September 27, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 3:13-cr-30125-DRH-5 - David R.
BAUER, ROVNER, and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges.
case involves a conspiracy to distribute cocaine in St.
Louis, Missouri, and the surrounding area. One of the
conspirators, Steven Syms, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(ii),
and 846. The district court sentenced Syms to 151 months'
imprisonment. On appeal, Syms argues that the mandatory
minimum sentence contained in 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(A)(ii) violates the separation-of-powers doctrine.
He also argues that the district court improperly based its
drug-quantity calculation and sentencing enhancement on
speculative and unreliable evidence, and further contends
that he qualified for a safety valve reduction in his
sentencing, and that his sentence violates the Eighth
Amendment. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Syms'
in April 2011, multiple law enforcement agencies, including
the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue
Service, and United States Marshals Service, began
investigating a drug-trafficking operation based on
information that Tyrone Carraway of St. Louis, Missouri, was
supplying cocaine to brothers Cortez and Richard Yarbough of
East St. Louis, Illinois. During the course of the
investigation, agents gathered information and collected
evidence through confidential informants, controlled buys of
cocaine, witness interviews, surveillance, and searches. The
investigation revealed that Carraway and coconspirator
Richard Graham distributed cocaine to the Yarbough brothers,
and other defendants and unidentified individuals.
ultimate source of Carraway and Graham's supply was Huey
Jones of Houston, Texas. The intermediaries between Jones,
Carraway, and Graham were Syms and coconspirator Antoine
Meeks. Syms, Meeks, and an unindicted coconspirator, traveled
to Houston to obtain cocaine from Jones. Syms also recruited
Keith Harris to transport drugs and money between Houston and
St. Louis; Harris transported the cocaine and money in the
gas tank of the vehicles he drove to retrieve the drugs.
April 27, 2012, Harris' vehicle was searched during a
traffic stop. The search revealed 40 packages that each
contained around .5 kilograms of cocaine, for a total of
19.91 kilograms. A fingerprint analysis of the packages
showed latent prints belonging to Syms, Meeks, Jones, and
October 14, 2012, agents conducted surveillance on Syms,
Meeks, and another individual. Syms drove to a residence in
St. Louis, at which time agents searched the vehicle,
residence, and garage and recovered two packages that
contained 982 grams of cocaine. At a post-arrest interview,
Meeks revealed that he and Syms had traveled to Houston to
obtain the drugs.
18, 2013, a grand jury charged Syms with conspiracy to
distribute, and possession with intent to distribute five
kilograms or more of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(ii), and 846. On June
27, 2013, Syms was arrested and released on a $10, 000
unsecured appearance bond. In a September 6, 2013, interview,
Jones implicated Syms in several additional trips to Houston
throughout 2011 obtaining a total of 41 kilograms of cocaine.
Jones advised that the final shipment of cocaine was 19.91
kilograms that was seized by law enforcement, a shipment that
Syms helped to deliver. Jones also stated that Syms sought to
increase his role in the conspiracy and the amount of cocaine
that was being transported so that he could sell it in St.
interviewed Harris on September 10, 2013, who described how
Syms recruited him to be a courier for the drug-trafficking
operation, and of Syms' involvement in the trips to
Houston to obtain cocaine.
pleaded guilty to the one-count charge against him on August
28, 2014. The United States Probation Office prepared
Syms' Presentence Investigation Report. It detailed the
interview notes from Jones and Harris. Syms' PSR
determined that he was responsible for conspiring with
multiple defendants and others to possess and/or distribute
61.8 kilograms of cocaine. Although the amount contained in
the indictment was 5 kilograms or more, the PSR, relying in
part on statements from coconspirators, determined that
Syms' relevant conduct was 61.8 kilograms of cocaine.
the 2013 Guidelines Manual, the PSR recommended a base
offense level of 36. The PSR applied a three-level
enhancement, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3Bl.l(b), for being
a manager or supervisor of a criminal activity involving five
or more participants. Syms was credited for acceptance of