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United States v. Wallace

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

July 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL ERIC WALLACE; DEREK LEE BLOCKER, Defendants-Appellants

Page 487

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Joseph H. Gay Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas, San Antonio, TX; Austin Maxwell Berry, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Texas, Midland, TX.

For Michael Eric Wallace, Defendant - Appellant: Matthew R. McLain, Robert L. Sirianni Jr., Esq., Brownstone, P.A., Winter Park, FL.

For Derek Lee Blocker, Defendant - Appellant: Seth Kretzer, Law Offices of Seth Kretzer, Houston, TX.

Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and HIGGINBOTHAM and ELROD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 488

CARL E. STEWART, Chief Judge:

A jury found Michael Eric Wallace (" Wallace" ) and Derek Lee Blocker (" Blocker" ) (collectively " Appellants" ) guilty on all counts of an indictment charging them with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 or more grams of methamphetamine (" meth" ) pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § § 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. Appellants were also convicted, on separate counts, of distributing smaller quantities of meth in violation of § 841(a)(1). The district court sentenced Appellants to 240 months' imprisonment--the mandatory minimum sentence resulting from Appellants having been previously convicted of a drug--related felony. Appellants filed timely appeals challenging the jury's verdict and the district court's rulings. For the reasons explained herein, we affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At trial, the government argued that Appellants' drug activities in Midland, Texas and the Arlington/Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area were part of one scheme that involved various individuals who conspired

Page 489

to distribute 500 or more grams of meth between July 2010 and July 2012. For purposes of this opinion, we refer to Appellants' narcotics activities in Arlington/Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas as the " DFW Transactions." We refer to their narcotics activities in Midland, Texas as the " Midland Transactions."

The DFW Transactions

The evidence showed that in early 2010, Wallace met a meth user named Dustin Harris (" Harris" ) in Arlington, Texas. Harris was in search of " better meth" and Wallace told Harris that he could help him acquire it. Harris testified at trial and explained that in July 2010, Wallace connected him with Amy Middleton (" Middleton" ) for the purpose of purchasing higher quality meth. During the first meeting between Wallace, Harris, and Middleton, Harris gave Wallace money; Wallace and Middleton left Harris's presence; then they returned and provided Harris with one ounce of meth. Harris testified that he met Wallace in DFW a second time and again provided Wallace with money to purchase meth on his behalf. This transaction took place at Middleton's house and Middleton's supplier, Keith Bradford (" Bradford" ) was present. That day, Harris provided Wallace with money and Wallace went upstairs with Middleton and Bradford. When Wallace returned, he provided Harris with four ounces of meth.

Harris and Wallace returned to DFW approximately twice a week to make similar purchases from August or September 2010 through mid-November 2010. Harris testified that he usually purchased two or more ounces of meth during his and Wallace's recurring trips to DFW. Eventually, Harris established rapport with Middleton and Bradford such that he was able to purchase meth from them without Wallace's presence or assistance. However, Wallace would " chip in money from time to time, up to $500.00 to help buy what [they] needed." Harris testified that he was arrested in November 2010 and pleaded guilty to a drug conspiracy. As part of his guilty plea, Harris admitted to conspiring to distribute approximately 2.4 kilograms of meth between July 2010 and November 2010.

The government also called Middleton as a witness at trial. Middleton testified that she connected Wallace with Bradford to facilitate meth deals. In return for a successful transaction, Middleton often received money or drugs from Bradford. Bradford also testified during the government's case-in-chief. Bradford stated that when he sold meth to Harris and/or Wallace, they always purchased at least an ounce. Bradford also pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute 2.4 kilograms of meth. Wallace's former girlfriend, Christina Masdon, testified at Appellants' trial as well. She explained, inter alia, that she traveled to DFW with Wallace in March 2011 and during that trip, Wallace purchased " pink meth." [1]

Midland Police Department narcotics detective Robby Mobley (" Detective Mobley" ) also testified during the government's case-in-chief. Detective Mobley explained that during his investigation, he recovered data from the GPS in Wallace's vehicle and it showed that Wallace frequently visited the DFW area. During an interview with Detective Mobley, Wallace admitted to traveling to DFW to purchase meth but claimed that it " was just for personal use." Wallace also indicated that Blocker " made one trip with him" when he traveled to

Page 490

DFW to purchase meth. When asked whom he purchased meth from in DFW, Wallace listed, inter alia, Middleton and Bradford.

The Midland Transactions

In August 2010, Detective Mobley was investigating a suspected drug dealer named Shawn Cook (" Cook" ) and learned that Wallace may have been associated with Cook in the Midland, Texas drug trade. In early 2011, Detective Mobley received information regarding drug activity in an apartment in Midland and Wallace's name resurfaced. The individuals who occupied the apartment were Brad Beshears (" Beshears" ) and Tracy Scott (" Scott" ) (collectively " cooperators" ). At trial, Detective Mobley described Beshears and Scott as " lower level individuals" in the suspected drug operation and explained how he secured their cooperation in his investigation into their suppliers. At Detective Mobley's direction, the cooperators participated in controlled purchases that involved purchasing meth while under law enforcement surveillance. Law enforcement officers recorded phone calls between the cooperators and Appellants during which the cooperators requested narcotics for purchase. The first call relevant to this case was placed on February 4, 2011 and led to a transaction on February 5, 2011 where Beshears met with Wallace and purchased 3.6 grams of meth.

The next controlled purchase took place on February 27, 2011. Detective Mobley facilitated the February 27, 2011 transaction by repeating the same process he used to facilitate the February 5, 2011 transaction. He instructed Scott to call the same phone number Beshears called on February 4, but this time Blocker answered the phone instead of Wallace. Shortly thereafter, Scott met with Blocker and purchased 3.6 grams of meth. Detective Mobley executed two more controlled purchases between the cooperators and Blocker that occurred on February 28, 2011 and March 8, 2011. The February 28, 2011 purchase involved 2.6 grams of meth and the March 8, 2011 purchase involved 7 grams of meth. The meth acquired during the March 8, 2011 controlled purchase was pink.

In order to support its theory that Wallace and Blocker worked together to distribute meth, the government established that the cooperators regularly purchased meth from Appellants for several months. The cooperators explained that when they called Wallace to purchase meth, Blocker would sometimes deliver it. They also ...


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