A 54-year-old Ogden man convicted of selling a pound of methamphetamine to an undercover police officer will spend his life in federal prison, despite his claim that a Mexican drug cartel planned to kill him if he didn’t pay off a friend’s debt by peddling the drugs.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied an appeal by Kim Davis Beckstrom, who was convicted last year of distribution of the street drug by a U.S. District Court jury.
Beckstrom’s two prior felony drug convictions triggered mandatory sentencing guidelines, and U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell ordered life in prison.
Beckstrom appealed the sentence, arguing it was “unconstitutionally increased,” and that the district court had denied him the opportunity to present a “duress defense.”Beckstrom had wanted to introduce evidence that an acquaintance fell into debt with a drug supplier, and the supplier held Beckstrom responsible and threatened to kill him and his family unless he paid off the debt by selling meth.
The Weber/Morgan Narcotics Task Force arrested Beckstrom after he sold a half-pound of methamphetamine in September 2007 to an undercover officer for $7,000 and agreed to front the officer another half-pound.
Beckstrom wanted to argue that his fear of drug supplier, who is part of a Mexican drug cartel, prevented him from contacting authorities to report he was being forced to sell drugs. Beckstrom said the supplier underscored that fear by introducing him to former victims of his coercion, “characters who had things like bullet wounds in their heads [or] fingers cut off,” according to court documents.
Prosecutors argued that a proffer Beckstrom filed outlining his defense was legally insufficient to prove that the man couldn’t escape harm. Campbell ultimately sided with prosecutors, ruling that the evidence Beckstrom presented outlining the duress was not sufficient and could not be presented to jurors.
The Denver appeals court on Thursday affirmed Campbell’s decision.
“Beckstrom argues that police would have been unable to protect him and his family … . A defendant may pursue a duress defense by showing that the alternative of contacting law enforcement was illusory or futile,” the appeals court opinion states. “But Beckstrom did not proffer any specific reasons to doubt that the law enforcement alternative was viable. He simply alleges, in general terms, that police would have been ineffective or unwilling to protect him. Such generalized statements fall well short of satisfying a defendant’s burden.”
Beckstrom is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary — Victorville in Adelanto, Calif., according to records from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.