Please E-mail suggested additions, comments and/or corrections to Kent@MoreLaw.Com.

Help support the publication of case reports on MoreLaw

Date: 03-01-2024

Case Style:

United States of America v. Ledra A. Craig, also known as Volley

Case Number: 23-2211

Judge: Bobby Shepherd

Court: United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit (St. Louis County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: The United States Attorney’s Office in St. Louis

Defendant's Attorney:

Click Here For The Best St. Louis, Missouri Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory


St. Louis, Missouri criminal defense lawyer represented the Defendant charged with being a one count of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, one count of distribution of fentanyl,.

Ledra Craig was convicted by a jury of (1) one count of conspiracy to
distribute fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(C), (2) one count
of distribution of fentanyl, in violation of § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), (3) two counts
of distribution of fentanyl resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of
§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C), and (4) one count of distribution of fentanyl resulting in
death, in violation of § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). The district court1 sentenced him to
420 months’ imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release. He now appeals.
Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
On August 2, 2020, Craig approached two men, R.P. and N.B., at a casino in
St. Charles, Missouri and offered to sell R.P. cocaine. Afterward, Craig entered the
restroom with another man, L.T., and the two remained there for about five minutes.
Shortly after, casino employees found L.T. alone and unconscious on the floor, and
they rendered emergency aid. L.T. eventually recovered, and a toxicology report
later revealed fentanyl in his bloodstream. Meanwhile, Craig met with R.P. in the
casino’s parking garage at the vehicle of another man named Brian Walker. From
Walker’s car, Craig sold R.P. fentanyl, which R.P. believed was cocaine. R.P. was
then joined by N.B., and the two left the casino. R.P. and N.B. were found
unconscious a few hours later in N.B’s car, which had rolled to a stop in front of a
residence. N.B. was revived, but R.P. ultimately died. Officers were able to locate
Walker after identifying his vehicle through the casino’s surveillance footage, and
Walker helped arrange a controlled buy from Craig to an undercover officer.
Following the controlled buy, Craig was arrested. At the police station, he made a
statement to officers after waiving his Miranda2 rights, but the statement was not
recorded. He later consented to a search of his home, which revealed more fentanyl.
He was taken back to the police station and made another statement, which officers
Craig was indicted on several fentanyl-related charges—conspiracy to
distribute, distribution resulting in serious bodily injury, and distribution resulting in
death. Before trial, Craig moved to suppress his statement to officers, alleging police
The Honorable Henry E. Autrey, United States District Judge for the Eastern
District of Missouri.
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966).
misconduct rendered both his Miranda waiver and consent to search his home
invalid. After an evidentiary hearing, the magistrate judge3 issued a report and
recommendation that Craig’s motion to suppress be denied, finding that Craig had
voluntarily waived his Miranda rights. The district court adopted the report and
recommendation in full and denied Craig’s motion. The Government subsequently
filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit Craig from alleging that police engaged
in misconduct in obtaining Craig’s post-arrest statements. The district court granted
the Government’s motion.
At trial, and over Craig’s objection, the district court admitted several text
messages sent on July 10 and 11, 2020 between Craig and an unidentified
coconspirator nicknamed “Glenn.” The exchange indicated that Craig sought to buy
drugs from “Glenn,” and the two discussed quantity and price. The district court
also admitted evidence of Craig’s prior drug conviction. At the end of the
Government’s case, Craig moved for a judgment of acquittal, which the district court
denied. Craig was ultimately convicted and sentenced shortly thereafter.4

