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United States v. Delgado-Lopez.

No. 19-3113. D.Kan. Judge Lucero. US Sentencing Guidelines—Minor-Role Reduction—Clear Error—Incorrect Legal Standard.

September 14, 2020

Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine or a mixture containing methamphetamine. He objected to the presentence report, arguing that he was entitled to a two-level minor-role reduction under US Sentencing Guidelines § 3B1.2(b). In support, he asserted that his role in the criminal enterprise was limited to driving four shipments of drugs from Los Angeles to Kansas City. Defendant received $1,000 for each trip and was required to pay his own travel expenses. Surmising that defendant received a net profit of $270 for each trip, the district court questioned the financial wisdom of the scheme, found defendant’s testimony not credible, and denied his request for a minor-role reduction. The court found defendant’s Guidelines range to be 135 to 168 months’ imprisonment and varied downward, sentencing him to 120 months’ imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release.

On appeal, defendant argued that the district court erred in denying the minor-role reduction. Section 3B1.2(b) directs courts to decrease an offense level by 2 levels if the defendant was a minor participant in the criminal activity. The provision applies to a defendant “who is less culpable than most other participants in the criminal activity, but whose role could not be described as minimal.” Here, defendant’s testimony about being only a courier was by itself insufficient to establish clear error. However, a finding in a sentencing case must be based on record evidence, but here the court’s finding was based on speculation and hypothesis about the economics of the drug trafficking scheme. Further, the court (1) considered defendant’s lack of cooperation with the government, which was not relevant to whether he had a minor role; and (2) did not address defendant’s guilt relative to the other participants in the scheme, as it was required to do.

The sentence was vacated and the case was remanded for resentencing.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

Related Topics

US Sentencing Guidelines Minor-Role Reduction Clear Error Incorrect Legal Standard

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