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United States v. Peeler

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 5, 2015

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Travis Sentell Peeler, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted December 12, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: LeeAnn K. Bell, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Amber M. Brennan, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, District of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

For Travis Sentell Peeler, Defendant - Appellant: Manvir Kaur Atwal, Assistant Federal Public Defender, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER'S OFFICE, Minneapolis, MN.

Travis Sentell Peeler, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Pekin, IL.

Before LOKEN, BRIGHT, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 774

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

A jury convicted Travis Peeler of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of powder cocaine and 280 grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. The district court[1] granted a downward variance and sentenced Peeler to the mandatory minimum of 120 months in prison. Peeler appeals, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support the conspiracy conviction. " We review the sufficiency of the evidence de novo, viewing evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, resolving conflicts in the government's favor, and accepting all reasonable inferences that support the verdict." United States v. Harris-Thompson, 751 F.3d 590, 598 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 135 S.Ct. 415, 190 L.Ed.2d 301 (2014). Applying this deferential standard, we affirm.

At trial, FBI Special Agent James Somerville testified that, in early January 2012, law enforcement officers investigating widespread cocaine trafficking in Minneapolis began intercepting the phone calls of suspected drug dealer Rossco Ross. The calls revealed that Ross was distributing cocaine and crack cocaine supplied by Musaaleh Muhammad to multiple lower-level dealers. On January 8, Ross complained to Muhammad about the quality of his latest supply. The two arranged a meeting on January 9, and the poor cocaine was " swapped out" for a fresh supply. Ross then began calling his buyers to let them know he had cocaine and " was ready to sell."

On January 12, Ross called Peeler -- who was not previously known to the investigators -- at a Wisconsin phone number. Ross told Peeler he had " some new thunder whenever you ready." Peeler responded " [a]lright," and said he had been " slow rolling" because " you said you was gonna be gone for that little week." Peeler said, " soon as I'm right, I'll give your ass a call." Somerville explained to the jury that " new thunder" meant new cocaine, " slow rolling" meant Peeler had been selling his current supply of cocaine slowly, and " soon as I'm right" meant when Peeler has money to buy more cocaine.

On January 19, Ross called Peeler to ask why he had not heard from him. Peeler responded he was " just waiting on this little bread" and was at " twenty [or] twenty-two." Somerville explained that bread meant money; Peeler was saying he had about two-thousand or twenty-two hundred dollars. The next day, Peeler and Ross arranged to meet between Green

Page 775

Bay, Wisconsin, where Peeler lived, and the Twin Cities, where Ross lived. After calling Muhammad, Ross phoned Peeler, who was already on the road, and told him he would leave for their meeting point after " ridin' over to dude house," and would call again " as soon he done his thing." Somerville explained that " doing his thing" referred to converting powder cocaine to crack cocaine. Later that evening, Ross and Peeler met in a McDonald's parking lot off Interstate 94 in Menomonie, Wisconsin, where Minneapolis Police Sergeant Troy Schoenberger testified that he observed what appeared to be a narcotics sale. Minneapolis police followed Peeler when he left the rendezvous, and he was stopped by ...


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