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United States v. Brockman

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 20, 2019

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Chauncey Brockman Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: December 14, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Chauncey Brockman pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Before sentencing, the United States Probation Office filed a presentence investigation report (PSR) recommending a four-level sentencing enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) for possessing the firearm in connection with the felony offense of drug trafficking. Brockman made several objections to the PSR findings. He also filed multiple pro se motions with the district court, [1] including a request to withdraw his guilty plea. At sentencing, the district court denied his motions and upheld the four-level enhancement. Over the government's objection, the court granted a two-level sentencing reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a) for acceptance of responsibility. The government declined to move for, and the court refused to grant, a third level of reduction for acceptance of responsibility pursuant to § 3E1.1(b). On appeal, Brockman challenges the court's imposition of the § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B) enhancement and its refusal to grant the § 3E1.1(b) reduction. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

         I. Background

         On September 25, 2016, detectives with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department were attempting to locate a suspect in a homicide investigation when they observed a man matching the suspect's description enter the passenger side of a vehicle. Police stopped the vehicle and ordered the man, later identified as Brockman, to get out and lie face down in the street. As Brockman complied, an officer heard a noise that sounded like metal hitting the ground and believed it might be a firearm.

         Brockman told the officer he had a gun. The officer, without incident, removed a handgun from Brockman's front pocket. After a computer check revealed that Brockman had a prior felony, he was placed under arrest for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The handgun was identified as a stolen .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semiautomatic.

         Brockman had a strapped duffel bag hanging around his neck. The officer smelled an odor of marijuana coming from it. Police inventoried the duffel bag and found an extended .40-caliber magazine, compatible with the handgun and loaded with four rounds of live ammunition, and 40 clear plastic bags containing approximately 241 grams of marijuana. Police found an additional two bags of marijuana, weighing 2.5 grams, in Brockman's pants pocket.

         On May 23, 2017, Brockman appeared before the district court and pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The court found the guilty plea had been knowingly and voluntarily entered and directed the probation office to prepare a PSR. The PSR included a recommendation for a four-level enhancement of Brockman's base offense level under U.S.S.G. § 2K2.1(b)(6)(B), for "possess[ing] the firearm in connection with the felony offense of possession and/or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance." PSR at 5, ¶ 14, United States v. Brockman, No. 4:17-CR-00074 (W.D. Mo. Aug. 21, 2017), ECF No. 18.

         Brockman submitted four objections to the PSR. First, he denied that he possessed the firearm "in connection with" another felony, in order to negate the four-level enhancement. Second, he denied possessing 40 clear plastic bags containing marijuana. Third, he denied four separate municipal offense convictions listed in the PSR. Lastly, he disputed the PSR's finding that he was serving a criminal justice sentence at the time he committed the instant offense. In response to his objections, the government directed a case agent to photograph and document in a report the number of bags of marijuana police had recovered. The government also obtained certified records of the disputed convictions and prepared two witnesses to give testimony at the sentencing hearing in support of its evidence.

         Brockman also filed several pro se motions with the court. He filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming that he had pleaded guilty under duress and without full knowledge of the consequences of his plea. He moved to withdraw his appointed defense counsel for inadequate representation. In another motion, he requested a copy of all discovery materials so that he could review his case. Just prior to the sentencing hearing, Brockman filed yet another pro se motion requesting additional time to file pretrial motions and to appear pro se before the court. He claimed his attorney had ignored his requests to file a motion to suppress evidence and to hold an evidentiary hearing.

         The court denied Brockman's pro se motions as meritless. Brockman ultimately decided to rely on his counsel's representation. When the court began to address his PSR objections at the sentencing hearing, Brockman withdrew his objection that he had not possessed the 40 bags of marijuana. He said he decided to concede the point after receiving photographs from the government that confirmed the PSR's claim. He maintained his objection, however, to the allegation that the firearm related to drug trafficking. He claimed he possessed the marijuana for his personal use only and occasionally shared marijuana with others without receiving any money.

         In response, the government offered Brockman's interview statements made to detectives on the day of his arrest. In those statements, he admitted possessing both the firearm and the marijuana found on his person and in his duffel bag. Although he had stated the marijuana he possessed was for his personal use, he also described his usual practice as purchasing five ounces of marijuana, selling about half of it, and smoking the rest. The court upheld the four-level enhancement after finding ...


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