USA v. Ahmad Daniel
OPINION filed : AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Karen Nelson Moore, Deborah L. Cook (Authoring), Circuit Judges and William O. Bertelsman, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Kentucky, sitting by designation.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 12a1213n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
AHMAD K. DANIELS,
Nov 21, 2012
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Before: MOORE and COOK, Circuit Judges; BERTELSMAN, District Judge.*
COOK, Circuit Judge. A jury convicted Ahmad Daniels of three drug offenses and a related
firearm crime, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 2, 922(g)(1). Following
resentencing on remand, Daniels challenges the district court’s 262-month sentence, disputing both
its procedural and substantive reasonableness. We AFFIRM.
We previously vacated Daniels’s sentence because the district court failed to articulate its
drug-quantity finding. See United States v. Daniels, 396 F. App’x 257, 261–62 (6th Cir. 2010). On
remand, the district court found Daniels responsible for ten kilograms of cocaine base. It premised
this determination on a coconspirator’s testimony that Daniels made at least twenty trips to Detroit,
*The Honorable William O. Bertelsman, United States District Judge for the Eastern District
of Kentucky, sitting by designation.
United States v. Daniels
obtaining half a kilogram of cocaine base each time. Though this finding produced a Guidelines
range of 324 to 405 months’ imprisonment, the court varied downward and reinstated the original
262-month sentence. Daniels timely appeals, objecting to both the drug-quantity finding and the
disparity between his sentence and the lesser sentence received by his coconspirator. Reviewing his
sentence under a deferential abuse-of-discretion standard, see Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51
(2007), we reject both arguments.
Daniels’s drug-quantity objection, though styled as a substantive-reasonableness challenge,
presents a procedural-reasonableness issue. See, e.g., United States v. Tarpley, 295 F. App’x 11, 15
(6th Cir. 2008). We review the district court’s drug-quantity findings for clear error. United States
v. Campbell, 317 F.3d 597, 604 (6th Cir. 2003). Daniels argues without explanation that the district
court erred in relying on his coconspirator’s testimony, and criticizes the district court for not making
“particularized findings.” Yet we will sustain the district court’s drug-quantity estimate if supported
by a preponderance of the evidence, United States v. Jeross, 521 F.3d 562, 570 (6th Cir. 2008), and
“[t]estimonial evidence from a co-conspirator may be sufficient to determine the amount of drugs
for which a defendant should be held accountable, even where the co-conspirator has . . . receive[d]
a reduced sentence as a result of his or her testimony,” United States v. Henley, 360 F.3d 509, 516
(6th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). The record reflects that the court made a conservative drugquantity estimate supported by competent evidence. We find no error, let alone clear error, with this
United States v. Daniels
We likewise reject Daniels’s substantive-reasonableness challenge. Within-Guidelines
sentences are presumptively reasonable, United States v. Vonner, 516 F.3d 382, 389 (6th Cir. 2008)
(en banc), and that presumption carries even greater weight for below-Guidelines sentences like this
one, United States v. Curry, 536 F.3d 571, 573 (6th Cir. 2008) (“[S]imple logic compels the
conclusion that . . . defendant’s task of persuading us that the more lenient sentence [below the
Guidelines range] is unreasonably long is even more demanding.” (citation omitted)). Daniels’s
argument—that he deserved a more lenient sentence than his more culpable coconspirator—fails to
overcome this presumption. Contrary to Daniels’s suggestion that the district court treated him
unfairly, “[d]isparities between the sentences of coconspirators can exist for valid reasons, such as
. . . one coconspirator’s decision to plead guilty and cooperate with the government.” United States
v. Conatser, 514 F.3d 508, 522 (6th Cir. 2008) (citations omitted). In this case, his coconspirator
cooperated with the government and testified at Daniels’s trial, and the court granted a downward
departure accordingly. Thus, the coconspirator’s lesser sentence does not render Daniels’s belowGuidelines sentence substantively unreasonable.
For these reasons, we AFFIRM.
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