United States v. Thomas, No. 17-1405 (10th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Defendant Donald Thomas pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On appeal he did not challenge the validity of his plea; but as permitted by his plea agreement with the government, he raised one challenge with respect to his sentence. Because it was undisputed he had a prior felony conviction for a crime of violence (robbery), his base offense level was at least 20. Whether it was 20 or 24 depended on the characterization of his 2014 Colorado conviction of distribution of an “imitation controlled substance” under Colo. Rev. Stat. 18-18-422(1)(a). The sole issue presented to the Tenth Circuit called for an interpretation of "counterfeit substance" as that term is used in section 4B1.2(b) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Defendant contended a counterfeit substance was a controlled substance that was mislabeled or misbranded fraudulently or without authorization, a definition that appears in a federal statute, 21 U.S.C. 802(7). The government countered it was a noncontrolled substance that was passed off as a controlled substance. Joining the five other circuits that opined on the subject, the Tenth Circuit agreed with the government. The Court affirmed defendant's sentence.