 2003). In this case, the evidence is more than sufficient to support Puryear's convictions of eleven counts of distribution of crack cocaine. each of During her the trial, from Chambers Puryear, described, in See United States v. Brower, 336 F.3d 274, 276 (4th detail, purchases specifically recalling the dates on which they occurred and the particular conversations that went on during each one. Sound and video recordings were played before the jury, depicting several of the controlled searched buys. by law Before and after each buy, The Chambers was enforcement officers. lead detective involved in the investigation testified as to the procedures taken to ensure that the eleven drug quantities Chambers bought from Puryear remained unaltered from the time they were taken from Chambers to the time they were tested at the lab. eleven samples tested positive for crack cocaine. we find that substantial evidence supports All Accordingly, Puryear's convictions. II. Reasonableness of Sentence As Puryear attempted to submit this issue pursuant to Anders, it is arguable that he is conceding that this issue, like the other eight mentioned 4 above, is without merit. However, in his brief, he fails to explicitly state that the district court's sentence was reasonable, or that an appeal of this issue is lacking in merit. the fact that Puryear sold Instead, he first contends that drugs for profit was not a sufficiently aggravating factor to merit a sentence at the top of the guidelines range. Alternatively, Puryear argues that if he had only been convicted of Counts 9 and 10, he would only have been responsible sentencing for range 8.642 of grams of crack, to yielding an adversary sixty-three seventy-eight months' imprisonment. Puryear's second contention, an apparent attack on the procedural reasonableness of his sentence, is dependent upon our finding that the evidence was insufficient to support Puryear's convictions of the eleven counts of crack distribution totaling forty-two grams. However, as the evidence did support such a finding, Puryear's second contention is without merit. "Regardless of whether the sentence imposed is inside or outside the the [g]uidelines under range, an the appellate court must review sentence abuse-of-discretion standard." Appellate Gall v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 586, 597 (2007). courts are charged with reviewing sentences for reasonableness, with appellate consideration of both the procedural and substantive reasonableness of a sentence. Id. at 594, 597. 5 In assess determining the procedural court reasonableness, properly we first the whether district calculated defendant's advisory guidelines range. 97. Gall, 128 S. Ct. at 596- We then determine whether the district court failed to the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) (2006) factors and any consider arguments presented by the parties, treated the guidelines as mandatory, selected a sentence based on "clearly erroneous facts," or failed to sufficiently explain the selected sentence. Id. at 597; United States v. Pauley, 511 F.3d 468, 473 (4th Cir. 2007). Finally, we review the substantive reasonableness of the "taking into account the `totality of the sentence, circumstances, including the extent of any variance from the [g]uidelines range.'" 128 S. Ct. at 597). We may afford sentences that fall within the properly calculated guidelines range a presumption of reasonableness on appeal. See Gall, 128 S. Ct. at 597. This presumption can be Pauley, 511 F.3d at 473 (quoting Gall, rebutted only by showing "that the sentence is unreasonable when measured against the 3553(a) 375, factors." (4th Cir. United 2006) States v. Montes-Pineda, 445 F.3d 379 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). After Puryear's reasonable. reviewing is the the both trial transcript, and we find that sentence First, procedurally court substantively calculated district 6 properly Puryear's advisory guidelines sentence at eighty-seven to 108 months' imprisonment. Then, after giving both Puryear and his counsel a chance to speak, the district court determined the appropriate sentence. The court indicated that it considered the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) (2006) sentencing factors, specifically the nature and circumstances of the offense, the characteristics of the defendant, and the need to promote respect for the law. Moreover, advisory guidelines because range, the we sentence afford it fell a within the of presumption reasonableness on appeal. Puryear believes that his See Gall, 128 S. Ct. at 597. sale of drugs for pure Though commercial profit was insufficient justification for a sentence at the top of the guidelines range, Puryear's subjective disagreement with the judge's rationale is inadequate to rebut the presumption of reasonableness. The judge listed several reasons in support of his sentence, including the fact that Puryear did not have a single, isolated conviction for drug distribution, but instead demonstrated a recurring pattern of illegal behavior. Accordingly, we find that Puryear's sentence was reasonable. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the district court and deny Puryear's motions to appoint new counsel and to file a pro se brief. facts and legal We dispense with oral argument as the are adequately presented in the contentions 7 materials before the court and further argument would not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED 8

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?