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Date: 11-22-2021

Case Style:

United States of America v. Juan Santiago

Case Number: 18-1802

Judge: Michael Boudin

Court: Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, David C. Bornstein, Assistant United States Attorney, and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney

Plaintiff's Attorney: Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney,
David C. Bornstein, Assistant United States Attorney, and Rosa
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

Boston, MA - Best Criminal Defense Lawyer Directory


Boston, MA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with a being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition charge.

In June 2017, Juan Santiago
("Santiago") pled guilty in Puerto Rico district court to being a
felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. See
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). In August 2018, the district court
sentenced Santiago to thirty-seven months in prison and ordered
that the sentence run consecutively to a seven-year sentence
Santiago had previously received for an unrelated state drug
offense. Santiago now contests the district court's decision to
impose a consecutive, as opposed to concurrent, sentence.
The facts of Santiago's federal offense are not
challenged on appeal, but, for context, the parties have stipulated
as follows: On April 3, 2017, Santiago encountered police officers
in the common area of a housing project in Puerto Rico and
immediately fled on foot. The officers followed and saw Santiago
throw a firearm to the ground, at which point they detained him.
After waiving his rights, Santiago claimed ownership of the firearm
and ammunition and admitted he had no permit for the weapon.
Santiago had previously sustained a state felony conviction for
conspiring to distribute controlled substances in March 2016.
Santiago had failed to appear at sentencing in the state proceeding
in January 2017 and was sentenced in absentia. When Santiago
committed the instant federal offense in April 2017, he had not
yet begun serving his state sentence.
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On appeal, Santiago asserts that the district court
violated United States v. Booker by treating Sentencing Guideline
5G1.3(a), which recommends a consecutive sentence in a case like
Santiago's, as mandatory. See 543 U.S. 220 (2005). Santiago
claims the district court would have imposed a concurrent sentence
had it not felt bound by Guideline 5G1.3(a).
At the threshold, the government argues that Santiago's
appeal is barred because, as part of his guilty plea, he expressly
waived his right to appeal "any aspect" of his sentence if the
sentence was within or below the guideline range for a total
offense level of nineteen when combined with his criminal history
category ("CHC") as determined by the district court.1 At
sentencing, the district court ruled that Santiago had a CHC of
1 The full text of the waiver provision in Santiago's plea
agreement reads:
Defendant knowingly and voluntarily agrees
that, if the sentence imposed by the Court is
within or below the guideline range for the
total offense level calculated in this Plea
Agreement when combined with the Defendant's
criminal history category as determined by the
Court, the Defendant waives the right to
appeal any aspect of this case's judgment and
sentence, including but not limited to the
term of imprisonment or probation,
restitution, fines, forfeiture, and the term
and conditions of supervised release.
The plea agreement calculates a total offense level of
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III. After concluding that the resulting guideline range for a
total offense level of nineteen was thirty-seven to forty-six
months, the judge imposed a thirty-seven-month sentence, thus
satisfying the condition on which the appeal waiver rested.
In this circuit, an appeal waiver is enforceable if the
defendant knowingly and voluntarily agreed to its terms and
enforcement would not result in a miscarriage of justice. United
States v. Teeter, 257 F.3d 14, 24-26 (1st Cir. 2001). Because
Santiago concedes that his appeal waiver was knowing and voluntary,
the issue is whether a miscarriage of justice exists. See United
States v. Davis, 923 F.3d 228, 239-40 (1st Cir. 2019).
Santiago argues that he is young; he has a history of
mental and emotional issues; he would have received less prison
time had the judge doubled his sentence and imposed it
concurrently; his CHC already accounts for his state conviction;
and no good will come from him serving a consecutive sentence. In
other words, Santiago says his federal sentence is excessive when
combined with his state sentence.
Sentencing Guideline 5G1.3(a) recommends a consecutive
sentence "[i]f the instant offense was committed . . . after
sentencing for, but before commencing service of, [another] term
of imprisonment." U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(a). Santiago agrees that
Guideline 5G1.3(a) applies to his case, but argues that the
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district court misconstrued this guideline as mandatory in
violation of Booker.
The miscarriage-of-justice exception is reserved for
"egregious cases," Teeter, 257 F.3d at 25, is used "sparingly,"
id. at 26, and "requires a strong showing of innocence, unfairness,
or the like," United States v. Gil-Quezada, 445 F.3d 33, 37 (1st
Cir. 2006).2 Although Santiago says that the district court
applied the guidelines in a mandatory fashion, United States v.
Cardona-Díaz describes such a claim as "too trivial to warrant
discussion in light of [his] waiver of appeal." 524 F.3d 20, 23
n.1 (1st Cir. 2008).
Not only is the default rule under both federal law and the
sentencing guidelines that the sentence run consecutively in a case
like Santiago's, see 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a); U.S.S.G. § 5G1.3(a), but
Santiago also agrees the district court properly could, in its
discretion, have imposed his sentence consecutively. Leaving this
"otherwise lawful, within-guidelines sentence" in place does not work
a miscarriage of justice, United States v. Cabrera-Rivera, 893 F.3d
14, 24 (1st Cir. 2018), so Santiago's appeal waiver bars this appeal.

Outcome: Affirmed

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