FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge]
William S. Maddox on brief for appellant.
Tiffany V. Monrose, Assistant United States Attorney, Rosa
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney,
and Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, on brief for appellee.
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Barron, Circuit Judges.
HOWARD, Chief Judge.
Sánchez-Colberg pleaded guilty to two drug- and
weapons-related charges; in exchange, the government
dismissed others. Sánchez now appeals his sentence,
attacking its procedural and substantive reasonableness.
Although Sánchez's plea agreement does not bar
this appeal, his challenges ultimately fail on their merits.
Rico law enforcement officers encountered Sánchez and
his codefendant while searching abandoned apartments in an
unrelated case. The officers found Sánchez with
cocaine, marijuana, drug ledgers, cash, ammunition, and two
handguns -- one of which was modified to fire
automatically. Sánchez eventually entered guilty
pleas to possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and possessing
firearms in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i). In exchange,
the government agreed to dismiss other charges -- one of
which carried a mandatory 30-year-minimum sentence. See
id. § 924(c)(1)(B)(ii).
plea agreement, the parties stipulated that the appropriate
guidelines sentencing range for the marijuana charge was 0-6
months' incarceration, and agreed to recommend a sentence
"at the higher end." The firearms charge carried a
statutorily required consecutive incarcerative term of at
least 60 months, and the parties identified the guidelines
range as that statutory minimum. See id. §
924(c)(1)(A)(i); U.S.S.G. §2K2.4(b) (2014). On that
count, however, the plea agreement contemplated an
above-guidelines sentence: Sánchez could argue for as
few as 96 months, and the government could "request a .
. . term of imprisonment of up to one hundred and fifty-six
(156) months." The agreement further provided that
Sánchez would waive his right to appeal, so long as
the court sentenced him "according to its terms,
conditions, and recommendations."
sentencing hearing, Sánchez asked the judge to impose
a 6-month sentence on the marijuana charge and a 96-month
sentence on the firearms charge (102 months total). The
government also recommended a 6-month sentence on the
marijuana charge, but requested a 144-month sentence for the
firearms (150 months total). The district court accepted the
parties' recommendation on the marijuana charge, but
found insufficient "the sentence that both the
government and the defense recommended" on the firearms
charge. The court then sentenced Sánchez to the top of
the range specified in the plea agreement for the §
924(c) violation: 156 months (for a total incarcerative
sentence of 162 months). Sánchez did not object at the
sentencing hearing; in this timely appeal, however, he argues
that the sentence was unreasonable.
addressing the merits, we first determine whether this appeal
falls within the waiver of appeal to which Sánchez
agreed. See United States v.
Betancourt-Pérez, 833 F.3d 18, 21 (1st Cir.
2016). It does not.
agreement's appeal-waiver provision "is valid if it
was knowingly and voluntarily executed, and if enforcement
would not result in a miscarriage of justice."
750 F.3d 19, 22 (1st Cir. 2014). "But '[e]ven a
knowing and voluntary appeal waiver only precludes appeals
that fall within its scope.'" Id. at 22-23
(alteration in original) (quoting United Statesv.McCoy, 508 F.3d 74, 77 (1st Cir. 2007)).
When determining such a provision's scope, "we rely
on basic contract interpretation principles, construing the
agreement where possible to give effect to every ...