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United States v. Hall

June 17, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
SHAMONTE HALL AND KARINDER GORDON, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 08 CR 386-David H. Coar, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED APRIL 22, 2010

Before KANNE, WILLIAMS, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.

In the spring of 2008, appellant Shamonte Hall believed he had stumbled upon a great criminal opportunity. A disgruntled drug courier asked if he would help him rob a drug stash house under armed guard. For the help, the courier told him, Hall and his crew would get a share of the several kilograms of cocaine hidden in the stash house, which they could then sell for a profit.

It was too good to be true. The drug courier was actually an undercover agent, the stash house was a fiction, there were no drugs to steal, and Hall and his crew were arrested shortly before they could carry through with the plan. Hall and appellant Karinder Gordon were charged with various drug and firearm offenses. At the end of a jury trial, Hall was convicted on all charges, and Gordon was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In these consolidated appeals, Hall challenges his convictions, arguing that the district court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on the affirmative defense of entrapment. Gordon challenges only his sentence. We affirm in all respects.

The Facts

As part of an undercover investigation targeting individuals involved in armed home invasions, a confidential informant introduced Hall to an undercover agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The purpose of this introduction was for the agent to present Hall an opportunity to commit an armed robbery. At their first meeting, the agent told Hall that he wanted to rob a group of drug dealers he worked for in the North Chicago area. The agent claimed to be angry with those dealers because the last time he had made deliveries for them, he had asked for extra money to pay for surgery for his son. The dealers had refused to give him that money, so the story went, which angered him so much that he decided to steal the dealers' cocaine. The dealers, the agent explained, stored about 10 to 12 kilograms of cocaine under armed guard in the garage of a home. After Hall agreed to participate in the robbery, the agent told Hall to arrange for his crew to meet with the agent to go over their plan. When*fn1 the agent met with Hall again, however, none of Hall's crew showed up. The agent asked about the crew's absence, and Hall claimed that they knew "what's up." Hall and the agent then went over the robbery plan. Before the meeting concluded, Hall explained that he and his crew were ready whenever the agent needed them.

On the afternoon of the planned robbery, the under-cover agent, Hall, Rodney Ray, and appellant Karinder Gordon retrieved two guns from Gordon's apartment and drove to Foss Park in North Chicago to wait for a telephone call from the supposed drug dealers saying where the drugs were stored. When they arrived at Foss Park, the agent parked his truck, pretended to get a telephone call, and walked away. He then gave a signal to a law enforcement team that arrested Hall, Gordon, and Ray.

Following their arrest, the three men were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. Hall and Gordon were also charged with being felons in possession of a firearm.

Hall, Gordon, and Ray were tried jointly. The government's primary witness was the undercover agent, who described in detail the undercover sting operation. The defendants presented no evidence in their defense. The jury found Hall guilty of attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of a weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. The jury found Gordon guilty only of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Ray was acquitted of all charges.

One key issue was whether Hall could present an entrapment defense. Before trial, the government filed a motion in limine to preclude the presentation of any evidence or argument regarding entrapment. The district court granted the motion, but Hall nevertheless requested that the jury be instructed regarding entrapment. The court denied that request. In a post-trial motion, Hall moved for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial, arguing in part that the court had erred by barring any evidence of entrapment and by denying his request to instruct the jury on the entrapment defense. The district court denied this motion and sentenced Hall to 175 months in prison. Gordon was sentenced to the statutory maximum prison term of 120 months.

Analysis

I. Defendant Hall-Entrapment Instruction

Hall argues that the district court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on the entrapment defense. A defendant is entitled to a jury instruction on his theory of defense if: (1) the requested instruction is a correct statement of the law; (2) the evidence supports the theory of defense at issue; (3) the defense is not part of the govern-ment's charge; and (4) the failure to give the instruction would deprive the defendant of a fair trial. United States v. Millet, 510 F.3d 668, 675 (7th Cir. 2007), citing United States v. Al-Shahin, 474 ...


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