United States v. Anderson, No. 19-2361 (7th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Anderson furnished heroin to Sublett every month; Sublett cut the heroin with sleeping-aid medication and used retail-level sellers, including Ray, and paid Anderson after selling the heroin. Occasionally Sublett also stored large quantities of heroin for Anderson. Anderson provided Sublett with “Kansas City” heroin, which Ray sold to his regular customer, Buchanan. Buchanan overdosed. Paramedics revived Buchanan and took him to the hospital. After his release, Buchanan told Ray that he had overdosed on the "Kansas City."
Anderson, Sublett, Ray, and others were charged under 21 U.S.C. 846. Count Two charged Anderson with aiding and abetting the distribution of heroin to Buchanan that resulted in his overdose (section 841(a)(1)). Anderson’s codefendants pleaded guilty. Anderson was convicted on both charges. For the serious-bodily-injury enhancement, the jury responded yes to: “With respect to Count One, Count Two, or both … the government has proven beyond a reasonable doubt Ian Buchanan suffered serious bodily injury and that the serious bodily injury … resulted from the use of heroin distributed by” Anderson. The court calculated a guidelines range of 360 months to life, considering the serious-bodily-injury finding and a two-level “leadership” enhancement, but ultimately imposed a below-guidelines sentence of 300 months.
The Seventh Circuit vacated the distribution conviction, which was based on an aiding-and-abetting theory of liability that was unsupported by the evidence. To establish under an aiding-and-abetting theory, the government had to prove that Anderson “affirmative[ly] act[ed]
in furtherance of” Ray’s sale to Buchanan and intended to facilitate the commission of that sale. It is impossible to tell from the jury’s verdict whether the serious-bodily-injury enhancement applied only to the flawed distribution conviction, only to the unchallenged conspiracy conviction, or to both.