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United States v. Perez-Crisostomo

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 10, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
CARLOS MANUEL PEREZ-CRISOSTOMO, a/k/a Nelson Calderon, Defendant, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge]

          MiAngel Cody on brief for appellant.

          Benjamin M. Block, Assistant United States Attorney, and Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Lynch, Circuit Judges.

          LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

         Carlos Manuel Pérez-Crisostomo ("Crisostomo") appeals from his 121-month sentence, arguing that the district court erred in calculating his Guidelines sentencing range ("GSR") because it imposed an unwarranted sentence enhancement for obstruction of justice and denied him credit for acceptance of responsibility. Having carefully reviewed the record -- which shows that Crisostomo maintained a false identity throughout his criminal proceedings -- we disagree and affirm.

         I.

         For many years predating this offense, Crisostomo, a citizen of the Dominican Republic, used the identity of a U.S. citizen, "Nelson Calderon." On March 7, 2016, Crisostomo was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(C), and 846. Crisostomo pleaded guilty without any plea agreement as "Nelson Calderon" on November 21, 2016. He maintained this false identity throughout his criminal proceedings.

         While the U.S. Probation Office ("USPO") was preparing Crisostomo's presentence investigation report ("PSR"), the government came across evidence of his false identity: it found a Puerto Rico driver's license photo of the real Nelson Calderon and a Dominican passport at Crisostomo's apartment under the name "Manuel Carlos." Confronted with this evidence, Crisostomo nevertheless continued to assert that he was, in fact, Nelson Calderon.

         Crisostomo refused to provide the USPO with any information to verify his identity. Instead, he claimed that he was born in Puerto Rico and orphaned at a young age, but could not name the church he was allegedly raised by or the school he had attended. He claimed that he had a brother in New York (and no other family), but was unable to provide his brother's name. He claimed to have a significant drug and alcohol addiction. And he claimed to have a doctor (who treated him for various other ailments) in Maine, but the USPO could not find any evidence that such a doctor actually existed. As a result, the USPO was unable to piece together an accurate social or criminal history.

         The PSR calculated that Crisostomo's offense level was 32 (which included a two-level obstruction enhancement, and no credit for acceptance of responsibility), and that his criminal history category was I, resulting in a GSR of 121-151 months of imprisonment, see U.S.S.G. ch. 5, pt. A, sentencing table. Crisostomo's counsel objected to the obstruction of justice enhancement in the PSR, arguing that Crisostomo "ha[d] no memory of any other identity," and had "suffered a series of head traumas which affect his cognition and memory." However, defense counsel later filed a motion to continue because Crisostomo finally admitted his true identity.

         Sentencing was delayed to September 7, 2017. At the outset of the hearing, Crisostomo still maintained that he was "Nelson Calderon," but added that "[he] heard [he was] known as Carlos."

         Two of his relatives testified at the hearing and flatly contradicted Crisostomo's previous statements. His sister-in-law stated that she had always "called him Carlos," and was "definitely sure" he had never used drugs. She also revealed that he used the name "Nelson Calderon" in order "to be a U.S. citizen" to avoid deportation. His niece stated that he often visited her family in Providence, Rhode Island, and that he was helpful to her family.

         In light of this testimony and other facts provided by the prosecution, the district court adopted the PSR's Guidelines calculation, over the objection of ...


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