Submitted: May 8, 2017
from United States District Court for the Northern District
of Iowa - Sioux City
RILEY, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
district court sentenced Johnny Madison to 140 months in
prison after Madison pled guilty to two counts related to
methamphetamine distribution. See 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii), 846. Madison appeals
his sentence and contends the district court erred in three
ways by: (1) overstating the amount and purity level of
methamphetamine attributed to him; (2) crediting testimony
suggesting he possessed a firearm; and (3) imposing a
substantively unreasonable sentence. We affirm. See
28 U.S.C. § 1291 (appellate jurisdiction).
entered into a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine at
some point in 2014 or early 2015. Law enforcement became
aware of this fact in March 2015, when a confidential source
reported Madison was dealing methamphetamine out of his house
in Sioux City, Iowa. Officers then executed a controlled buy
from Madison on July 1, when the confidential source paid $1,
200 for 24.5 grams of methamphetamine that was later tested
and shown to be 99.1% pure. The confidential source contacted
Madison again about two weeks later, this time looking to buy
two ounces (about 56.7 grams) of methamphetamine. Madison
agreed to the sale, but said he needed another day to acquire
the full amount. The deal never took place, however, and the
arrested Madison on state drug charges in late July.
Madison's wife (now ex-wife), Kelli, spoke with officers
on July 29, and named Josh Navrkal and Daniel Suhr as two of
Madison's suppliers. Madison agreed to a proffer
interview in early September. The interview was not recorded
and the parties disagree about what Madison
said. There is no question Madison admitted to
purchasing a total of 141.75 grams of methamphetamine from
Navrkal, and 56.7 grams from another supplier, Seid Tilahun.
According to the police, Madison also admitted to purchasing
a quarter pound of methamphetamine from Suhr on three
separate occasions-340.2 grams in all. Madison denies saying
any such thing. Suhr, who was also questioned by the police
at one point, said he only sold Madison about 42.5 grams of
methamphetamine, an estimate Madison "agrees with."
There is no indication Madison said in the interview how pure
any of this methamphetamine was, and these specific
quantities were never seized or tested for purity.
was indicted in federal court in November 2015 for
distributing and conspiring to distribute five or more grams
of pure methamphetamine. See 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii), 846. He pled guilty to both
counts. The United States Probation Office prepared a
Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), which attributed
519.1 grams of actual methamphetamine to Madison based upon
his reported admissions from the proffer interview and the
lab tests of methamphetamine seized from Madison's
suppliers. This put Madison slightly over the 500-gram
threshold and raised his base offense level to 34.
See United States Sentencing Guidelines (Guidelines
or U.S.S.G.) § 2D1.1(c)(3). The PSR recommended a
three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, which
resulted in a total offense level of 31 and an advisory
Guidelines range of 168 to 210 months. Madison objected to
the PSR, arguing the gross quantity of methamphetamine was
too much and the purity rate too high. Madison also moved for
a downward variance.
government presented evidence to support the PSR's
calculations at the sentencing hearing. Sergeant Troy Hansen
testified about the procedure for proffer interviews,
generally-officers present for the interview take notes, and
then one officer is responsible for converting those notes
into a report that must be drafted within five days of the
interview. Here, the post-proffer report supported the
challenged paragraphs in the PSR regarding gross quantity.
Although Sergeant Hansen did not write this particular
report, he was present for the interview and confirmed the
summary was consistent with the notes he and his two fellow
officers had taken. Sergeant Hansen also stated law
enforcement seized and tested various methamphetamine samples
from Tilahun, Navrkal, and Suhr, which served as the basis
for the high average purity rates used in the PSR.
testified for the government as well. She began by describing
multiple instances of abuse during her tumultuous
relationship with Madison. After one such incident, Kelli
called the police when she found a rifle between the
mattresses in Madison's bedroom. Apparently, the police
seized the weapon, and Madison later admitted to Kelli the
gun was his. Madison was never charged despite being a felon
who could not legally possess a gun. Kelli then shared what
she knew about Madison's brief history as a drug dealer.
In addition to her general awareness that Madison bought,
sold, and used methamphetamine, Kelli was present for two
purchases Madison made from Suhr. On both occasions Madison
paid "around a thousand" dollars for a quantity
that was about the size of a "tennis ball, "
figures consistent with an ounce (about 28.3 grams) of
methamphetamine. That said, Kelli made clear she was not
around every time Madison met with Suhr.
district court found the government "pretty easily
establishe[d]" its burden to prove Madison was
responsible for 519.1 grams of pure methamphetamine,
considered the method used to calculate the purity level to
be "perfectly appropriate." Thus, the district
court adopted the PSR and agreed the advisory Guidelines
range was 168-210 months. As for any variance, the district
court recognized there were "a lot of moving parts in
this case." There were mitigating factors like
Madison's drug and gambling addictions, "history of
some mental illness, " and supportive family. But there
were also aggravating factors like Madison's gun
possession, "a long career of committing crimes, "
and the credible allegations of domestic assault made against
him. To the district court, these factors "balance[d]
each other out." Yet the district court varied down
anyway, reasoning the overall quantity calculation was based
on "very imprecise" (but sufficient) evidence and
fearing a within-Guidelines sentence would be "too
severe" given how close Madison was to the 500-gram
threshold that had raised his base offense level. The
district court gave Madison "the benefit of the
doubt" and sentenced him to 140 months in prison-28
months below the bottom of his advisory Guidelines range.
A.Drug Quantity and ...