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United States v. Starks

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 8, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
John Starks, Sr., Defendant - Appellant

Submitted February 29, 2016

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

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Justin A. Lightfoot, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Northern District of Iowa, Cedar Rapids, IA.

John Starks, Sr., Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Oxford, WI.

For John Starks, Sr., Defendant - Appellant: Leslie E. Stokke, Cedar Rapids, IA.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, MELLOY and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 439

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

John Starks, Sr., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a school, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 846, 860(a). At sentencing, the district

Page 440

court[1] imposed a three-level role enhancement pursuant to § 3B1.1(b) of the Sentencing Guidelines because Starks was a manager or supervisor of criminal activity that involved at least five participants. The court sentenced Starks to 192 months' imprisonment. Starks now appeals his sentence. We affirm.

John Starks, Sr., (" Starks" ) resided with his wife, Patricia Starks, in an apartment located across the street from an elementary school. On February 19, 2014, Starks and Casey Duhme attempted to manufacture methamphetamine in the bathroom of the Starks' apartment. Duhme provided two boxes of pseudoephedrine, one of which came from Elly Kohl, the mother of his child. Starks provided lye and pseudoephedrine that he had acquired from his son, John Starks, Jr., and from Tyler Cue, his son's friend who suffers from autism. Although Patricia Starks remained in the apartment while Starks and Duhme attempted to manufacture drugs, she did not take part in the attempt to make methamphetamine that evening.

At some point during the drug-manufacturing process, a fire broke out inside the Starks' apartment. The fire burned Starks's hands and singed Duhme's hair. Starks, Duhme, and Patricia Starks fled in Starks's car. An officer conducting a routine patrol of the area noticed smoke coming from the Starks' apartment and evacuated the building's residents. Shortly afterward, the building's roof collapsed. One tenant went to the hospital for smoke inhalation. During a later search of the Starks' apartment, police found a mason jar containing camping fuel and methamphetamine beside Starks's bed.

As a result of these events, Starks pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine near a school, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 846, 860(a). Starks's final presentence investigation report recommended a three-level role enhancement pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3B1.1(b) because Starks had a supervisory role in criminal activity that included at least five participants. The list of participants in the presentence investigation report included Tyler Cue. Starks objected to the enhancement and to the inclusion of Cue. In light of Cue's autism, Starks contended that " there ha[d] been no showing that [Cue] was aware of the criminal object of the conspiracy and knowingly offered his assistance." The Government agreed that Cue might not qualify as a participant because of his autism but nonetheless contended that the three-level role enhancement applied. In its sentencing memorandum, the Government identified the five participants as Starks, ...


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