The Honorable Patricia L. Cohen, United States Magistrate Judge for the
Eastern District of Missouri.
We note that while Craig filed a motion for a new trial, we found no order
from the district court ruling on the motion. Nonetheless, because the district court
sentenced Craig and therefore issued a final judgment inconsistent with a grant of a
new trial, we consider this an implicit denial of the motion and proceed to the merits
of Craig’s argument on appeal. See United States v. Claxton, 766 F.3d 280, 291 (3d
Cir. 2014) (considering an appeal’s merits despite the district court’s failure to
conditionally rule on defendant’s new trial motion because the entry of judgment
and commitment order constituted an implicit denial of the motion); United States
v. Jasso, 634 F.3d 305, 307 n.2 (5th Cir. 2011) (finding a district court’s entry of a
final judgment as an implicit denial of a motion for reconsideration); Norman v.
Apache Corp., 19 F.3d 1017, 1021 (5th Cir. 1994) (“The denial of a motion by the
district court, although not formally expressed, may be implied by the entry of a final
judgment or of an order inconsistent with the granting of the relief sought by the
In this appeal, Craig alleges that the text messages between him and “Glenn”
were erroneously admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E); second, he
alleges that the district court improperly denied him the right to present a complete
defense by contextualizing his inculpatory statement to police; and finally, he alleges
that evidence of his prior conviction was erroneously admitted under Federal Rule
of Evidence 404(b).5
We turn first to the admission of the text messages between Craig and
“Glenn.” Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) provides that an out-of-court
statement made by a coconspirator “is admissible if the trial court determines by a
preponderance of the evidence that ‘the statement was made during the course and
in furtherance of a conspiracy to which the declarant and the defendant were
parties.’” United States v. Engler, 521 F.3d 965, 972 (8th Cir. 2008) (citation
omitted). We outlined in United States v. Bell, 573 F.2d 1040, 1044 (8th Cir. 1978),
the procedure a district court should implement when a defendant objects to the
admission of a coconspirator statement under Rule 801(d)(2)(E). A district court
“may conditionally admit the hearsay statements of alleged co-conspirators, subject
to a final ruling on the record that the statements are admissible pursuant to the
co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule.” United States v. McCracken, 110 F.3d
535, 542 (8th Cir. 1997) (referencing Bell). In McCracken, though, we explained
The procedures outlined in Bell are flexible and do not require reversal
for failure to follow those procedures absent a showing of prejudice. If
the record indicates that a defendant failed to specifically request a Bell
ruling, but made a motion for acquittal, we will consider the district
While Craig attempts to characterize these three evidentiary rulings as a
violation of his due process rights, he makes no effort to articulate his rationale and
so we do not consider the argument. United States v. Ruzicka, 988 F.3d 997, 1006
(8th Cir. 2021) (“We do not consider claims that a party fails ‘meaningfully [to]
develop or argue’ on appeal.” (alteration in original) (citation omitted)).
judge’s denial of the acquittal motion as substantial compliance with
the Bell holdings, and employ a plain-error standard of review.
Id. (citation omitted). Craig’s trial played out similarly. Craig objected to the
admission of the text messages with “Glenn,” but he did not specifically invoke Bell.
Because he later moved for acquittal, which the district court denied, the district
court substantially complied with Bell, and we review the admission of the text
messages for plain error.
Under plain error review, Craig bears the burden of showing that the
admission of the text messages was not only a plain error but also that it affected his
substantial rights. See United States v. Oaks, 606 F.3d 530, 537 (8th Cir. 2010).
Craig cannot meet his burden, though, where “overwhelming evidence of the
existence of a conspiracy exists and the relevant statements were made in furtherance
of that conspiracy.” Engler, 521 F.3d at 973. “We interpret the phrase ‘in
furtherance of’ broadly.” United States v. Jordan, 260 F.3d 930, 933 (8th Cir. 2001)
(explaining that statements identifying a coconspirator’s source for drugs have been
held to be in furtherance of the conspiracy); United States v. Mayfield, 909 F.3d 956,
961 (8th Cir. 2018) (“[S]tatements that discuss[ed] the supply source for the illegal
drugs . . . are considered statements made in furtherance of the conspiracy.” (second
alteration in original) (citation omitted)). Moreover, while the district court may
consider the content of the text messages, the Government must also provide
independent evidence—even circumstantial—of the conspiracy’s existence. United
States v. Ramirez-Martinez, 6 F.4th 859, 867 (8th Cir. 2021); Engler, 521 F.3d at
973 (explaining that “the very content of the text messages establishes by a
preponderance of the evidence that the sender was a coconspirator” where the sender
instructed the defendant to “‘clean’ and ‘flush’ because the ‘cops [are] outside’”
(alteration in original)).
Craig asserts that there was insufficient evidence that he and “Glenn” were
coconspirators and that the text messages did not further any conspiracy in this case
because they were sent on July 10 and 11, three weeks before the casino drug sales
took place. We disagree.
In Craig’s statement to police, he admitted that he sourced his fentanyl from
“Glenn” and that he was the middleman for multiple deals with “Glenn” in the month
before the drug deals at issue in this case. Further, the content of the text messages
between Craig and “Glenn” corroborates this relationship, as they identify “Glenn”
as Craig’s drug source and establish that Craig was attempting to buy drugs from
him. Craig sent “Glenn” a text message that he “need[ed] some ice.” “Glenn”
replied, “I’m trying to get some right now how much I [sic] want.” Craig responded
that he wanted “[a] solid gram” and later sent a text message stating, “Bring me some
of that shit glenn,” reiterating that he wanted a gram. Craig’s argument about the
temporal proximity between the text messages and the casino drug sales is equally
unavailing. The conspiracy, as charged in the indictment, existed from July 2, 2020
to August 2, 2020, putting the dates of the text messages squarely within the
timeframe of the conspiracy. Overall, given that the text messages and Craig’s own
statement to police established “Glenn” as Craig’s drug source, and given that Craig
admitted his role as middleman between “Glenn” and his buyers, there was sufficient
