US v. Samuel Hill
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 5:14-cr-00206-F-1 Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. .. [15-4700]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
SAMUEL WAYNE HILL, a/k/a Sam Hill,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Raleigh.
James C. Fox, Senior
District Judge. (5:14-cr-00206-F-1)
March 14, 2017
March 23, 2017
Before MOTZ, AGEE, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Cindy H. Popkin-Bradley, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellant.
John Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney, Jennifer P. MayParker, First Assistant United States Attorney, Kristine L.
Carolina, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Samuel Wayne Hill pled guilty, pursuant to a written plea
agreement, to conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, and possess
with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or
substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 (2012).
within his Sentencing Guidelines range of 360 months to life.
The court also imposed a lifetime term of supervised release,
which was an upward variance from the Guidelines range of five
district court committed procedural sentencing error by failing
to explain adequately the 480-month sentence, to address his
arguments for a downward variance, and to explain the reasons
Hill also contended that the court’s comments at the
violation of due process.
We previously granted the Government’s motion to dismiss
this appeal, in part, based on the waiver-of-appellate-rights
provision included in Hill’s plea agreement, pursuant to which
Hill waived his right to appeal a within-Guidelines sentence.
We ruled that Hill’s acceptance of this waiver was knowing and
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voluntary and that the first two appellate issues fell within
the scope of the waiver.
However, neither Hill’s challenge to
release nor his due process claim is foreclosed by the appellate
We address each of these claims in turn.
Appellate Procedure, the argument section of the brief “must
contain . . . appellant’s contentions and the reasons for them,
with citations to the authorities and parts of the record on
Issues not raised in a party’s opening brief are waived.
States v. Bartko, 728 F.3d 327, 335 (4th Cir. 2013).
To be sure, Hill’s opening brief identifies the lifetime
term of supervised release as part of the issue on appeal. 1
the argument portion of the brief frames the claimed procedural
rejecting the requested downward variance.
The closest Hill
Specifically, the statement of the argument is as follows:
“Whether the district court committed procedural error when it
did not adequately explain why it imposed 480 months as the term
of imprisonment, why it rejected Mr. Samuel Hill’s arguments for
a variance, and why it ordered a term of life for supervised
release.” (Appellant’s Br. (ECF No. 35) at 20).
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release term is his statement that, “[i]t was also a violation
of the law not to give reasons for rejecting a request for
downward variance and upwardly depart on supervised release and
(Appellant’s Br. at 31).
This simply is not enough to raise the
issue sufficiently to entitle Hill to appellate review by this
See Eriline Co. S.A. v. Johnson, 440 F.3d 648, 653 n.7
(4th Cir. 2006) (holding that a single sentence in an opening
insufficient to raise on appeal any merits-based challenge to
waived appellate review of this particular claim. 2
Even if it were not waived, Hill’s challenge to the
district court’s explanation for the supervised release term
would not garner Hill any relief. Because Hill did not ask for
any specific term of supervised release and did not object to
the selected term of supervised release, we would review Hill’s
procedural reasonableness challenge only for plain error.
United States v. Webb, 738 F.3d 638, 640 (4th Cir. 2013).
establish plain error, Hill must show that (1) the district
court erred, (2) the error is clear or obvious, and (3) the
error affected his substantial rights, meaning that it “affected
the outcome of the district court proceedings.”
v. Olano, 507 U.S. 725, 732–34 (1993). Our review of the record
satisfies us that there is no such plain error here.
Prior to sentencing Hill, the district court identified and
addressed itself to Hill’s criminal history, his personal
circumstances (including his ongoing drug addiction and early
exposure to the culture of methamphetamine production), and
methamphetamine production operation that was underlying the
The court concluded by observing that the
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court violated due process when, at the end of the sentencing
hearing, it made two statements regarding the societal harms
caused by cooking methamphetamine.
While the district court’s
strongly worded comments conveyed a disdain for methamphetamine
methamphetamine on a community, the challenged comments do not
suggest bias amounting to a due process violation.
criminal conduct — specifically, that Hill participated in the
conspiracy for four years, distributed nearly three kilograms of
methamphetamine in his community, cooked in multiple locations
serious injuries, and remained addicted to the drug himself.
See Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 555–56 (1994) (“Not
impatience, dissatisfaction, annoyance, and even anger, that are
within the bounds of what imperfect men and women, even after
imposed sentence, which included both the custodial term of
imprisonment and the term of supervised release, was appropriate
given the extensive and ongoing nature of Hill’s egregious
We thus readily conclude that there was no
procedural error — let alone plain error — in this regard.
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having been confirmed as federal judges, sometimes display.”).
Such comments are well within bounds and thus do not offend due
See United States v. Bakker, 925 F.2d 728, 740 (4th
Cir. 1991) (“We recognize that a sentencing court can consider
the impact a defendant’s crimes have had on a community and can
spokesperson, a judge can lecture a defendant as a lesson to
We dispense with oral argument because the
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