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United States v. Lewis

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 13, 2018

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Antrell Desharron Lewis Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: June 15, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Dubuque

          Before LOKEN, GRUENDER, and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges.

          ERICKSON, Circuit Judge.

         Following a three-day bench trial, the district court[1] found Antrell Desharron Lewis guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute a mixture or substance containing heroin and furanylfentanyl resulting in death and serious bodily injury, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 813, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846; and one count of distribution of a mixture or substance containing heroin and furanylfentanyl resulting in death and serious bodily injury, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 813, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(C). The court sentenced Lewis to concurrent terms of 252 months' imprisonment to be followed by concurrent three-year terms of supervised release.

         On appeal, Lewis argues the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions because (1) other individuals might have distributed the heroin laced with furanylfentanyl that caused the death and/or serious bodily injuries; (2) the government failed to establish "but-for" causation due to the intervening act of redistribution by another individual; (3) no conspiracy existed between Lewis and the individual who distributed the drugs to the victims; and (4) the government failed to prove Lewis knowingly distributed an analogue of a controlled substance. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Joshua Manning testified that for about two months prior to March 2, 2016, he had been obtaining heroin from Lewis in Dubuque, Iowa. Manning usually conducted a couple of transactions with Lewis each week involving half gram or gram quantities. He was sometimes joined by his friend Jeremy Nadermann on these trips to Dubuque.

         According to Manning's testimony, on March 2, 2016, he contacted Lewis about obtaining five grams of heroin on a "front."[2] Manning asked Nadermann to go with him because Manning did not have a vehicle. Manning intended to give one or two grams of heroin to Nadermann for letting him use a car to make the trip.

         Nadermann and Manning joined by two other individuals, Michael Vanamburg and Anthony Kelly, drove to Dubuque for the purpose of obtaining heroin. Manning testified he gave Lewis $200 in proceeds from Manning's sale of previously-fronted heroin. Manning explained at trial that five grams was the largest quantity he had received from Lewis in a single transaction. Nadermann confirmed during his testimony that a meeting was arranged with Lewis on March 2, 2016, to obtain heroin. Nadermann added that there was some discussion about the four of them pooling their money together to obtain a larger amount of heroin, which they would then divide into portions. According to Manning, Lewis agreed to front five grams of heroin to him for $800.

         After Manning received the heroin, Nadermann requested the group drive to Jeremy Stierman's residence in Dubuque. Manning testified that he and Nadermann went inside Stierman's apartment while Vanamburg and Kelly stayed in the car. Manning weighed out one or two grams of heroin for Nadermann and a "50 bag" (about 0.2 grams) for Vanamburg. Manning put the rest in a bag. After dividing the heroin into portions, Manning and Nadermann returned to the vehicle to get high. Manning gave Vanamburg the "50 bag." Manning used a spoon and water to prepare a liquid mixture and drew some of it into a syringe for his use, and then gave the spoon to Kelly so he could use what was left.

         Manning testified that he believed the substance he received from Lewis on March 2, 2016, was more potent than what he usually received. He described feeling a more intense high. Nadermann testified that he used some of the heroin Manning received from Lewis that evening and experienced a "strong weird feeling" but did not lose consciousness. In a very short period of time after using the heroin inside the vehicle, Manning noticed that Kelly was unresponsive in the backseat. Manning and Nadermann attempted to revive Kelly. When they were unsuccessful, Manning took his portion of heroin back to Stierman's apartment and called 911. During the emergency call, Nadermann advised Manning that Vanamburg, too, was unresponsive.

         Before emergency responders arrived on scene, Manning testified that he saw Nadermann throw what Manning believed to be a syringe and Nadermann's portion of the heroin into a snowbank. Emergency responders, suspecting opiate overdoses, testified they administered Narcan and revived both Kelly and Vanamburg. Once alert, Kelly and Vanamburg were transported to the hospital in ambulances. Dr. Joshua Pruitt, an emergency room physician, the deputy medical examiner for Linn County, Iowa, and the chief medical examiner for Cedar County, Iowa, testified at trial. Dr. Pruitt testified that, upon review of the evidence, it was his opinion that Kelly was rendered unconscious because of an opiate overdose and that Kelly was at serious risk of death without medical intervention. Dr. Pruitt also testified that Vanamburg faced the same risks and that Vanamburg would not have been in that situation without the use of an opiate. Dr. Pruitt noted that Vanamburg had been prescribed Oxycodone, but discounted the possibility that Vanamburg's overdose was caused by the prescription medication, as he was using it as directed and the frequency dosage would not cause the effects Vanamburg experienced. Dr. Pruitt opined that Oxycodone was not the cause of Vanamburg's overdose.

         During the search of the vehicle, law enforcement officers found a metal spoon containing some residue and a small cotton swab. The items were sent to the crime lab for testing. The lab report indicated the substance on the spoon was heroin and furanylfentanyl. In the rear passenger door pocket, officers found a small plastic baggie with a white rock substance. The lab report indicated the ...


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