Pubdate: Mon, 09 Apr 2001
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)
Copyright: 2001 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Author: Kevin Murphy


Judge Erroneously Added 10 Years To Term, Appeals Court Rules

Madison - A federal judge in Madison erroneously added at least 10 
years to a Rock County cocaine dealer's prison sentence by 
incorrectly determining the amount of drugs sold, according to a 
federal appeals court ruling released Monday.

James Noble sold cocaine in strip clubs in southern Wisconsin, 
Illinois and Iowa, and enlisted six others to help his sales efforts 
in 1996 and 1997, according to court records. During a 1997 search of 
Noble's apartment, police recovered $2,400 in drug proceeds, cocaine, 
marijuana and a handgun, the decision stated. Noble, 31, was 
convicted by federal jurors of possessing controlled substances with 
the intent to distribute.

At his July 1999 sentencing, Noble disputed the amounts of drugs that 
co-defendants attributed to him, but U.S. District Judge Barbara 
Crabb determined that Noble possessed or sold 11 pounds of cocaine 
and 68.2 pounds of marijuana.

She imposed a 30-year prison sentence, 10 years above the maximum, 
basing her decision, in part, on the amount of drugs involved.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries, not judges, must 
determine facts that expose defendants to penalties above the maximum 
amounts. The fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court decision has 
prompted federal prosecutors to specify the alleged quantities of 
drugs involved in crimes, said Robert Griffith of Ungaretti & Harris, 
a Chicago law firm that handled Noble's appeal.

"It certainly has changed how federal prosecutors handle their 
indictments and everything else down the line," said Griffith, who 
added that many of the drug cases on appeal in federal courts were 
spurred by the Supreme Court decision.

Crabb's determination of the amount of drugs Noble was convicted of 
selling violated his constitutional rights, Griffith said.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court decision was not law when Noble was 
sentenced, it was law by the time Noble appealed his sentence, the 
7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled. The appeals court 
ordered Crabb to resentence Noble.

When the case is returned to Crabb, Griffith said, the appeals 
decision should end up reducing Noble's sentence by at least 10 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim O'Shea, who prosecuted the case, could 
not be reached for comment Monday.
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