Appealed from the Eighth Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Winn, Louisiana Trial Court No. 43, 909 Honorable
Jacque D. Derr, Judge
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Peggy J. Sullivan Counsel for
CHRISTOPHER NEVILS District Attorney Counsel for Appellee
B. SMITH Assistant District Attorney
MOORE, GARRETT, and COX, JJ.
jury trial, the defendant, Tonya Sandifer, was convicted of
distribution of methamphetamine, a Schedule II CDS, and
attempted distribution of methamphetamine. The court imposed
consecutive sentences of 25 years and 15 years at hard labor,
and denied the defendant's motion to reconsider sentence.
Defendant appealed. For the reasons that follow, we affirm
the conviction, vacate the sentence, and remand to the trial
court with instructions.
Avant Sandifer was charged by bill of information with
distribution of methamphetamine, a Schedule II CDS, in
violation of La. R.S. 40:967A, and attempted distribution of
methamphetamine, a Schedule II CDS, in violation of La. R.S.
40:967A and 14:27. These offenses were committed on May 10
and 16, 2016.
Winn Parish Sheriff's Office and the Louisiana State
Police Department ("LSP") were investigating drug
crimes in Winn Parish. Raymond Durbin was employed by the
police as a confidential informant ("CI") to
confect a drug deal between Sandifer and an undercover LSP
officer, Sergeant William Moore. On May 10, 2016, Sgt. Moore
was working undercover using the alias, "Luke,"
when he met Sandifer, Durbin and Misty Holmes at Gum Springs
Park in Winn Parish. Durbin introduced Sandifer to
"Luke," and Sandifer entered the passenger's
side of Luke's vehicle. Sandifer sold the undercover
officer one ounce of methamphetamine (approximately 28 grams)
for $700. The methamphetamine from the purchase was
transferred to the North Louisiana Crime Lab.
and "Luke" exchanged cell phone numbers and texted
one another over the next few days. Through a text message,
"Luke" requested another drug buy in the amount of
four ounces of methamphetamine. Sandifer checked with her
supplier and informed the undercover agent that the price
would be $2, 450. He agreed to the price, and the two agreed
to meet at Gum Springs on May 16, 2016, to complete the
the risk associated with large drug deals, Officer Patrick
Deshautelle, the LSP case agent in charge of the operation,
decided to intercept the drugs before they were delivered to
Sandifer. On May 16, 2016, Ramonta Jackson, Sandifer's
alleged supplier, was apprehended by a state trooper while
Jackson was en route to meet Sandifer. Some four ounces of a
substance was recovered from Jackson's vehicle; it later
tested positive for methamphetamine.
(Sgt. Moore) and Sandifer met on May 16, 2016, as scheduled,
but Sandifer informed him that her supplier had been stopped
by a state trooper. Sandifer attempted to find a second
supplier, but was unable to procure any drugs to sell to the
agent. Three months later, Sandifer was arrested on August
10, 2016. At trial, Sandifer testified that Durbin was living
with her and that it was his idea to sell drugs, and in fact
it was Durbin who introduced her to the undercover officer
she knew as Luke.
jury unanimously found Sandifer guilty of distribution of
methamphetamine and, by an 11-1 vote, found her guilty of
February 19, 2019, Sandifer appeared for sentencing. The
court stated that it had reviewed the sentencing guidelines
of La.C.Cr.P. art. 894.1, and concluded that it should impose
a sentence of imprisonment because any other sentence would
not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offenses. The
court stated that illegal drugs are the source of most of the
evil that occurs in the world. It noted the destructive
effect drugs have on individual lives and families, as drug
use tears at the fabric of our society. The court also opined
that distribution of drugs is a far more egregious offense
than mere possession, and, in this case, the defendant was
convicted of distribution and attempted distribution of large
quantities of methamphetamine. Finding no mitigating factors
in the case, the court concluded that the facts of the case
warrant substantial terms of imprisonment. ...