US v. Adedeji Ajala
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Motion disposition in opinion--denying Motion to compel [999988924-2] Originating case number: 1:14-cr-00441-RDB-1 Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. .. [16-4414]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore.
Richard D. Bennett, District Judge. (1:14-cr-00441-RDB-1)
Submitted: May 30, 2017
Decided: July 6, 2017
Before WILKINSON, DUNCAN, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Michael Lawlor, LAWLOR & ENGLERT, LLC, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellant. Rod
J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Christopher J. Romano, Assistant United States
Attorneys, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Adedeji Ajala was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to import heroin into the
United States, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952, 963 (2012), and was sentenced to 84
months in prison. On appeal, Ajala argues that insufficient evidence supported his
conviction, that the district court impermissibly burdened his ability to represent himself
by restricting access to discovery, and that the court erred in calculating the drug amount
attributable to him. We affirm.
We review de novo the district court’s denial of Ajala’s Fed. R. Crim. P. 29 motion
for judgment of acquittal on the basis of insufficient evidence. United States v. Reed, 780
F.3d 260, 269 (4th Cir. 2015). “A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence
bears a heavy burden.” United States v. Cornell, 780 F.3d 616, 630 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “We will uphold a defendant’s conviction if, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the government, there is substantial evidence in the
record to support the verdict.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Substantial evidence
means “evidence that a reasonable finder of fact could accept as adequate and sufficient to
support a conclusion of a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted). “Reversal for insufficient evidence is reserved for the rare case
where the prosecution’s failure is clear.” United States v. Ashley, 606 F.3d 135, 138 (4th
Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted).
We conclude Ajala’s insufficiency argument is meritless. Construing all reasonable
inferences in the Government’s favor, evidence adduced at trial revealed that, on more than
one occasion, Ajala coordinated with one or more individuals to receive packages
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containing large amounts of heroin mailed to Baltimore from abroad. Accordingly, we
reject Ajala’s sufficiency challenge.
Ajala next contends that the district court impermissibly interfered with his right to
represent himself by prohibiting him from taking any discovery materials—including his
handwritten trial notes—with him to the detention facility where he was being held. We
review for abuse of discretion a district court’s discovery decisions. Bresler v. Wilmington
Trust Co., 855 F.3d 178, 189 (4th Cir. 2017); United States v. Galloway, 749 F.3d 238, 242
(4th Cir. 2014). A defendant must demonstrate that he was prejudiced by the court’s
discovery rulings. See Galloway, 749 F.3d at 242; United States v. Bisong, 645 F.3d 384,
396 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (providing that, “[e]ven assuming that pro se defendants have a Sixth
Amendment right to discovery in preparing their defense,” defendant asserting such claim
“must demonstrate prejudice in order to prevail”).
The record establishes that Ajala was given access to discovery prior to the
commencement of trial. Although the discovery arrangements during trial might have been
inconvenient, Ajala has failed to show that they were unreasonable. See Galloway, 749
F.3d at 242; United States v. Sarno, 73 F.3d 1470, 1492 (9th Cir. 1995) (concluding that,
while pro se defendant’s “access to discovery materials was hardly optimal, . . . the
limitations imposed on him were reasonable”). Additionally, Ajala has not shown how his
lack of access to discovery in his cell affected his ability to represent himself at trial.
Accordingly, we conclude this claim lacks merit.
Finally, Ajala asserts the district court erred in calculating the drug amount
attributable to him, specifically challenging the inclusion of the drugs intercepted by airport
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customs officials in Germany. “We review the district court’s calculation of the quantity
of drugs attributable to a defendant for sentencing purposes for clear error.” United States
v. Slade, 631 F.3d 185, 188 (4th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under such
standard, the district court’s finding is reversed “only if we are left with the definite and
firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” United States v. Crawford, 734 F.3d
339, 342 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks omitted).
A “defendant is responsible not only for his own acts, but also for all reasonably
foreseeable acts of his co-conspirators in furtherance of the joint criminal activity.” Slade,
631 F.3d at 188 (internal quotation marks omitted); see U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual
§ 1B1.3(a)(1) (2015). In determining drug quantities, courts may “‘consider relevant
information without regard to its admissibility under the rules of evidence applicable at
trial, provided that the information has sufficient indicia of reliability to support its
Crawford, 734 F.3d at 342 (quoting USSG § 6A1.3(a), p.s.).
Additionally, “[a] district court’s approximation of the amount of drugs is not clearly
erroneous if supported by competent evidence in the record.” United States v. Randall,
171 F.3d 195, 210 (4th Cir. 1999). Ajala “bears the burden of establishing that the
information relied upon by the district court . . . is erroneous.” Slade, 631 F.3d at 188.
Ajala has not satisfied his burden. A preponderance of the evidence established
Ajala’s connection to the package intercepted by customs officials in Germany, and it thus
was reasonable to attribute the heroin contained therein to him. Therefore, Ajala has not
shown clear error in the court’s drug quantity calculation.
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Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s judgment and deny Ajala’s pro se motion
to compel discovery and audio. 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.
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