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United States of America v. Prince Isaac A/K/A Connect A/K/A Connetti A/K/A Boo

August 23, 2011

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
PRINCE ISAAC A/K/A CONNECT A/K/A CONNETTI A/K/A BOO PRINCE ISAAC, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2-05-cr-00576-001) District Judge: Honorable Juan R. Sanchez

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sloviter, Circuit Judge.

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued April 28, 2011

Before: SLOVITER, GREENAWAY, JR. and ROTH, Circuit Judges

OPINION OF THE COURT

Among the various issues appellant Prince Isaac raises in his challenge to his conviction and sentence is one that requires us to consider once again the parameters of a criminal defendant‟s right to represent himself. Prince Isaac was convicted by a jury of fifteen counts arising out of his role as the organizer of a drug trafficking ring in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Isaac contends that he was denied the right to represent himself when he did not attend two sidebar conferences concerning jury instructions and that the District Court erroneously instructed the jury as to the continuing criminal enterprise ("CCE") count, which carried a life sentence. Isaac also contends that the District Court made several sentencing errors. We address each argument in turn.*fn1

I.

On April 5, 2009, a grand jury issued a Second

Superseding Indictment charging Isaac with 25 counts. At trial, the Government introduced evidence that Isaac and his half-brother Shamek Hynson founded, organized, and controlled a drug trafficking organization in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Isaac and Hynson employed several others to help package and sell crack cocaine and heroin. As part of this organization, Isaac used straw purchasers to obtain guns, which he later sold. Guns were also used to protect the operation. The Government offered testimony of several coconspirators linking Isaac to several specific cocaine and heroin transactions. Based on this evidence, Isaac was ultimately convicted of fifteen of the charged counts.*fn2

Each count and the corresponding sentence are as follows: life imprisonment for engaging in a CCE in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 848 (count 2), 360 months on each of four counts of distribution of heroin and/or crack in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C) (counts 3, 6, 9 and 11), 120 months on each of four counts of distribution of crack in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B) (counts 5, 7, 8, and 10), 480 months for employment of a minor to distribute drugs in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 861 (count 12),

480 months for distribution of crack within 1000 feet of a public park in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 860(a) (count 14), 240 months on each of two counts of tampering with a witness in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1) & (2) (counts 23 and 24), and a 10 year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence for possession of a firearm in furtherance of drug distribution in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c) (count 17). All sentences were to run concurrently with the CCE life imprisonment count with the exception of count 17, possession of a firearm, which by statute must run consecutively to the life imprisonment.*fn3 See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(D)(ii).

In reviewing the panoply of challenges raised by the defendant, many of which coalesce into the claim that a life sentence is a draconian penalty to impose on a young man who embarked on his criminal activity when he was 15 years old, it is necessary to keep in mind that Isaac formed and led a violent organization that spewed guns, heroin and crack onto the streets of Lancaster for years, shooting and intimidating the population as members of the organization proceeded through one criminal activity after another. We are not unaware that the sentence imposed was significant, particularly in light of Isaac‟s youth--Isaac was just twenty to twenty-one years old at the time of the offense conduct and twenty-four years old at sentencing.*fn4 Thus, as we customarily do, we treat each of Isaac‟s arguments on appeal with great attention.

II.

A. Sixth Amendment Right to ...


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