September 25, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Illinois. No. 4:17-cr-40052 - J. Phil Gilbert,
Flaum, Sykes, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.
Jackson was convicted of multiple drug charges and sentenced
to mandatory life imprisonment. He appeals his convictions on
the grounds that the district court erred in allowing certain
recordings and testimony into evidence; he also challenges
his sentence, seeking a reduction in light of the First Step
Act. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of
the district court.
2017, the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force and the Illinois
State Police began investigating Jackson and some of his
associates, suspecting their involvement in a gangland
shooting. The investigation led to evidence suggesting that
Jackson was dealing drugs in Harrisburg, Illinois. The
investigating agents supplied a confidential source
("CS") with funds to make several controlled
purchases from Jackson, each of which was recorded via an
audiovisual device on the CS's person. After the CS
completed three controlled purchases, agents obtained a
warrant and raided Jackson's residence. The search turned
up methamphetamine, other drugs, cash, scales, and multiple
was arrested and several superseding indictments followed. He
proceeded to trial on six counts: (1 & 2) distributing a
mixture and substance containing methamphetamine; (3)
distributing five grams or more of actual methamphetamine;
(4) possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of
actual methamphetamine; and (5 & 6) two weapons charges.
Before trial, the government filed an information
establishing that Jackson had twice pleaded guilty to felony
drug charges. Taking his prior convictions into account, he
faced, if convicted, a mandatory minimum sentence of ten
years on count 3 and life imprisonment on count 4.
Jackson's trial approached, the CS escaped from the jail
where he was being held on unrelated charges. The CS was
returned to custody only two days before Jackson's trial
began, and the government determined not to call him as a
witness. Instead, the government filed a motion in limine
seeking a pretrial ruling on the admissibility of the
recordings showing the CS purchasing drugs from Jackson. The
district court granted the motion, reasoning that:
[a]ssuming the Government lays a proper foundation, does not
use the CS's statements for their truth, and satisfies
all other evidentiary requirements, the Court will not
exclude the recordings on Confrontation Clause grounds or any
of the other ground discussed above. Further, it will give
appropriate limiting instructions to the jury when the
recordings are played and at any other reasonable time
requested by a party.
pretrial hearing, the district judge noted that were Jackson
convicted on count 4, a mandatory life sentence would apply,
and he would have no discretion to modify it. Jackson stated
that he understood and, contrary to his lawyer's advice,
wished to proceed to trial rather than accept a plea bargain.
trial, two investigators provided relevant testimony. Special
Agent Jayson Murbarger and Inspector Glenn Rountree
participated in the stings of Jackson; between them, they
searched the CS for contraband, cash, or weapons before each
controlled sale, provided him with cash to buy the drugs, and
affixed audiovisual recording devices on his person.
Murbarger testified that he watched the CS during each sale
and observed him placing the purchased drugs in the
agents' vehicle. The agents provided similar testimony
discussing the chain of custody of physical evidence and the
integrity of the recordings made by the CS.
recordings of the drug transactions were played for the jury
over Jackson's objections. The court provided the
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the government will now
present recorded conversations and video recordings. This is
proper evidence that you should consider together with and in
the same way you consider other evidence in this case. ...
The recordings contain statements and questions by the
confidential source in this case. You may consider statements
or questions of the confidential source on the recordings
only to help you understand what the defendant said in
response to-in response or did in reaction to those
statements or questions. You may not consider the
confidential source's statements or questions for the
truth of what the confidential source said. The confidential
source's statements and questions standing alone are not
evidence of the defendant's guilt.
the recordings played uninterrupted, Inspector Roun-tree
testified as to what he saw and heard on the recordings.
a four-day trial, on July 12, 2018, a federal jury in the
Southern District of Illinois found Jackson guilty of counts
1 through 4 but was unable to reach a consensus on counts 5
and 6. The government subsequently moved to dismiss counts 5
and 6 without prejudice.
November 28, 2018, the district court entered judgment and
sentenced Jackson as follows: concurrent terms of 360 months
for counts 1 and 2, a concurrent term of 480 ...