Chris Bines (aka Steven Michael Sholly) was sentenced to nearly five years in prison in April 2018 for a $3.5 million marijuana trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. Bines, an actor for Falcon Studios, Men.com, and Randy Blue, was convicted in October 2017 and sentenced with four others last week. Bines was sentenced to 59 months.
Courthouse News reports that Sholly/Bines’ attorney John Anthony Terrazza is now arguing his punishment should be overturned, saying “that his client’s sentence was determined based on inadequate findings of fact.”
Argued Terrazza: “There was no large-scale seizure of drugs in this case. That left the court in a position where it had to estimate the drug quantity.”
U.S. Circuit Judge Beverly Martin replied that “the law permits judges to do that though.”
Replied Terrazza: “Yes, but the judge didn’t make specific findings about whether the evidence used to calculate the drug quantity was reliable. … Reliability is consistency and corroboration of evidence. There was neither in Sholly’s case.”
Courthouse News adds: “Terrezza said that evidence presented by the government concerning when packages of marijuana were shipped from California to Florida was limited to shipment records from FedEx and statements made by Sindylek, which were relayed to the court by a federal agent. Since Sindylek did not testify before the district court, Terrezza argued the judge in the case ‘had no opportunity to observe the witness to determine credibility.'”
From the DOJ‘s write-up of the case:
Between 2014 and 2017, the defendants conspired to distribute more than 100 kilograms of marijuana in the Northern District of Florida. Johnson, William Brett Brownell, Sholly, and others in the Pensacola area ordered the marijuana from Sindylek and Remeyer, who shipped packages of marijuana from California to Florida with the assistance of DelGiacco. Johnson, William Brett Brownell, and Sholly then sold the marijuana in Florida with the assistance of Marcelonis, William Ezra Brownell, and others. The cash proceeds of the marijuana distribution were laundered through bank accounts, and later mailed to addresses in California. More than $3.5 million in cash proceeds from the sale of marijuana was laundered during the time frame of the conspiracy.
This case resulted from an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation, the Pensacola Police Department, the Mobile Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office, the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, the Gulf Breeze Police Department, and the Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. Assistant United States Attorney Alicia H. Forbes prosecuted the case.
This prosecution is part of an extensive investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). OCDETF is a joint federal, state, and local cooperative approach to combat drug trafficking and is the nation’s primary tool for disrupting and dismantling major drug trafficking organizations, targeting national and regional level drug trafficking organizations and coordinating the necessary law enforcement entities and resources to disrupt or dismantle the targeted criminal organization and seize their assets.