Criminal Justice News

Monday, May 24, 2010

Court Upholds Columbia County Drug Dealer’s Conviction and 24-Year Prison Sentence

May 24, 2010 - Dennis C. Pfannenschmidt, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced today that the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has affirmed the conviction and prison sentence of Steven Fausnaught, age 35, of Catawissa. Fausnaught was previously convicted of 12 counts of drug trafficking and related crimes and sentenced by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edwin M. Kosik to serve more than 24 years in prison.

Fausnaught, and his co-defendant, Charles Sechler, were convicted by a jury on July 30, 2007, after six days of testimony. The jury found that Fausnaught and Sechler participated in a lengthy conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana in the Columbia-Lycoming Counties area of Pennsylvania during 1995 through 2003.

The charges against Fausnaught resulted from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the Columbia County Drug Task Force. Fausnaught was sentenced by Judge Kosik on December 29, 2008. Sechler is awaiting sentencing. In appealing his conviction, Fausnaught claimed that the government’s evidence at trial proved multiple conspiracies instead of the single conspiracy charged in the indictment. In appealing his sentence, Fausnaught claimed that Judge Kosik erred in attributing at least 15 kilograms of methamphetamine to his sentencing guideline calculation and in ruling that a guideline enhancement applied for Fausnaught’s possession of a firearm in connection with the drug conspiracy.

The Third Circuit Court, in upholding Fausnaught’s conviction, ruled that the jury did not err in finding that a single drug conspiracy existed. The Court noted that the evidence at trial showed that the conspirators shared a common goal; that the agreement among the conspirators “sought to accomplish a continuous result that would not persist without the continuous cooperation of the conspirators;” and that the involvement of the conspirators overlapped in the various dealings.

In affirming Fausnaught’s 292-month prison sentence, the Court held that Judge Kosik correctly attributed 15 kilograms of methamphetamine to Fausnaught and correctly applied the gun enhancement because “it was not clearly improbable that the guns found in Fausnaught’s residence were connected to the drug conspiracy.”

Pfannenschmidt noted that the case and appeal were handled by Assistant United States Attorney Francis P. Sempa.

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