United States v. Lee, No. 12-1718 (7th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Hurt was a retail seller of crack cocaine, assisted by Holcomb and Clardy. The government, led to the group by a customer (Pickett), believed that Lee was one of Hurt’s suppliers. Controlled purchases, along with discovery of a distribution-sized quantity of crack cocaine in a car driven by Lee, led to the arrest and indictment of Lee, Hurt, Clardy, and Holcomb. Only Lee went to trial, after initially pleading guilty to conspiracy and possession, on the understanding that the more favorable statutory penalties put into place by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, would apply at his sentencing. The district court had applied the FSA in sentencing Holcomb before Lee pleaded guilty. Lee nonetheless withdrew his plea and was tried twice. Convicted under 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846, he was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the district court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence proof that Lee had previously been convicted of possessing cocaine base, Fed. R. Evid. 404(b).