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United States v. Sims

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

November 14, 2018


          HORNSBY JUDGE.



         Before the Court is a "Motion Pursuant to 28 USC (0(3) in Light of the Retroactive Effect of Johnson v United States and its Progeny, Welch v United States," filed by the Defendant, Christy Sims ("Sims"). [Record Document 90]. In this motion, Sims contends that her sixty-month sentence must be vacated in the aftermath of the Supreme Court's opinion in Johnson v. United States, 135 S.Ct. 2551 (2015). Because Johnson is inapplicable to Sims's case, her motion is DENIED.

         I. Background.

         Sims was charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 & 846 (count one); possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (count two); and possession of firearms and ammunition in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (count three). Record Document 1. Her co-defendant, Brandon Ragland ("Ragland"), was also charged in counts one through three, in addition to counts four and five. Id. Sims pled guilty to count one. Record Documents 70 & 72. The stipulated factual basis provided that DEA and ATF agents

debriefed a subject who stated he could have a person named "BG", later identified as Brandon Ragland (Ragland), drive from Texas to Shreveport, LA, to deliver methamphetamine, The subject placed a telephone call to Ragland, organizing a methamphetamine transaction, to be executed later the same day.
Ragland eventually arrived at the subject's house in a maroon truck and then entered, while a passenger waited outside. Ragland was then taken into custody by agents after dropping a bag containing suspected narcotics on the floor beside him. The narcotics were later submitted to the crime lab, testing positive for methamphetamine with a net weight of 25 grams. Ragland told agents that there were three or four guns and additional methamphetamine outside in the truck. Contact was made with the passenger, identified as Christy Sims (Sims). As a result of the search, agents also retrieved a bag containing 12 grams of methamphetamine from the center console of the truck.
Ragland, per Miranda, admitted that he and CHRISTY SIMS (SIMS) drove to Shreveport to conduct this methamphetamine transaction. SIMS was interviewed and confirmed Ragland's statement. SIMS stated that the truck in question was registered to a family member of SIMS, but she actually paid for the truck, it is under her control and that she allowed Ragland to drive it on this date.

         Record Document 72-2, p. 2.

         For sentencing, the presentence report ("PSR") calculated a base offense level of 24, based on the quantity of methamphetamine. Record Document 84, ¶ 15. The PSR recommended a two-level increase, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(1) for possession of a dangerous weapon during the drug offense. Id., ¶ 16. Three levels were deducted for acceptance of responsibility, id, ¶s 22-23, resulting in a total offense level of 23, Id. ¶ 24. Sims had no criminal history, resulting in a criminal history score of I. The Guideline range was 46-57 months, however the count to which Sims pled guilty carried a five year mandatory minimum sentence. Id., ¶s 53-54. Thus, the Guideline range became 60 months. Id.

         Sims objected to the § 2D1.1 enhancement, arguing that while she was aware of the shotguns in the truck, she was unaware that methamphetamine and a pistol were in the truck's console. Id. at p. 12. Sims also objected to the PSR's failure to find she was entitled to the safety valve. Id.

         With regard to the § 2D1.1 enhancement, Sims argued that her knowledge of the shotguns in the truck was unimportant because those firearms were not connected to the offense but rather were for Sims's protection. Record Document 81, p. 4. The Government responded that when agents approached Sims at the time of arrest, she was waiting in the truck for Ragland, who had just been arrested inside the house where he intended to sell the methamphetamine. Record Document 83, p. 3. At that time, Sims admitted that there were firearms and methamphetamine in the vehicle. Id. She stated she and Ragland drove to Shreveport almost every day to sell methamphetamine and that she was aware of the firearms in the vehicle. Id.

         At the sentencing hearing, the Court relied upon § 2D1.1, Application Note 11(A), which provides that "[t]he enhancement should be applied if the weapon was present, unless it is clearly improbable that the weapon was connected with the offense. For example, the enhancement would not be applied if the defendant, arrested at the defendant's residence, had an unloaded hunting rifle in the closet." U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1, App. Note 11(A). The Court found that the enhancement was applicable to Sims, as it was not "clearly improbable" that the weapons were connected to this offense. First, according to the Government's representations, Sims admitted knowledge of the pistol and the drugs. Second, at least one of the shotguns in the vehicle was loaded and accessible to Sims should she need it. The Court's ruling on the § 2D1.1 enhancement precluded the application of the safety valve. The Court thus overruled Sims's objections and adopted the PSR without change. Record Document 88, p. 1. The Court sentenced Sims to sixty months' imprisonment, which was the statutory mandatory minimum sentence the Court could impose irrespective of the Guidelines. Record Document 87. Judgment was entered on March 2, 2015. Docket sheet text of Document 87.

         Sims did not appeal her conviction or sentence. Instead, on June 29, 2016, she filed the instant motion. On August 12, 2016, she also filed what she captioned as a supplemental brief; in actuality, it contains a wholly separate request for a minor role reduction per Amendment 794 to the Sentencing Guidelines. Record Document 93.

         The Government filed a motion to stay the case pending a ruling in Beckles v. United States, 137 S.Ct. 886 (2017), which was granted by this Court. Record Documents 94-95. Thereafter, the Government responded to Sims's initial motion, arguing that the motion is time-barred, and Sims is not entitled to relief under Johnson. Record Document 97. The Government did not respond to Sims's request ...

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