United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ARTICULATION OF THE COURT'S RULING ON
DEFENDANT'S TOTAL OFFENSE LEVEL AND CRIMINAL HISTORY
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge
Court sentenced Defendant James Bryant on December 19, 2018.
In doing so, the Court considered Defendant's United
States Sentencing Guidelines range, which is determined by
his total offense level and his criminal history category
(“CHC”). The parties disagree about
Defendant's criminal history calculation. Defendant
argues that his state court conviction and sentence for
tampering with evidence-cleaning up evidence of the murder of
Edward Brooks in the Miller house basement-is for conduct
relevant to the instant offense and therefore is not a
“prior sentence” which should be included in the
criminal history calculation. The Government argues that
Defendant's state court sentence is not related to
Defendant's federal conviction and therefore should be
included in his criminal history calculation. The Court
agrees with Defendant for the reasons explained below.
23, 2015, James Bryant was indicted in this case for
conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to
distribute cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(c) and 846. See
[Dkt. 8 (Indictment)]. On March 21, 2016, Bryant pled guilty
to that count. See [Dkt. 77 (Minute Entry for Change
of Plea Hr'g); Dkt. 80 (Plea Agreement)].
presentence report (“PSR”) prepared by Probation
in advance of Bryant's sentencing includes two sections
under “The Offense Conduct, ” one addressing
“The Homicide and Explosion” and the second
addressing “The Conspiracy to Distribute Cocaine
Base.” [Dkt. 340 (Final PSR) at 5-10]. The Court finds
that Bryant's conduct described in both sections is
relevant to the crime Bryant is now being sentenced for and
will succinctly describe the salient facts.
4, 2015, there was an explosion on Wintergreen Avenue in
Hamden, Connecticut. Id. at ¶ 7. An
investigation of the explosion uncovered that the explosion
had impacted a body, that of Edward Brooks. Id. at
¶ 11. Prior to the explosion, Brooks had sustained three
gunshot wounds. Id. at ¶ 9. Brooks's
identity led investigators to his known associate,
Christopher Miller, who resided at 59 Front Avenue, West
Haven, Connecticut (the “Miller house”).
Id. at ¶ 12. The police were familiar with the
Miller house, as a confidential informant had made numerous
cocaine base purchases there. Id. at ¶ 13.
Miller house, investigators observed a car similar to the one
described by witnesses at the scene of the explosion and
further, upon execution of a search and seizure warrant,
found bomb making and drug distribution materials.
Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. The investigators also
noted eight surveillance cameras on the property.
Id. at ¶ 14-18. Footage from the surveillance
camera capturing the internal staircase leading from the
first floor to the basement showed Miller, Brooks, and Bryant
walking down the stairs at the time stamped time of 4:11
Id. at ¶ 19. Bryant returned upstairs at 4:12
a.m. along with Brooks, who shortly returned downstairs.
Id. At 4:19 a.m. Brooks returns upstairs with
Maurice Wearing at 4:19 a.m. Id. At this point,
Miller can be seen standing at the bottom of the stairs
rubbing his hands together before walking off camera.
Id. Brooks returns downstairs and walks off camera
at 4:21 a.m. Id. Brooks is not seen on camera again.
Id. Miller is seen walking up the stairs at 4:26
a.m. carrying a firearm and a silencer. Id. The
footage ends at 4:34 a.m. and picks up again at 12:06 p.m.
Id. at ¶ 20.
was charged with and pled guilty in state court to the murder
of Brooks, use of a firearm for a felony, and tampering with
physical evidence related to the above facts. See
Connecticut v. Miller, Dkt. No.:AAN-CR15-0089767-T.
Miller pled guilty in federal court to the charge of
possession of a firearm and explosive device in furtherance
of a drug trafficking crime. See United State v.
Miller, No. 3:15-cr-00132 (VLB). In state court, Wearing
has been charged with conspiracy to commit the murder of
Brooks, hindering prosecution in the second degree, and
tampering with physical evidence related to the above facts.
