Submitted: September 26, 2019
from United States District Court for the Northern District
of Iowa - Cedar Rapids
LOKEN, COLLOTON, and KOBES, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Alonzo Outlaw was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to
distribute heroin and aiding and abetting the distribution of
heroin. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing
heroin. The district court sentenced him within the advisory
guideline range to 365 months' imprisonment. On appeal,
Outlaw challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support
the jury verdicts, and he asserts error by the district court
at sentencing. We affirm.
prosecution's theory of the case was that Outlaw engaged
in heroin trafficking with a group of drug dealers who
identified themselves as "We the Best." Outlaw
admitted guilt on two counts of distribution that were based
on controlled transactions with a person cooperating with law
enforcement. To prove the conspiracy count, the government
called numerous witnesses who testified that they acquired
heroin from Outlaw or persons associated with him between
2013 and January 2017. The aiding and abetting charge was
based on a controlled transaction on December 10, 2014. A
cooperator testified that he met with Outlaw and an associate
nicknamed "Black," and received fifteen bags of
heroin-five from Outlaw and ten from "Black." The
associate "Black," however, testified that while
Outlaw drove the two men to the drug transaction, only
"Black" distributed heroin to the cooperator on
contends on appeal that there was insufficient evidence to
support his convictions by the jury. On claims of
insufficient evidence, we affirm a conviction if, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. United
States v. El Herman, 583 F.3d 576, 579 (8th Cir. 2009);
see Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979).
conspiracy charge required the government to prove three
elements: (1) that there was an agreement to distribute
heroin, (2) that Outlaw voluntarily and intentionally joined
the conspiracy, and (3) that Outlaw knew the purpose of the
conspiracy when he joined. United States v. Hickman,
764 F.3d 918, 924 (8th Cir. 2014). "An agreement to join
a conspiracy need not be explicit but may be inferred from
the facts and circumstances of the case." United
States v. Conway, 754 F.3d 580, 587 (8th Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation omitted).
course of proving a conspiracy to distribute heroin, the
government presented overwhelming evidence that Outlaw
distributed heroin during the relevant period. Outlaw pleaded
guilty to two counts of distribution, and the government
presented evidence of these controlled transactions. More
than a dozen separate witnesses testified that Outlaw
distributed heroin to them on occasions totaling in the
hundreds during the time of the charged conspiracy.
was ample evidence to show that Outlaw knowingly and
intentionally joined a conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Several witnesses testified that after they obtained a
telephone number at which to contact Outlaw to purchase
heroin, they called the number to place an order for drugs.
The witnesses testified that different persons answered their
calls: sometimes it was Outlaw, and sometimes it was one of
several other persons. According to the testimony, sometimes
Outlaw arranged a transaction on the telephone, but a
"runner" would deliver the drugs to the buyer.
Other times, Outlaw answered the call and delivered the drugs
himself; in another scenario, a third person would answer the
phone and deliver the drugs. Some witnesses also testified
that they communicated with Outlaw's telephone by text
message to arrange heroin purchases. Return text messages
from Outlaw's phone number typically included the
"We the Best" group moniker at the end.
the evidence as a whole, a reasonable jury could infer that
Outlaw distributed heroin as part of a conspiracy with other
persons involved with the "We the Best" group.
Outlaw attacks the credibility of several prosecution
witnesses who admitted to drug use or cooperation agreements
with the government. Credibility, however, is almost
exclusively matter for the jury, and the sheer number of
witnesses who testified to a similar pattern of activity with
Outlaw gave the jury sound reason to believe that Outlaw was
a member of the charged conspiracy.
aiding and abetting conviction arose from Outlaw's
involvement in a controlled drug transaction on December 10,
2014. The government had the burden to prove that Outlaw
"took an affirmative act to further the underlying
criminal offense, with the intent of facilitating the
offense." United States v. Borders, 829 F.3d
558, 565 (8th Cir. 2016). The intent element required proof
that Outlaw had advance knowledge of all the characteristics
of the transaction that made it illegal-"knowledge that
enable[d] him to make the relevant legal (and indeed, moral)
choice" to facilitate the offense. Rosemond v.
United States, 572 U.S. 65, 78 (2014).
prosecution's evidence established that Outlaw drove to
the site of the drug transaction with an associate nicknamed
"Black" as a passenger. The cooperating person
testified that Outlaw and "Black" transferred
heroin to him. "Black" admitted distributing
heroin, but denied that Outlaw did so. Whether or not the
jury was convinced that Outlaw personally transferred heroin
on this occasion, the jury reasonably could have inferred
that Outlaw knew in advance that he was driving to a drug
transaction, and did so intentionally to facilitate his
associate's transfer of heroin. In addition to the
evidence about this particular transaction, the jury also
heard other testimony that Outlaw and "Black"
worked together in trafficking heroin. Evidence of the larger