US v. Roland Cooper
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 4:12-cr-00110-H-1 Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. .. [14-4481]
Pg: 1 of 7
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff – Appellee,
ROLAND SYLVESTER COOPER,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Greenville.
Malcolm J. Howard,
Senior District Judge. (4:12-cr-00110-H-1)
June 25, 2015
June 29, 2015
Before GREGORY, FLOYD, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Mitchell G. Styers, BANZET, THOMPSON & STYERS, PLLC, Warrenton,
North Carolina, for Appellant. Thomas G. Walker, United States
Attorney, Jennifer P. May-Parker, Yvonne V. Watford-McKinney,
Assistant United States Attorneys, Raleigh, North Carolina, for
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
Pg: 2 of 7
Roland Sylvester Cooper appeals from his conviction and 108month
knowingly selling a firearm to a convicted felon.
Finding no error, we affirm.
First, Cooper contends that he was subject to vindictive
prosecution, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
As grounds for
this claim, Cooper contends that the local sheriff’s department
complaint he filed against a local police officer related to
injuries he sustained when an officer used a taser on him.
did not assert this claim in the district court, therefore it is
reviewed for plain error.
725, 732 (1999).
See United States v. Olano, 507 U.S.
To establish prosecutorial vindictiveness, a
defendant must show that the prosecutor acted with genuine animus
prosecuted but for that animus.
305, 314 (4th Cir. 2001).
United States v. Wilson, 262 F.3d
If a defendant cannot produce direct
evidence of a vindictive motive, he can establish a rebuttable
likelihood of vindictiveness exists.” United States v. Goodwin,
457 U.S. 368, 373 (1982).
Pg: 3 of 7
If he succeeds, the burden then shifts
to the Government to present objective evidence justifying its
Id. at 374.
The evidence is viewed, however, in the
context of the “presumption of regularity” that attends decisions
to prosecute. United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 464 (1996)
Thus, “in the ordinary case, so long as the
prosecutor has probable cause to believe that the accused committed
an offense defined by statute, the decision whether or not to
prosecute, and what charge to file . . . generally rests entirely
in his discretion.”
Id. (internal quotations omitted).
We note at the outset that most successful vindictive prosecution
claims involve retaliatory prosecutions by the same sovereign that
earlier brought the defendant to trial.
U.S. at 381.
See, e.g., Goodwin, 457
Here, however, the alleged vindictive prosecution
was brought by a different sovereign altogether. See United States
v. Robison, 644 F.2d 1270, 1273 (9th Cir. 1981) (expressing “doubt
as to whether a prosecution could be condemned as ‘vindictive’
when the defendant’s claim is that one sovereign is punishing him
for rights he asserted against a different sovereign”).
Even if we were to assume there was some evidence of animus
on the part of local law enforcement in referring Cooper for
federal prosecution, there is no evidence to suggest that the
Government official who actually made the decision to prosecute
Cooper was motivated by any impermissible consideration.
Pg: 4 of 7
will not “impute the unlawful biases of the investigating agents
to the persons ultimately responsible for the prosecution.” United
States v. Hastings, 126 F.3d 310, 314 (4th Cir. 1997).
Finally, objective evidence in the record clearly supports
the Government’s decision to prosecute Cooper in federal court.
Given the facts adduced at trial, the Government had probable cause
to believe that Cooper committed the charged offenses.
517 U.S. at 464.
Accordingly, Cooper’s vindictive prosecution
Next, Cooper raises sentencing challenges.
adequately explain its sentence.
He argues that
Cooper also asserts that the
sentence is substantively unreasonable because it is greater than
necessary to comply with the purposes of sentencing.
We review a
Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 46 (2007).
court first reviews for significant procedural error, and if the
sentence is free from such error, it then considers substantive
Id. at 51.
Procedural error includes improperly
Guidelines range as mandatory, failing to consider the 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a) (2012) factors, and failing to adequately explain the
To adequately explain the sentence, the
Pg: 5 of 7
applying the relevant § 3553(a) factors to the case’s specific
United States v. Carter, 564 F.3d 325, 328 (4th
The individualized assessment need not be elaborate
or lengthy, but it must be adequate to allow meaningful appellate
Id. at 330.
Substantive reasonableness is determined by
considering the totality of the circumstances, and if the sentence
is within the properly-calculated Guidelines range, this court
Strieper, 666 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir. 2012).
The Government must prove the drug quantity attributable to
the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence.
v. Carter, 300 F.3d 415, 425 (4th Cir. 2002).
The district court
investigation report unless the defendant shows that information
is inaccurate or unreliable.
A district court’s findings
regarding drug quantity are generally factual in nature, and
therefore are reviewed by this court for clear error.
The district court properly found by a preponderance of the
evidence that Cooper was responsible for the equivalent of 692
grams of marijuana.
Carter, 300 F.3d at 425.
The court’s finding
cooperating witnesses, and by the physical evidence obtained in
Pg: 6 of 7
We therefore conclude that the district court
did not clearly err in calculating Cooper’s drug quantity.
We next consider Cooper’s challenge to the application of a
weapon. Section 2D1.1(b)(1) of the Sentencing Guidelines provides
for a two-level enhancement where a dangerous weapon, such as a
firearm, was possessed.
The district court decides whether to
apply the enhancement by a preponderance of the evidence, and its
findings ordinarily will be reversed only if clearly erroneous.
United States v. Apple, 915 F.2d 899, 914 (4th Cir. 1990).
conclude that the district court properly applied the firearm
Ample evidence supported the enhancement, including
evidence that Cooper conducted some of the drug transactions from
his home where firearms were kept, that a firearm was found at his
home, and that Cooper sold the cooperating witness a firearm in
the course of a drug transaction.
Cooper also argues that the district court did not give
sufficient reasoning why it did not grant his request for a low-end
Guidelines sentence. Here, the district court listened to Cooper’s
argument for a reduction based on Cooper’s age, mental competence,
and that he was low-level dealer.
In imposing the sentence, the
court stated that it was sentencing Cooper at the lower end of the
Guidelines range in light of the significant penalties associated
with the range and, in fact, granted a downward variance based on
Pg: 7 of 7
proposed changes to the drug table, and noted Cooper’s personal
and criminal history.
The court explicitly stated that it had
considered the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.
We conclude that
the court sufficiently considered Cooper’s request for a low-end
sentence and its reasoning was adequate to permit meaningful
See United States v. Worley, 685 F.3d 404, 410 (4th Cir.
2012) (explaining that while the district court did not explicitly
address most of the defendant’s arguments about postsentencing
rehabilitation, the court has “never required a sentencing court
Therefore, we find no procedural error.
Further, Cooper has not rebutted the presumption of reasonableness
attributed to within-Guidelines sentences.
See Strieper, 666 F.3d
Accordingly, we affirm the sentence.
We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal
contentions are adequately presented in the materials before this
court and argument would not aid the decisional process.
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?