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U.S. v. MCLAURIN, NO. 13-4138

Decided: August 22, 2014

The Fourth Circuit affirmed Appellants’ convictions, but vacated McLaurin’s sentence and remanded for resentencing.

Appellants were working with disgruntled drug couriers, and implemented a plan to rob a drug “stash house” containing between seven to nine kilograms of cocaine. However, the stash house did not exist, and the alleged drug couriers were actually undercover law enforcement officers. Appellants were arrested, and convicted on a variety of conspiracy and firearms charges. Appellants each moved to sever the felon-in-possession charges from the conspiracy charges, which the district court granted for Lowery, but denied for McLaurin. Both received a jury trial on the remaining charges, and both primarily relied on an entrapment defense. However, the jury rejected the defense and convicted both Appellants. Appellants filed timely appeals.

The Fourth Circuit found no error in the district court’s jury instructions regarding Appellants’ entrapment defense, and its supplemental instruction on the term “inducement.” The Court stated that the district court’s elaboration on the circumstances for inducement were consistent with Fourth Circuit law. Further, the Court stated that the district court did not err by admitting evidence of prior bad acts by Appellant Lowery because evidence that tended to prove that Lowery had the ability to bring a powerful firearm to the planned stash house robbery was relevant in determining Lowery’s predisposition to commit the robbery. Also, the Court found that Appellant McLaurin’s prior conviction of common law robbery, the district court was in the best position to determine whether McLaurin opened the door to the introduction of his past history with robbery. The Court stated that Appellant McLaurin was not prejudiced by the district court’s denial of his motion to sever his felon-in-possession charges from his conspiracy charges, and agreed that the charges were properly joined because both charges were logically related to each other, and helped give a complete picture of the criminal enterprise that McLaurin planned. However, the Fourth Circuit did vacate McLaurin’s sentence and remand for resentencing due to an error in the calculation of McLaurin’s criminal history that increased his sentencing range from 121-151 months’ imprisonment, to 151-188 months’ imprisonment under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.).

Full Opinion

Alysja S. Garansi