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United States v. Purham

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

June 9, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SYLVESTER PURHAM, Defendant-Appellant

Argued: April 25, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 12-cr-30019 -- Sue E. Myerscough, Judge.

For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Jason M. Bohm, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Urbana, IL.

For SYLVESTER PURHAM, Defendant - Appellant: Britt Cramer, Attorney, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Chicago, IL.

Before KANNE and ROVNER, Circuit Judges, and DOW, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 412

Kanne, Circuit Judge.

Sylvester Purham ran a crack cocaine distribution ring in Quincy, Illinois. With the help of his brother, Howard, he continued to manage the conspiracy while incarcerated following a felon-in-possession conviction. Purham talked to Howard using the prison telephones, giving him advice on how to manage the conspiracy and avoid detection by the police.

Based in part on the brothers' recorded phone calls, federal agents charged both with conspiring to distribute crack cocaine. Purham pled guilty and was sentenced to 360 months' imprisonment. He now appeals his sentence. Because we find that the district court clearly erred in including certain prior conduct as relevant conduct, we reverse in part and remand for resentencing.

I. Background

Sylvester Purham moved to Quincy, Illinois in 2006. Later that year, Illinois authorities arrested him for cocaine possession. The state court convicted him and sentenced him to 30 months of probation. While on probation, Purham continued to distribute crack cocaine. For instance, in 2008, he and Robert Moman transported more than a kilogram of crack cocaine from Chicago to Quincy for resale.

Purham's probation for the 2006 offense was revoked in July 2008, after Purham admitted that he had violated the terms of his probation by not reporting for substance abuse testing and counseling as well as failing to inform the probation department of his whereabouts. He was incarcerated in August 2008 and remained in Illinois custody until May 10, 2010.

After being released from state custody, Purham resumed selling crack cocaine. As a member of the Black P Stone Nation street gang, he worked with other members of the organization to distribute the drug. His brother, Howard, who was also a Black P Stone, had recently moved to Quincy and joined the distribution effort. The group brought crack cocaine to Quincy from Chicago for resale using buses, Amtrak, and private vehicles. They also rented " trap houses" to store and sell the drugs.

In August 2010, law enforcement seized 55 grams of crack cocaine from Gabrielle Eagle, Howard's girlfriend. Eagle had brought the crack cocaine to Quincy at Purham's direction. The authorities arrested Eagle as well as Racaia Lewis, who was casually dating Purham. Lewis gave the officers permission to search her ...


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