Take 5

Court Vacates Convictions and Sentence in Case of Drug Dealer Represented by Heroin-Addicted Lawyer

In a recent appellate court decision, the second of two § 924(c) convictions and the sentence of a drug dealer, Evans, were vacated. The court also vacated the district court’s decision on Evans’s motion for a new trial. The case has drawn attention due to the fact that Evans’s appointed counsel, Steven Sarm, was reportedly addicted to and using heroin before, during, and after the trial (Pages 2-3).

The case began in the summer of 2016 when Evans twice sold heroin to a confidential source in Gilman, Illinois. He was later pulled over by police who found two guns, extra ammunition, and distribution quantities of methamphetamine in his car (Pages 2-3, 16-17). Evans was subsequently convicted on all counts and sentenced to 65 years and 8 months, with 50 of those years resulting from the two § 924(c) convictions (Page 4-5).

The appellate court’s decision to vacate the convictions and sentence was influenced by several factors. The court noted that the record was incomplete and that an evidentiary hearing was necessary to be certain of Sarm’s condition and preparedness before and during the trial (Pages 18-19). The court also found that Evans had only violated § 924(c) once, as the possession of a firearm was a continuing choice across both predicate offenses (Page 13).

The court acknowledged that the district court did not abuse its discretion in its decision, as it relied on its own observations of Sarm’s actions and representation of Evans during several court appearances and a three-day trial. However, the appellate court emphasized that the seriousness of what transpired warranted a more thorough investigation (Pages 32-33).

The case will now be remanded for an evidentiary hearing, a decision that the court believes will help resolve the issue and maintain public confidence in the administration of criminal justice (Pages 18-19).

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