Drug Dealer’s Kidnapper Didn’t Look for a Ransom

     CHICAGO (CN) – A man who wanted drugs and money from the dealer he kidnapped should not serve life in prison because he did not demand a ransom, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Tyrone Reynolds and seven other men had driven from Chicago, Ill., to Gary, Ind., in October 2006 to rob Glenford Russell, a marijuana dealer. The group ambushed Russell at his home, beat him and took $15,000 in cash that had been hidden there for his supplier.
     Believing that Russell had more money and drugs, the group tied Russell up using duct tape and an electrical cord and demanded that he tell them where he had stashed drugs or “the rest of the money.”
     Planning his escape, Russell offered to take the assailants to a Chicago-area car repair garage that he claimed held 50 pounds of marijuana. There was no marijuana in the garage, but Russell convinced the assailants to untie him and let him drive his own car to avoid making the garage employees suspicious.
     While held at gunpoint, Russell escaped by diving out of the car, which crashed into another parked vehicle. He had been kidnapped for 12 hours.
     Russell then reported the crime and his eight captors were arrested.
     At trial, Russell and two of the assailants identified Reynolds as the leader of the group. Reynolds was convicted by a jury of kidnapping, using a firearm in a drug-related crime, and possessing marijuana with intent to distribute. He was sentenced to life imprisonment after the court applied two guidelines enhancements.
     The first enhancement considered Reynold’s role as a “leader or organizer” of the crime. Because he demanded that Russell turn over marijuana and cash in exchange for his release, Reynolds also received a “ransom demand” enhancement.
     The 7th Circuit vacated Reynold’s sentence Wednesday, concluding that the second enhancement did not apply.
     Because Reynolds had only demanded money from Russell, rather than a third party, he had not demanded a ransom within the meaning of the statute, the court found.
     “Kidnapping someone in order to compel others to act, as a substitute for confronting or attempting to rob those others in person, can be a very effective way to accomplish crime merits heightened deterrence,” Judge Ann Claire Williams wrote for a three-member panel.
     “But when a kidnapping is conducted without the knowledge of anyone except for the victim, the scope of the crime and risk of harm to others, while undoubtedly extensive, is nonetheless not as great.”
     The ransom enhancement, codified at Section 2A4.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, is furthermore “the only guidelines provision that applies the Hostage Taking Act … which can only be violated if a person kidnaps another in order to influence a third party,” according to the ruling
     “Given these similarities in language and parallel structure, §2A4.1(b)(1) appears to paraphrase the language of the HTA, and we therefore believe it is meant to apply only when a kidnapper issues demands in order to compel a third party to act,” Williams added.
     The record meanwhile demonstrates that Russell’s kidnappers did not intend for the demands to reach a third party, as evidenced by their attempts to avoid detection by the car repair shop employees, according to the ruling.
     Reynolds does merit an enhancement as the ringleader, however, since “the evidence was simply overwhelming that Reynolds oversaw the scheme and had greater relative responsibility than the other participants,” Williams wrote.
     Reynolds had, as his co-conspirators testified, discovered the location of Russell’s home, arranged the timing of the crime, planned drive to the Chicago car repair garage, and taken a larger portion of the $15,000.

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