from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
ELROD, GRAVES, and OLDHAM, Circuit Judges. [*]
S. OLDHAM, CIRCUIT JUDGE:
Sparks and his fellow gang members carjacked Todd and Stacie
Bagley at gunpoint. The gang locked the Bagleys in the trunk
for hours, emptied the Bagleys' bank account, and tried
to pawn Stacie's wedding ring. During the gang's
crime spree, the Bagleys sang gospel songs from the trunk and
told their captors about Jesus. Eventually one of the gang
members popped the trunk, cursed at the couple, and executed
Todd in front of his wife. That same gang member shot Stacie
in the face but failed to kill her. Others incinerated the
car to destroy the evidence and burned Stacie alive.
role in this crime, Sparks received a below-Guidelines
35-year sentence. Sparks says that violates the Eighth
Amendment. We disagree.
20, 1999, Tony Sparks went to a convenience store in Killeen,
Texas, with Christopher Vialva and Christopher
Lewis. The three of them were members of a local
gang known as the 212 PIRU Bloods. They planned to dupe a
Good Samaritan into giving them a ride before carjacking him
or her at gunpoint. Sparks brought the gun, a .22 caliber
initially thwarted the plan by detaining the trio for
violating the city's juvenile curfew law. (Sparks was 16
at the time.) Before being detained, Lewis threw the pistol
into the bushes. Sparks's mother picked up Sparks and
Lewis, and Vialva was released because he was an adult.
following day, Sparks, Vialva, and Lewis regrouped. They
recruited two other members of their gang, Brandon Bernard
and Terry Brown, to help with the carjacking. Vialva and
Bernard retrieved the .22 caliber pistol that Lewis had
discarded the night before. Because it was wet with dew, they
worried that it would not function. So Bernard obtained a
Glock .40 caliber pistol to use for the carjacking.
afternoon, the five gang members went to an IGA supermarket
to find a carjacking victim. Bernard and Brown acted as
lookouts while Sparks, Vialva, and Lewis approached potential
victims to ask for a ride. No one offered them a ride, so
they drove to a "Mickey's" convenience store.
Bernard and Brown went to a nearby laundromat to play video
games. Sparks, Vialva, and Lewis went to the front of the
Shortly after arriving at the convenience store, Sparks found
Todd Bagley using a payphone outside. Todd and his wife
Stacie were youth ministers from Iowa. They'd previously
lived in Killeen because Todd was a veteran of the U.S. Army
and had been stationed at Fort Hood. The young couple had
gone to church at Grace Christian, where they worked with the
youth group. They were back in Killeen on a vacation to see
old friends and attend a revival meeting at the church.
approached Todd and asked if he would give Sparks, Vialva,
and Lewis a ride to another location. Todd conferred with
Stacie, and the young couple unsuspectingly agreed to give
the gang members a ride. Bernard and Brown returned to their
homes to wait for further instructions from Vialva.
Vialva, and Lewis got into the back seat of the Bagleys'
car. Todd drove while his wife sat in the front passenger
seat. In accordance with their plan, Sparks and Vialva pulled
out two handguns, and Vialva pointed his gun at Todd. Vialva
told the Bagleys that the "plan had changed," and
he forced Todd to drive to a semi-rural location near the
edge of Killeen. While Vialva pointed a gun at the Bagleys,
Sparks and Vialva robbed them of their money, wallets, purse,
debit card, identification, and jewelry. Vialva demanded
their bank account's pin number and then forced the
Bagleys into the trunk of their car.
the Bagleys locked in the trunk, Sparks, Vialva, and Lewis
went on an hours-long crime spree. They went to an ATM to
steal all of the Bagleys' money. That effort was
frustrated, however, because the youth ministers had less
than $100 in their bank account. They tried to pawn
Stacie's wedding ring. They used what little money they
could steal from the Bagleys to buy cigars, cigarettes, and
fast food from Wendy's.
the Bagleys evangelized from the trunk. According to Lewis
(who later testified), the Bagleys asked him and Sparks about
God, Jesus, and church. The Bagleys acknowledged not having
earthly wealth, but they told their captors that faith in
Jesus is more valuable than money. The Bagleys talked about
the revival meeting at Grace Christian. And ...