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United States v. Freeman

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 9, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RONDELL FREEMAN, Defendant-Appellant

Argued November 12, 2015

Page 348

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 07-cr-00843 -- Joan H. Lefkow, Judge.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Stuart D. Fullerton, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL.

For Rondell Freeman, also known as: NIGHTFALL, also known as: FALL, Defendant - Appellant: Andrea Elizabeth Gambino, Attorney, Gambino & Associates, Chicago, IL.

Before BAUER, FLAUM, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 349

Manion, Circuit Judge.

In 2009, Rondell Freeman and several codefendants were convicted on various counts stemming from their participation in a Chicago drug conspiracy. After learning that the government had knowingly used false testimony at trial, the district court vacated the defendants' convictions

Page 350

on the conspiracy charged in Count 1 of the indictment. The government appealed, and we affirmed in United States v. Freeman, 650 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. 2011). But the district court also left intact the defendants' convictions on a number of other counts that incorporated the conspiracy charged in Count 1 as a necessary element.

The result was an anomaly: with the conspiracy count dismissed, how could the convictions dependent on the conspiracy's existence remain standing? We recently answered that question for two of Freeman's codefendants in United States v. Wilbourn, 799 F.3d 900 (7th Cir. 2015), where we held that the dismissal of the conspiracy count did not, by itself, necessitate dismissing the remaining counts encompassing the conspiracy. Like his codefendants before him, Freeman argues on appeal that the district court should have vacated his conspiracy-based convictions in light of its dismissal of the conspiracy charge. He also challenges his sentence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

I. Background

In 2007, Freeman and fourteen codefendants were indicted on numerous charges related to Freeman's operation of a drug ring at the now-razed Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago's Near North Side.[1] Freeman proceeded to trial and was convicted on multiple counts, including conspiracy to traffic narcotics (Count 1), possessing a firearm in furtherance of the conspiracy (Count 8, or the " gun count" ), and using a telephone in furtherance of the conspiracy (Counts 4-5 and 16-18, or the " phone counts" ). Several of Freeman's codefendants, including Brian Wilbourn and Adam Sanders, were also convicted of conspiracy and related offenses based on their involvement in Freeman's drug scheme.

It eventually came to light that the prosecution had knowingly relied on false testimony from one of its main witnesses, Senecca Williams, to secure the defendants' conspiracy convictions. As a result, the district court dismissed the conspiracy count and vacated the conspiracy convictions for all defendants, and we affirmed. Freeman, 650 F.3d at 683__ 84. At the same time, the court found that Williams's false testimony did not materially affect the jury's guilty verdicts on a number of other counts that embraced the conspiracy, including the gun and phone counts against Freeman. The judge therefore denied Freeman's motion for a new trial on those counts, and proceeded to sentence Freeman based on his remaining undisturbed convictions.

In determining the amount of drugs attributable to Freeman under the Sentencing Guidelines, the district court relied primarily on the trial testimony of Ralph LaSalle. LaSalle testified that he supplied Freeman with at least one to two kilograms of cocaine per month over a period of about five years while the conspiracy was in effect. LaSalle testified that he typically supplied these drugs to Freeman through a middleman named David McClinton. In its May 2013 sentencing order, the court found LaSalle's testimony credible and conservatively estimated that Freeman was responsible for 8.4 or more kilograms of cocaine base, 100 grams of heroin, ...


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