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United States v. Vazquez-Vazquez

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
CHRISTIAN VAZQUEZ-VAZQUEZ, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICOH on. José Antonio Fusté, U.S. District Judge

          German A. Rieckehoff on brief for appellant.

          Nelson Pérez-Sosa, 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.

          Before Torruella, Selya, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         In this appeal, Christian Vázquez-Vázquez (Vázquez) challenges his sentence of thirty-six months' imprisonment following the revocation of his term of supervised release. We affirm.

         I.

         On November 18, 2011, Vázquez pled guilty to the offense of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846, and 860, in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. On May 24, 2012, he was sentenced to twenty-four months' imprisonment and eight years' supervised release, which began on February 18, 2014. On June 24, 2015, however, Vázquez's probation officer filed a motion notifying the District Court of alleged violations of the conditions of Vázquez's supervised release. After a hearing, the District Court determined that Vázquez had violated the conditions, revoked supervised release, and sentenced Vázquez to thirty-six months' imprisonment.

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3), a court may revoke a term of supervised release and require the defendant to serve a term of imprisonment upon finding, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant violated a condition of supervised release. Under that subsection, the term of imprisonment may not be longer than the term of the supervised release that had been imposed. Id. In addition, that subsection provides that the term of imprisonment may not be longer than three years if the conviction for which the supervised release was imposed was a Class B felony -- which Vázquez's conviction was. Id.

         Section 3583(e) directs the sentencing court to consider a subset of the factors listed in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) before setting a term of imprisonment after revocation of supervised release. These factors include "the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant, " § 3553(a)(1); the need for "adequate deterrence, " § 3553(a)(2)(B); and the need to "protect the public, " § 3553(a)(2)(C).

         The United States Sentencing Guidelines prescribe an advisory range for the term of imprisonment to be imposed upon revocation of supervised release. The guidelines base that range on the defendant's criminal history category and the nature of the violations of the conditions of supervised release. U.S.S.G. § 7B1.4. Under the guidelines, violations of conditions of supervised release are assigned a grade of "A, " "B, " or "C." Id. § 7B1.1(a). The guidelines provide that where "there is more than one violation of the conditions of supervision . . . the grade of the violation is determined by the violation having the most serious grade." Id. § 7B1.1(b).

         Vázquez's violation with the most serious grade is the violation for possession of a firearm as a felon, which is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and is punishable by a term exceeding one year. Id. § 924(a)(2) (providing for sentence of "not more than 10 years"). Under the guidelines, that violation of a condition of supervised release is a Grade B violation, because it is a "federal . . . offense punishable by a term of imprisonment exceeding one year." U.S.S.G. § 7B1.1(a)(2).

         The guidelines establish a sentencing range of six to twelve months' imprisonment upon revocation of supervised release if the defendant has a criminal history category of II, as Vázquez did, and has committed a Grade B violation, which Vázquez had. U.S.S.G. § 7B1.4(a). Both Vázquez and the government advocated for a sentence within that guidelines range. The District Court, however, imposed a sentence of thirty-six months. That sentence was three times greater than the upper end of the guidelines ...


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