United States v. Stamps, No. 20-1336 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Stamps sold methamphetamine to police informants. Police executed a search warrant at his apartment. In one bedroom, police found two bags of methamphetamine, each containing over 25 grams. In the other bedroom, police found a loaded handgun under Stamps’s mattress with his wallet and $1,079 in cash. Stamps confessed to having sold drugs for five years. Stamps later admitted owning a handgun, but for self-defense after receiving threats based on his wrongful implication in a murder investigation. Someone had fired shots into his apartment. Stamps pled guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute 50 grams or more (21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1)). The PSR recommended a two-level increase under U.S.S.G 2D1.1(b)(1) based on the firearm and did not recommend Stamps receive safety-valve relief (18 U.S.C. 3553(f)). The court agreed, stating that “it is not clearly improbable that ... handgun … was connected with the defendant’s relevant drug trafficking conduct,” calculated a 70-87-month guideline range with a 60-month mandatory minimum, and sentenced Stamps to 60 month's imprisonment.
The Seventh Circuit vacated. Rather than evaluating whether Stamps had shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the gun was unrelated to his drug offense, the court found only that Stamps could not prove that it was “clearly improbable” that the gun was connected to his drug offense, imposing a higher burden than required for Stamps to prove safety valve eligibility. The error was not harmless.