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United States v. Miller

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 19, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Dominic Miller, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued February 17, 2016

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. No. 15 CR 30 - Barbara B. Crabb, Judge.

          Before Bauer, Flaum, and Williams, Circuit Judges.

          Williams, Circuit Judge.

         In late 2014, Defendant Dominic Miller and Amy Wagner used and sold methamphetamine together in northwestern Wisconsin. After law enforcement learned of the couple's illicit activity, Miller pled guilty to possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it. The district judge found that Miller and Wagner were jointly en- gaged in the distribution of between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine and sentenced Miller to eight years in prison.

         On appeal, Miller argues that the district judge's drug-quantity finding was erroneous, principally on the ground that he sold only a small portion of the drugs in question. However, Miller's relevant conduct includes not only the sales he directly made himself, but also the drug sales that Wagner foreseeably made in furtherance of their joint distribution scheme. Given this fact, there is no genuine dispute that Miller's relevant conduct involved between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms.

         Miller also claims that his eight-year sentence is substantively unreasonable because he is simply a drug addict in need of rehabilitative services. But the district judge adequately explained why Miller's sentence was necessary in light of his history of drug use and drug sales, and in any case, he has failed to overcome the presumption that his below-Guidelines sentence is reasonable. So we affirm the district court's judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Dominic Miller and Amy Wagner met in northwestern Wisconsin sometime around September 2014. They began dating, moved into an apartment together, and began using and selling methamphetamine. During this time, the couple's relationship was not without issues. Specifically, Wagner suspected that Miller was unfaithful, and installed a webcam in the couple's bedroom to record Miller's actions while she was away.

         In November 2014, a confidential informant purchased methamphetamine from Wagner on two separate occasions. Law enforcement later obtained a search warrant for Wagner and Miller's apartment and found small quantities of methamphetamine and LSD, as well as various drug paraphernalia. Wagner was arrested, and while in police custody, she admitted to using and selling methamphetamine and informed law enforcement that her home computer contained a number of videos that her webcam had captured. Law enforcement obtained the computer and the videos, which captured several apparent drug transactions involving Wagner, Miller, and others.

         Miller was later charged with distributing methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); possessing more than 50 grams of methamphetamine with intent to distribute under 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and maintaining a place for the purpose of distributing methamphetamine under 21 U.S.C. § 856(a)(1). Miller pleaded guilty to the possession charge. In its initial presentence report ("initial PSR"), the probation office found that Miller and Wagner were engaged in a jointly undertaken criminal activity, and that as a result Miller was responsible for distributing between 1.5 kilograms and 5.0 kilograms of methamphetamine. Miller filed an objection to the initial PSR, arguing that his relevant conduct should only involve his activities after September 2014. Miller did not, however, object to the conclusion that the drug distribution was a joint undertaking. In response, the office prepared a revised presentence report ("revised PSR") with a reduced drug-quantity range of 500 grams to 1.5 kilograms.

         At Miller's sentencing hearing, Wagner testified about how she and Miller coordinated their drug-distribution efforts. Wagner explained that she typically purchased between four and six ounces of methamphetamine every couple of days during the seven weeks she and Miller were dating. She added that Miller accompanied her to some (but not all) of the purchase meetings, that she typically sold most of the methamphetamine to one of her customers, and that she and Miller divvied up and sold the remaining amount to their respective customers, some of whom overlapped. In addition, Wagner stated that she and Miller weighed, packaged, and sold methamphetamine in their shared apartment, and that she and Miller combined their sales proceeds to pay the rent and purchase additional drugs. Later on in the hearing, Miller's attorney stated that he believed Wagner's testimony was truthful.

         The district judge found that Miller was responsible for between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine, explaining:

I think that the probation office was correct in determining that Mr. Miller's relevant conduct involved at least 500 grams but less than 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine for the period from late September 2014 through November of 2014, which is when he and Ms. Wagner were obtaining large amounts of methamphetamine, probably as much as 3 to 5 pounds. I think it's very possible that there was more methamphetamine being distributed, but I'm convinced that defendant has not shown that his relevant conduct involved less than 500 grams of metham-phetamine. So that's the amount that I'm relying on in the - that was proposed by the probation office in its revised report.

         The district judge sentenced Miller to 96 months' imprisonment, below the Guidelines' range of 100 to 125 months. In doing so, the judge referenced Miller's difficult upbringing, employment history, prior incarceration, ...


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