May 19, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Central
District of Illinois. No. 4:15-cr-40026-001 - Sara Darrow,
WOOD, Chief Judge, and POSNER and Kanne, Circuit Judges.
Phil Trent distributed heroin that killed Tyler Corzette. He
was charged in a five-count indictment, which included two
counts related to Corzette's death.
trial, Trent objected to testimony of two of the
government's witnesses: Kyle Hull and Curtis Land. Like
Trent, these witnesses had also been charged with
distribution of heroin resulting in Corzette's death, but
each pled guilty to that charge pursuant to a plea agreement.
sought to impeach Hull and Land based on their plea
agreements. Specifically, he wanted to question them about
the twenty-year mandatory minimum associated with the
heroin-distribution-resulting-in-death charges. But because
Trent had also been charged with distribution resulting in
Corzette's death, he faced the same twenty-year mandatory
minimum if convicted.
district court noted that, if the jury became aware of the
exact length of Hull's and Land's mandatory minimum,
it would also know the minimum penalty that Trent would have
to serve-which could improperly sway the jury's decision
in Trent's case. To avoid this situation, the court
prevented Trent from asking Hull and Land about the mandatory
minimum's exact length but permitted him to describe the
mandatory minimum as "substantial."
now argues that this limitation violated his Sixth Amendment
right to confrontation and was an abuse of discretion. We
disagree and hold that the court committed no error in its
also objected to the testimony of Illinois State Police
Sergeant James Rieck, a government witness who had
investigated Trent while undercover. During that
investigation, Sergeant Rieck had communicated with Trent in
person and by telephone. At trial, Sergeant Rieck identified
Trent's voice in the phone calls. Trent objected to this
identification, claiming that the government had not laid the
necessary foundation. He asserts that argument again on
appeal. We disagree and hold that the court also did not err
in allowing that testimony.
was a heroin supplier in Rock Island, Illinois. Hull was a
heroin addict who often purchased heroin from Trent and his
dealers. On August 29, 2014, Hull planned to attend a local
music festival with one of his friends, Corzette, who was
also a heroin addict. The two decided to purchase heroin
before they went to the festival. Hull called Trent and
ordered three "bags" of heroin (each of which
contained a tenth of a gram), one bag for Corzette and two
bags for another friend, Jacob Thompson. Hull did not order
any heroin for himself because he was already high from using
heroin earlier that day-heroin that he had also purchased
from Trent. Trent set the price at $90 for the three bags and
told Hull to contact Land, one of Trent's dealers.
then called Land, and they arranged a meeting. Hull,
Corzette, and Thompson rode together to that meeting, and
once they arrived, Hull purchased the bags of heroin from
Land for the agreed-upon price. After the deal, Thompson took
his two bags of heroin and went home.
and Corzette then went to a nearby park where Hull helped
Corzette cook and inject the heroin. Soon thereafter,
Corzette passed out. Hull, who later testified that he was
not initially worried about Corzette because he had seen this
happen before with heroin use, left Corzette in the car and
attended the music festival.
the festival, Hull returned to the car and found Corzette
still unconscious and with vomit on his clothes. Hull checked
Corzette's pulse and, still believing him to be fine,
left Corzette in the car for the night. When Hull returned
the following morning, he found Corzette dead in the car.
panicked. He took the syringe from Corzette's hand and
threw it in the grass next to the car. He then went to work.
But after spending only an hour at work, Hull returned to the
park and called the police. Rock Island Police Officer
Christopher Sloan responded to the call. When he arrived, he
spoke with Hull, who claimed that Corzette was dead. Officer
Sloan called an ambulance and confirmed that Corzette was in
fact dead. He then discovered the syringe that Hull had
thrown in the grass. A forensic pathologist later concluded
that Corzette had died of adverse effects from heroin.
Investigation and Arrest of Trent
on August 30, Hull agreed to cooperate with the police
department in its investigation. In particular, Hull agreed
to participate in a controlled purchase of three additional
bags of heroin from Land that same day. This controlled
purchase led to Land's arrest, after which Land also
agreed to cooperate. The police department then arranged for
an undercover officer to make two purchases of heroin from
Trent. After the second purchase, the police department
obtained an arrest warrant for Trent, and Trent was arrested
on October 3, 2014.
Rock Island Police Department later learned that the Illinois
State Police had also been engaged in an undercover
investigation of Trent in August of 2014. During that
investigation, Sergeant Rieck communicated with Trent both in
person and by telephone. He also purchased $50 of heroin from
one of Trent's dealers. Sergeant Rieck attempted to
arrange a second purchase of heroin from Trent, but Trent
refused after discovering that Rieck was an undercover
Trent's Jury Trial
jury returned a five-count indictment, charging Trent with
one count of heroin distribution resulting in death, three
counts of heroin distribution, and one count of conspiracy to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin
resulting in death. These charges stemmed from both the Rock
Island Police Department's investigation and the Illinois
State Police's investigation of Trent. ...