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United States of America v. MIGUEL QUILES-LOPEZ
Case Number: 19-1379
Judge: Michael Boudin
Court: United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit
Plaintiff's Attorney: W. Stephen Muldrow, United States Attorney, Mariana E. Bauz-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Antonio L. Perez-Alonso, Assistant United States Attorney
Boston, MA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with a attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute charge.
This case is a consolidated
appeal by Miguel Quiles-Lopez to contest two separate sentences.
The first sentence followed after Quiles-Lopez pled
guilty to attempted possession of cocaine with intent to
distribute. The Sentencing Guidelines range was 135 to 168 months,
and the district court sentenced him to 168 months. Quiles-Lopez
says that the sentence was unreasonably high, a claim reviewed for
abuse of discretion, with factual findings of the district court
being tested for clear error. United States v. Ayala-Vazquez, 751
F.3d 1, 29 (1st Cir. 2014).
Quiles-Lopez says his sentence should have been lower to
avoid unwarranted disparities in sentences imposed on defendants
with similar records. The criminal code reminds judges to avoid
disparities, where possible, "among defendants with similar
records who have been found guilty of similar conduct." 18 U.S.C.
During the sentencing hearing, Quiles-Lopez's counsel
argued that in other cases some leaders of drug rings had been
sentenced to less time than Quiles-Lopez, who was in no sense a
leader. As the district court noted, such cases are not relevant
because the defendants in them pled to distributing less cocaine
than Quiles; they therefore weren't "found guilty of similar
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conduct" as Quiles. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6); see United States v.
Escobar-Figueroa, 454 F.3d 40, 54 (1st Cir. 2006).
Quiles-Lopez also argues his sentence should be
overturned because the sentencing judge impermissibly considered
arrests that did not result in convictions. "[N]o weight should
be given in sentencing to arrests not buttressed by convictions or
independent proof of conduct." United States v. Dávila-Bonilla,
968 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2020) (quoting United States v. MarreroPérez, 914 F.3d 20, 22 (1st Cir. 2019)). But "a sentencing court
does not abuse its discretion merely by reciting a defendant's
arrest record," which is all that happened here. United States v.
Díaz-Lugo, 963 F.3d 145, 153 (1st Cir. 2020).
The judge made a single reference to Quiles-Lopez's
arrests that did not lead to convictions: After listing QuilesLopez's convictions, the judge stated that "[i]n addition, Mr.
Quiles has been arrested for robbery and kidnapping, attempted
murder, Weapons Law violations, domestic violence, and controlled
substances violations, but they were either dismissed or no
probable cause was found for those cases."
Finally, Quiles-Lopez asserts the district court drew an
unsupported inference that cellphones found in his cell were used
for illegal purposes, and that this inference led to a higher
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While Quiles-Lopez was in prison awaiting sentencing,
Drug Enforcement Agency officers searched his cell and found four
cellphones, 15 pills of clonazepam, approximately 67 pills of
Suboxone, and 6.91 grams of synthetic marijuana.
At the sentencing hearing Quiles-Lopez denied ownership
of the drugs and any illegal use of the cellphones. The judge
said: "Focusing on the cell phones, the Court believes that having
cell phones in prison is a more serious contraband than even
possessing drugs. Cell phones can and have been used by prison
inmates to continue their alleged operations, including ordering
that persons be disciplined and even murdered."
Quiles-Lopez argues that this statement shows the judge
inferred Quiles-Lopez used the phones for illegal purposes, but
the judge's statement instead shows the judge was concerned about
potential illegal uses of a cellphone. The judge made no inference
about actual illegal use of the cellphones.
Quiles-Lopez's second appeal concerns his sentence for
a violation of supervised release terms that were imposed for an
earlier conviction for conspiracy to attempt to possess with intent
to distribute cocaine. The violation of the supervised release
terms was the attempted drug distribution, the sentence for which
has already been described. For the supervised release violation
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the district court sentenced Quiles-Lopez to eighteen months, to
be served consecutively to the earlier imposed 168-month term.
Quiles-Lopez argues that the District Court's sentencing
rationale was flawed, as it took into consideration the seriousness
of his new criminal conduct that also constituted the violation of
his terms of supervised release notwithstanding that he was already
sentenced to 168 months for the attempted drug distribution and
that the violation itself is a "breach of trust" offense. But
there is nothing unusual about the eighteen-month sentence: A
single illegal act may violate two statutes and be cumulatively
punished. Missouri v. Hunter, 459 U.S. 359, 368–69 (1983). As
for the new sentence, it was not substantively unreasonable as it
was in the middle of the Sentencing Guideline range (fifteen to
twenty-one months) and was imposed consecutively (as directed by
the Sentencing Guidelines, U.S.S.G. § 7B1.3(f)). See United
States v. Cortes-Medina, 819 F.3d 566, 572–73 (1st Cir. 2016)
(stating that within-range sentences are presumptively
reasonable). When a new crime is also a violation of supervised
release terms, the fact that the offender has already been
sentenced for the new crime does not preclude an additional
sentence for violating the supervised release terms. E.g., United
States v. Tanco-Pizarro, 892 F.3d 472, 481 (1st Cir. 2018). Nor
is there anything improper in the District Court basing the
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supervised release sentence in part on the nature or seriousness
of the new crime that constitutes the violation of the terms of
supervised release. See id.; see also United States v. Soto-Soto,
855 F.3d 445, 451 (1st Cir. 2017) (observing, in a supervised
release-revocation case, that "the seriousness of the offense,
promoting respect for the law, [and] providing just punishment"
were "proper . . . sentencing factors.").
Finally, Quiles-Lopez argues that the district court's
description of the reasons for imposing the eighteen-month
sentence was not adequate. The district court identified the main
factors for its decision; this is all that is required. United
States v. Vargas-García, 794 F.3d 162, 166 (1st Cir. 2015).