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United States v. Armstrong

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 10, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Leslie Armstrong, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted January 16, 2015

Page 1029

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Little Rock.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Michael S. Gordon, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Edward O. Walker, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR.

Leslie Armstrong, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Forrest City, AR.

For Leslie Armstrong, Defendant - Appellant: Kim Driggers, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Latrece Gray, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender's Office, Little Rock, AR.

Before COLLOTON, BEAM, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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BEAM, Circuit Judge.

The district court[1] sentenced Leslie Armstrong to 180-months' imprisonment following his conviction by a jury of one count of distribution of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). On appeal, Armstrong challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and claims the district court erred by admitting evidence of a prior controlled drug sale in which he was allegedly involved and by sentencing him as a career offender. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 4, 2012, the government charged Armstrong in a one-count indictment with distribution of 12.5 grams of crack cocaine. This charge stemmed from Armstrong's alleged sale of crack cocaine to a confidential informant (CI) during a controlled buy that occurred in September 2009 (the " 2009 Controlled Buy" ). At the time of the 2009 Controlled Buy, the CI was working with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and local law enforcement and had already participated in several controlled buys involving different suspected drug dealers.

At trial, the government introduced substantial evidence regarding how the 2009 Controlled Buy unfolded and Armstrong's role in the buy. On the day of the buy, the CI met with DEA and local law enforcement officials at a confidential location. The officers thoroughly searched the CI to verify that he did not have any weapons, drugs, or money on his person. The CI then placed a call to a phone number he claimed belonged to Armstrong. At trial, the government played a recording of this call, and the CI can be overheard talking with a man and confirming that the man was ready to make the drug sale. Armstrong denies that he participated in the call, but the CI testified that the other voice in the recording belonged to Armstrong. The CI also testified that he was familiar with Armstrong's voice because he lived in the same apartment complex as Armstrong, had known him for years, and had purchased drugs from Armstrong on occasions prior to the 2009 Controlled Buy.

After the call, officers provided the CI with money to buy the drugs, placed an audio/video recording device on his clothing, and used a DEA vehicle to transport the CI to the apartment complex in which Armstrong lived. The CI exited the DEA vehicle and walked up to the apartment complex.[2] The CI proceeded directly to Armstrong's apartment, although he apparently encountered several people, including a family member, along the way. The CI testified that, upon entering Armstrong's apartment, he paid Armstrong $700 in exchange for two baggies of crack cocaine. The government showed the jury footage that was captured by the audio/video recorder the CI wore during the buy. This footage, in relevant part, depicts the CI knocking on the door of Armstrong's apartment, receiving permission to enter, and handing something to Armstrong. Armstrong appears to examine the item(s) for several seconds, and then states " you paid me for two." The footage then depicts Armstrong handing something to the CI, after which the CI exits the apartment. However, due to the angle of the recorder, the footage does not clearly

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show Armstrong possessing any money or drugs ...


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