May 31, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 16-CR-3 - William C. Griesbach,
Kanne, Sykes, and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.
Adams pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing a firearm as a
felon and was sentenced to 87 months in prison-the top of the
range recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines. Adams asks us
to remand his case for resentencing, arguing that the judge
impermissibly considered unreliable evidence linking him to
seven unsolved shootings when weighing the sentencing factors
under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a).
reject this argument and affirm. The challenged evidence
consists mainly of summaries of police reports describing
some of the physical evidence from the shootings and
memorializing statements from witnesses, confidential
informants, and jailhouse snitches connecting Adams to the
crimes. It also includes several statements by Adams himself,
who had bragged to police about his involvement in gang
violence, though only in very general terms. The government
also introduced testimony from a police detective about the
reliability of some, though not all, of the confidential
judge wisely approached this material with caution and in the
end declined to make any explicit findings on the subject.
Instead, the judge relied on the government's
presentation only very generally, and only to the extent that
it confirmed what the presentence report had already
documented: Adams is a headstrong young Vice Lords gang
member who began committing crimes at age 14 and immersed
himself in the gang's subculture of firearms possession
and violence. That careful and limited approach raises no
due-process concerns and was certainly not an abuse of
September 2015 Adams was 20 years old and already a longtime
member of the Vice Lords gang in Racine, Wisconsin, with a
lengthy record of criminal convictions as a juvenile and
adult. On September 25 he was walking down the street with
his 15-year-old cousin when a police squad drove by and made
a U-turn. As the officers passed by a second time, Adams
lifted his shirt and said, "Hey, I got nothin' on
me." The officers stopped and detained Adams on a
probation warrant, then retraced his steps to the place where
they first spotted him. There, under the wheelchair ramp of a
house, they found a 9mm semiautomatic handgun affixed with a
high-capacity 30-round magazine. Adams had ditched the gun
under the ramp when he first saw the police approach. When
questioned about it, Adams indicated that he expected to get
a short prison sentence for violating his probation and a
concurrent sentence for possessing the gun, which he implied
would not be a big deal.
was charged with one count of possessing a firearm as a felon
in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g) and 924(a)(2).
The case was assigned to Judge Griesbach, and Adams
eventually pleaded guilty. The presentence report
("PSR") detailed Adams's affiliation with the
Vice Lords gang in Racine and his lengthy criminal history as
a juvenile and adult, which included (among other crimes)
several firearms offenses and a battery. Indeed, and as the
PSR documented, before his latest arrest, Adams had been in
juvenile or adult custody almost continuously since the age
of 14. The PSR calculated an offense level of 21 and a
criminal-history category V, yielding a guidelines sentencing
range of 70 to 87 months in prison.
sentencing Judge Griesbach considered and rejected
Adams's challenges to the PSR and adopted the probation
officer's calculation of the advisory range. He then
invited arguments from counsel on the § 3553(a) factors.
At this point the government's sentencing memorandum came
into play. The prosecutor's written submission pointed to
evidence linking Adams to as many as seven unsolved
gang-related shootings in Racine, including a murder and an
attempted murder. Adams contested the reliability of the
government's submission, especially to the extent that it
relied on statements from confidential informants. In light
of the dispute, the judge adjourned the hearing and gave the
parties an opportunity to supplement the record.
government submitted a supplemental sentencing memorandum,
this time summarizing and quoting more extensively from
police reports-including those memorializing Adams's own
statements, interviews with victims and witnesses, and
physical evidence-and describing in more detail the
statements of confidential and jailhouse informants
connecting Adams to the unsolved crimes. Most of the
shootings stemmed from gang rivalries in Racine.
relevant here, Adams had been interviewed by police in
connection with at least two of the shootings. In one
interview he admitted to police that younger Vice Lords
members looked up to him as a "shot caller." In the
most recent interview, conducted after his arrest for the
present offense, he was questioned about two of the
shootings, both of which occurred earlier in September 2015.
He told the police that he couldn't have been the shooter
in either case because too few rounds had ...