See Connecticut v. Wearing, No. 07150039. Wearing
pled guilty in federal court to the charge of possession of
an explosive by a convicted felon. See United States v.
Wearing, No. 3:15-cr-00132(VLB). Bryant entered an
Alford plea in state court for tampering with physical
evidence related to the above facts and was sentenced to 30
months in jail on June 5, 2018. See [Dkt. 340 at
July 4, 2015, investigators interviewed witnesses with
information regarding narcotics trafficking activities at the
Miller house. Id. at ¶ 24. Police had a
criminal informant who had been purchasing cocaine base from
the Miller house for more than a year and who recorded a
number of purchases from Miller out of the Miller house.
Id. at ¶ 25. The criminal informant led
investigators to determine that Wearing acted as Miller's
drug supplier. Id. at ¶ 26. Text messages
recovered from Miller's cell phone pursuant to a search
warrant showed that Miller was in frequent contact with
Wearing regarding the drug supply, that Miller's wife,
Natali Martinez, and mother, Deborah Miller, were involved in
the drug business, and that Miller would deploy Bryant and
Brooks to deliver crack cocaine to customers. Id. at
¶ 29. The investigation revealed that Bryant was a
member, together with the others mentioned, of the drug
distribution conspiracy operated out of the Miller house and
led by Christopher Miller from September 2014 to July 2015.
Id. at ¶ 30.
federal court, Bryant was charged with conspiring with Miller
and the others mentioned above to distribute and to possess
with intent to distribute cocaine base in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), to which
he pled guilty on March 21, 2016. Bryant is currently before
the Court to be sentenced on that conviction.
Government's Sentencing Memorandum and Probation's
Addendum to the PSR represent that Bryant's total offense
level for this conviction is 25. See [Dkt. 347 at
3-4; Dkt. 349 (Addendum to PSR) at 1-2]. They also suggest
that his CHC is IV, taking into account the additional points
for Bryant's 30-month state court sentence for tampering
with physical evidence. See [Dkt. 347 at 4; Dkt. 340
at ¶¶ 60-61]. Defendant's Sentencing Memorandum
argues that Bryant's CHC is III, because his sentence for
tampering with physical evidence is for conduct relevant to
the instant drug conspiracy offense and therefore cannot be
included in the criminal history calculation. See
[Dkt. 342 at 6-7].
defendant's CHC is calculated based on, inter
alia, his prior sentences. See United States
Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”) § 4A1.1.
The term “prior sentence” here “means any
sentence previously imposed . . . for conduct not part of the
instant offense.” U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2(a)(1).
“Conduct that is part of the instant offense means
conduct that is relevant conduct to the instant offense under
the provisions of § 1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct).”
U.S.S.G. § 4A1.2 Application Note 1. Under § 1B1.3,
relevant conduct includes “all acts and omissions
committed, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced,
procured, or willfully caused by the defendant”
“that were part of the same course of conduct or common
scheme or plan as the offense of conviction.” U.S.S.G.
§ 1B1.2(a)(1)(A), (a)(2); see also United
States v. Thomas, 54 F.3d 73, 83 (2d Cir. 1995).
“Thus, a sentence imposed for conduct that was part of
the same course of conduct as the offense of conviction is
not a ‘prior sentence' within the meaning of
Section 4A1.1.” United States v. Brennan, 395
F.3d 59, 70 (2d Cir. 2005).
Second Circuit, “[a]cts may be found to be part of the
‘same course of conduct' if the defendant engaged
in a repeated pattern of similar criminal acts, even if they
were not performed pursuant to a single scheme or
plan.” Thomas, 54 F.3d at 84; see also
United States v. Perdomo, 927 F.2d 111, 115 (2d Cir.
1991) (“The ‘same course of conduct' concept
. . . looks to whether the defendant repeats the same type of
criminal activity ...