United States v. Timmy Fields

RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION Pursuant to Sixth Circuit I.O.P. 32.1(b) File Name: 22a0182p.06 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT ┐ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, │ Plaintiff-Appellee, │ > No. 20-5521 │ v. │ │ TIMMY L. FIELDS, │ Defendant-Appellant. │ ┘ Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky at London. No. 6:19-cr-00029-1—Robert E. Wier, District Judge. Argued: June 23, 2021 Decided and Filed: August 10, 2022 Before: ROGERS, WHITE, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges. _________________ COUNSEL ARGUED: Michael J. Stengel, MICHAEL J. STENGEL, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant. Andrew C. Noll, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Michael J. Stengel, MICHAEL J. STENGEL, PC, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant. Andrew C. Noll, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., Charles P. Wisdom, Jr., Jenna E. Reed, R. Nicholas Rabold, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, Lexington, Kentucky, for Appellee. WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the court in which MURPHY, J., joined, and ROGERS, J., joined in part. MURPHY, J. (pp. 35–46), delivered a separate concurring opinion in which WHITE, J., joined except as to Part II.A. ROGERS, J. (pp. 47–49), delivered a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. No. 20-5521 United States v. Fields Page 2 _________________ OPINION _________________ HELENE N. WHITE, Circuit Judge. Defendant Timmy Fields appeals his twenty-five- year mandatory-minimum sentence enhancement imposed for his having committed two prior “serious drug felon[ies].” Fields challenges the procedure used to impose his enhancement and argues as well that neither prior conviction was for a “serious drug felony.” Most of Field’s challenges lack merit, but we agree that one of the predicate prior convictions was not for a “serious drug felony.” Accordingly, we VACATE Fields’s sentence and REMAND for resentencing. I. BACKGROUND In January 2020, a jury convicted Defendant Timmy Fields of possessing 500 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). The district court imposed a statutory sentence enhancement under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), finding that Fields had convictions for two previous “serious drug felon[ies]” in Kentucky—one for possessing a methamphetamine “precursor” with intent to manufacture, the other for trafficking in methamphetamine. Fields raises several challenges to the procedure used to impose the enhancement and the characterization of his prior offenses as “serious drug felonies.” A. Relevant Statutory and Legal Background Section 841(b)(1)(A) provides for a twenty-five-year-minimum sentence enhancement if a defendant commits certain violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a) “after 2 or more prior convictions for a serious drug felony . . . have become final[.]” Prior to the First Step Act, this enhancement provided for a mandatory life sentence after two prior final convictions for a “felony drug offense,” which included certain drug-related state or federal offenses punishable by more than a year of imprisonment. 21 U.S.C. § 802(44); First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 401(a)(2)(A)(ii), 132 Stat. 5194, 5220. The First Step Act lowered this mandatory minimum to twenty-five years and replaced …

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