After selling crack cocaine three times to a government informant, Dennis Webb was convicted of drug offenses under three federal provisions: 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), prohibiting sale of 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, § 841(b)(1)(B), prohibiting sale of 5 grams or more, and § 841(b)(1)(C), prohibiting sale of any other amount. However, the trial court failed to submit to the jury the question of whether these sales met the 5 or 50 gram thresholds, meaning the quantity elements of the (A) and (B) offenses were not found by the jury to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, under federal sentencing guidelines, Webb’s convictions for the (A) and (B) offenses increased his sentence for the (C) offense; thus, Webb claimed that his sentence was increased beyond the statutory maximum based on a fact not submitted to the jury, in contravention of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Apprendi.
Applying a plain error standard (due to Webb’s failure to object at trial), Garland wrote that there was overwhelming and uncontroverted evidence that Webb’s sales had met the quantity thresholds. In view of this, the fourth prong of the plain error standard—a basis for concluding the error seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings—was not met. Thus, the (A) and (B) convictions could stand, and the sentence for (C) was properly enhanced.
However, Garland was troubled by a magistrate’s granting of a search warrant for Webb’s apartment issued 109 days after the final drug transaction between Webb and the informant. While the government’s application stated that drug dealers often keep transaction records in their home, Garland seemed skeptical that there was probable cause to believe such records would still be in the home after such a lengthy period. However, in light of evidence of Webb’s long-term drug dealing, he concluded that a reasonable officer could believe there was probable cause to search, and thus suppression was inappropriate under the good faith exception established in Leon.