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United States v. Bolton

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

June 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
LASHAUN CHRISTOPHER BOLTON, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
LASHAUN CHRISTOPHER BOLTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: May 11, 2017

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, at Greensboro. William L. Osteen, Jr., Chief District Judge. (1:15-cr-00243-WO-1; 1:14-cr-00433-WO-4)

         ARGUED:

          Cheryl Denise Andrews, HOLTON LAW FIRM, PLLC, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for Appellant.

          Sandra Jane Hairston, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Ripley Rand, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greensboro, North Carolina, for Appellee.

          Before NIEMEYER, MOTZ, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.

          THACKER, Circuit Judge:

         Lashaun Christopher Bolton ("Appellant") appeals his consolidated sentence for convictions in two separate cases -- one involving marijuana distribution and the other involving cocaine distribution. Following his indictment and arrest on the marijuana charges, law enforcement discovered firearms, cash, and more marijuana in Appellant's bedroom. Then, while released on bond for the marijuana charges, Appellant was arrested on the cocaine charges.

         At the consolidated sentencing hearing, Appellant attempted to show that the firearms were connected to hunting in order to avoid a sentence enhancement for possessing a firearm in connection with drug distribution. But the district court rejected this claim and applied the enhancement. Next, although Appellant sought an offense-level reduction given his lack of criminal history, the district court also rejected this argument, holding Appellant was ineligible for the reduction because he possessed a firearm in connection with his offense. Additionally, given Appellant's arrest while released on bond, the district court refused to reduce Appellant's offense level for acceptance of responsibility, despite cooperation he provided the Government. Finally, the court varied upward from Appellant's Sentencing Guideline range by 40 months.

         Appellant now challenges each of these sentencing determinations. Finding no reversible error, we affirm.

         I.

         A.

         On November 24, 2014, a grand jury in the Middle District of North Carolina returned a multi-count indictment charging multiple defendants, including Appellant, with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) (the "Marijuana Indictment"). Specifically, the Marijuana Indictment charged Appellant with conspiring to distribute marijuana and using a communication facility to facilitate the conspiracy. On December 4, 2014, Appellant was arrested pursuant to the Marijuana Indictment. He consented to a search of his residence. During the search, a 12-gauge shotgun and 22-250 bolt action rifle were discovered in Appellant's bedroom along with boxes of ammunition, approximately 400 grams of marijuana, and $912 in cash. A records search indicated that the shotgun was reported stolen. On December 16, 2014, Appellant was released on bond.

         On February 25, 2015, Appellant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute marijuana and using a communication facility to facilitate drug trafficking per the Marijuana Indictment. The factual basis in support of the plea agreement stated that throughout September 2012, law enforcement intercepted cellular phone calls between Appellant and another individual indicating that the two conspired to distribute around eight pounds of marijuana "during the period alleged in the indictment." J.A. 44-47.[1] The conspiracy alleged in the indictment lasted "[f]rom in or about 2012, continuing up to and including in or about February 2013." Id. at 15.[2] Following the guilty plea, the district court also granted Appellant's motion to modify his terms of release to remove an electronic location monitor so as to allow him to return to work. The court scheduled a sentencing hearing on the Marijuana Indictment for June 3, 2015.

         B.

         On April 18, 2015, Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered Appellant was involved in cocaine distribution. As a result, on April 21, 2015, the court revoked Appellant's bond and issued a warrant for his arrest. Two days later, on April 23, 2015, Appellant surrendered to law enforcement. After Appellant's surrender, on May 6, 2015, he met with law enforcement for debriefing and provided information about the other individuals involved in the cocaine distribution. On May 18, 2015, the district court continued Appellant's sentencing for the marijuana charges to August 26, 2015.

         On June 30, 2015, while Appellant was awaiting sentencing on the marijuana charges, a grand jury in the Middle District of North Carolina returned a second indictment against Appellant and other defendants, charging them with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841 (the "Cocaine Indictment").

         On August 7, 2015, Appellant pled guilty to the Cocaine Indictment. The factual basis for Appellant's plea provided that on April 16, 2015, Appellant sold 3.4 grams of marijuana to an individual working as a confidential informant and offered to sell the individual a kilogram of cocaine hydrochloride. Then, over the next two ...


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