evidence to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, the conspiracy’s existence
and that the statements in the text messages were made in furtherance of the
Craig briefly suggests—without fully developing an argument—that the
admission of these text messages “denied his right to Confrontation.” To the extent
that he is alleging that his rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated
because he could not cross-examine “Glenn,” the argument is without merit. We
have previously explained that coconspirator statements are nontestimonial, and “the
Confrontation Clause does not give the defendant the right to cross-examine a person
who does not testify at trial and whose statements are introduced under the
co-conspirator hearsay exclusion.” United States v. Reyes, 362 F.3d 536, 540-41
(8th Cir. 2004). We therefore see no error in the district court’s admission of text
messages between Craig and “Glenn.”
Craig next alleges that the district court abused its discretion by preventing
him from eliciting testimony of police misconduct when Drug Enforcement
Administration Officer Daniel Plumb and another local police detective obtained
Craig’s inculpatory statement. Specifically, he sought to question Officer Plumb
about whether it would violate DEA policy to record statements on his phone, but
the district court sustained the Government’s objection to the question. Craig argues
that we should review this evidentiary ruling for an abuse of discretion, but he also
maintains that the ruling prevented him from presenting a complete defense, thus
violating his due process rights. “We review evidentiary rulings for an abuse of
discretion, but our review is de novo when the challenge implicates a constitutional
right.” United States v. West, 829 F.3d 1013, 1017 (8th Cir. 2016). However,
“[e]ven where an evidentiary ruling . . . violates a constitutional proscription, . . . we
will not reverse unless the error is more than harmless in that it affected a substantial
right or had more than a slight influence on the verdict.” Id.
As a threshold matter, “[t]he Constitution guarantees criminal defendants ‘a
meaningful opportunity to present a complete defense.’” Crane v. Kentucky, 476
U.S. 683, 690 (1986) (citation omitted). While this “includes the right to present
certain evidence concerning a confession, . . . ‘[o]nce the court makes a preliminary
determination that the confession is voluntary, then the only requirement is that the
defendant be allowed to place the statements in context.’” United States v. Martin,
369 F.3d 1046, 1058 (8th Cir. 2004) (second alteration in original) (citation omitted).
Because the district court found that Craig’s statement was voluntarily made when
it denied his motion to suppress, he was only entitled to contextualize his statement
to police.
Craig asserts that the district court prohibited him from contextualizing his
statements to police, thus denying him the right to present a complete defense. We
disagree. At trial, Craig’s attorney asked the district court for guidance as to what
types of questions constituted inferences of police misconduct versus questions that
merely proved the circumstances surrounding Craig’s statements. The district court
refused to provide any guidance, instead explaining that the prosecutor was free to
object to any questioning he believed violated the ruling on the motion in limine. If
an objection was lodged, the district court explained, it would hear arguments on any
nonobvious or unclear objection and then issue a ruling. The district court finally
explained, “[H]owever you want to ask your questions when this stuff comes up is
how you ask them and then we’ll deal with it at the time.” The record reveals a
lengthy cross-examination of Officer Plumb, in which Craig’s attorney was able to
elicit a significant amount of information concerning the circumstances of Craig’s
statement. While counsel was prohibited from asking Officer Plumb whether it
would violate DEA policy to record statements on his phone, counsel was able to
confirm (1) that Officer Plumb had his DEA phone with him, (2) the phone had the
capacity to record, (3) the DEA allows him to record statements on the phone, (4) he
did not record any of the first three conversations with Craig, and (5) he only
recorded the fourth interview. We see no meaningful distinction between the
question counsel sought to ask and the line of questions she was permitted to ask.
Accordingly, we see no error warranting a new trial on this ground.
Craig finally asserts that evidence of his 2015 conviction for distribution of a
controlled substance was erroneously admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence
404(b). Specifically, he asserts that the conviction was irrelevant to the current case,
highly prejudicial, and improper propensity evidence. “We review the district
court’s admission of evidence under Rule 404(b) for abuse of discretion.” United
States v. Jackson, 856 F.3d 1187, 1190 (8th Cir. 2017).
Under Rule 404(b), Craig’s conviction is admissible if it is “(1) relevant to a
material issue raised at trial, (2) similar in kind and close in time to the crime
charged, (3) supported by sufficient evidence to support a jury finding the defendant
committed the other act, and (4) of probative value not substantially outweighed by
its prejudicial effect.” United States v. Brown, 88 F.4th 750, 757 (8th Cir. 2023)
(citation omitted). Reversal is warranted “only when the evidence clearly had no
bearing on the case and was introduced solely to prove the defendant’s propensity
to commit criminal acts.” Id. at 758 (citation omitted). “It is settled in this circuit
that a prior conviction for distributing drugs . . . [is] relevant under Rule 404(b) to
show knowledge and intent to commit a current charge of conspiracy to distribute
drugs.” United States v. Davis, 867 F.3d 1021, 1029 (8th Cir. 2017) (citation
Craig explains that he never asserted that he was mistaken about the drugs or
that he had not sold drugs before, ostensibly arguing that his knowledge was not at
issue during the trial. Even if this is true, the prior conviction was also relevant to
his intent to engage in the charged conspiracy to distribute. Id.; see also Brown, 88
F.4th at 758 (explaining that even if “the government’s proposed uses of
[defendant’s] prior convictions to prove knowledge, motive, and intent ‘were not
well-explained, and might prudently have been omitted,’ . . . they were relevant to
his ‘state of mind,’ and to the elements of the charge” (citations omitted)).
Additionally, any potential prejudice was lessened by the district court’s provision
of a jury instruction limiting the jury’s consideration of Craig’s prior conviction to
his knowledge, intent, or absence of mistake. See id. We therefore find no abuse of



For these reasons, we affirm

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


Find a Lawyer


Find a Case