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Tryin’ to Keep the Customer Satisfied Doesn’t Make You a Boss – Update for December 28, 2017

We post news and comment on federal criminal justice issues, focused primarily on trial and post-conviction matters, legislative initiatives, and sentencing issues.


customer171228Maurice Collins knew that his cocaine distribution enterprise was a people business. If you don’t keep the customer satisfied, what kind of future do you have? So when a customer needed some powder while Maurice was out of town, he called Bob Palmer, another dealer he knew who owed him a favor, and got him to pick up and deliver an ounce of cocaine to the customer.

Sadly, the customer was an informant. When Maurice, who was otherwise eligible for the safety valve, went for sentencing, the district court found he was a supervisor because he got the other dealer to do his bidding. The 2-level enhancement under USSG 3B1.1(c) for being a manager killed Maurice’s shot at a safety valve sentence.

early171228Christmas came early for Maurice when the 7th Circuit held that calling in a favor was different from being a manager. The appellate court said, “it was a legal error to apply Sec. 3B1.1 to the incident here. There was no organization or hierarchy,  and  there was just this one occasion involving Palmer, apparently as an equal rather than a subordinate, without Collins exercising control or authority over him.”

Because application of the 2-level enhancement disqualified Maurice from safety valve treatment, the district court’s error was not harmless. Maurice was remanded for resentencing.

United States v. Collins, Case No. 15-1998 (7th Cir., Dec. 12, 2017)

– Thomas L. Root