Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Cortez-Vergara

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

October 17, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
FREDDY CORTEZ-VERGARA, Defendant, Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S. District Judge

          Xiomara M. Hernandez on brief for appellant.

          Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Thomas F. Klumper, Assistant United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          HOWARD, Chief Judge.

         After pleading guilty to maritime drug and conspiracy offenses, Freddy Cortez-Vergara was sentenced to a bottom-of-the-range guidelines sentence of 108 months' incarceration. He now challenges his sentence on the ground that the sentencing court erred by not granting him a minor role adjustment under U.S.S.G. §3B1.2(b). Finding Cortez's argument meritless, we affirm.

         I.

         Because Cortez pled guilty, we draw the facts from the change-of-plea and sentencing hearing transcripts and the Presentence Investigation Report's ("PSR") uncontested portions. See United States v. Rossignol, 780 F.3d 475, 476 (1st Cir. 2016).

         Prior to his arrest, Cortez worked as a fisherman in Ecuador. Cortez met with a man named "Abraham, " another local fisherman, who offered Cortez $2, 000 to join the crew of one of Abraham's vessels on a trip to Guatemala. Cortez and two other crew members set out from Ecuador in January 2015 on Abraham's thirty-foot boat. One of the two men served as the boat's captain, the other was the boat's mariner, and Cortez helped steer the boat.

         The crew voyaged approximately 200 nautical miles to rendezvous at sea with Abraham, who was aboard another vessel. Abraham supplied the crew with cocaine bales and fuel containers. The three-person crew then continued for approximately 400 miles before the Coast Guard intercepted the boat about 291 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border. Shortly before the Coast Guard boarded the vessel, Cortez and his confederates realized that they were being tracked and started throwing the cocaine bales and excess fuel tanks overboard. When it apprehended the crew, the Coast Guard determined that the vessel was without nationality and thus subject to United States jurisdiction. 46 U.S.C. § 70502(c)(1)(A). About 433 kilograms of cocaine were recovered from the scene.

         Cortez and the two other men were brought to Puerto Rico, where, in February 2015, a grand jury indicted them on two counts. The first count alleged that the three men conspired to possess with the intent to distribute a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 46 U.S.C. §§ 705031(a)(1), 70504(b)(1) and 70506(a) and (b). The second count alleged that the men possessed, and aided and abetted the possession, with the intent to distribute a controlled substance on board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 46 U.S.C. §§ 705031(a)(1), 70504(b)(1) and 70506(a) and (b). Cortez entered an unconditional guilty plea in October 2016.

         At sentencing, Cortez contested the PSR's recommendation that he be denied a two-level downward minor role adjustment under U.S.S.G. §3B1.2(b). Cortez claimed that he played a minor role because he "was only a small part of" an "overall very large conspiracy." Agreeing with the PSR's recommendation, the district court denied Cortez's request on the ground that Cortez was responsible for transporting 433 kilograms of cocaine across the ocean. The court sentenced Cortez to a bottom-of-the-range guidelines sentence of 108 months. After being sentenced, Cortez seasonably filed this appeal.

         II.

         We apply an abuse of discretion standard of review to procedural challenges to sentences. United Statesv.Coleman, 854 F.3d 81, 84-85 (1st Cir. 2017). Within this framework, we review the district court's conclusions of law de novo and its findings of fact for clear error. Rossignol, 780 F.3d at 477. And because "[r]ole in-the-offense determinations are notoriously fact-specific, " "absent a mistake of law, " we will only reverse the district court's decision if it is clearly erroneous. United Statesv.Perez, 819 F.3d 541, 545-46 (1st Cir. 2016)(internal citations omitted). Because a district court's choice between multiple permissible inferences cannot be clearly erroneous, we will "rarely reverse[] a district court's decision regarding whether to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.