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United States of America v. Hector Menocal-Ruiz
Case Number: 19-4938
Judge: PER CURIAM:
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
Plaintiff's Attorney: Jennifer P. May-Parker, Assistant United States Attorney, Joshua L. Rogers, Assistant
United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
Richmond, VA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime charges.
Hector Guillermo Menocal-Ruiz pled guilty, pursuant to a written plea agreement,
to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of
cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A), 846, and possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A). The
district court sentenced Menocal-Ruiz to 180 months’ imprisonment and 5 years’
supervised release. On appeal, Menocal-Ruiz’s counsel has filed a brief pursuant to Anders
v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967), questioning whether the sentence is reasonable but
conceding that there are no meritorious issues for review. Although notified of his right to
do so, Menocal-Ruiz did not file a pro se supplemental brief. For the reasons that follow,
we affirm Menocal-Ruiz’s convictions, vacate his sentence, and remand for resentencing.
We turn first to the validity of Menocal-Ruiz’s guilty plea. Prior to accepting a
guilty plea, a court must conduct a plea colloquy in which it informs the defendant of, and
determines that the defendant understands, the nature of the charges to which he is pleading
guilty, any applicable mandatory minimum sentence, the maximum possible penalty he
faces, and the various rights he is relinquishing by pleading guilty. Fed. R. Crim. P.
11(b)(1); United States v. Williams, 811 F.3d 621, 622 (4th Cir. 2016). The court also must
ensure that the defendant’s plea is voluntary, supported by a sufficient factual basis, and
not the result of force, threats, or extrinsic promises. Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(b)(2)-(3); see
United States v. DeFusco, 949 F.2d 114, 119-20 (4th Cir. 1991).
Because Menocal-Ruiz did not move to withdraw his guilty plea or otherwise
preserve any allegation of Rule 11 error in the district court, we review the plea colloquy
for plain error. United States v. Sanya, 774 F.3d 812, 815 (4th Cir. 2014). “Under the
plain error standard, this Court will correct an unpreserved error if (1) an error was made;
(2) the error is plain; (3) the error affects substantial rights; and (4) the error seriously
affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” United States
v. Harris, 890 F.3d 480, 491 (4th Cir. 2018) (internal quotation marks omitted). In the
guilty plea context, a defendant establishes that an error affected his substantial rights if he
demonstrates a reasonable probability that he would not have pled guilty but for the error.
Sanya, 774 F.3d at 816. Here, the record reveals that, to the extent there were Rule 11
errors, they did not affect Menocal-Ruiz’s substantial rights. Accordingly, Menocal-Ruiz’s
guilty plea is valid.
We turn next to Menocal-Ruiz’s sentence. Here, our review identifies one
reversible error. When announcing the terms of supervised release during the sentencing
hearing, the district court listed only a few conditions. In its written judgment, however,
the court included the statutorily imposed mandatory conditions, 13 “standard” conditions,
and several special conditions that the court did not announce during the sentencing
While a district court need not orally pronounce all mandatory conditions, “all
non-mandatory conditions of supervised release must be announced at a defendant’s
sentencing hearing.” United States v. Rogers, 961 F.3d 291, 296 (4th Cir. 2020). The
1 The “standard” conditions are those recommended by U.S. Sentencing Guidelines
Manual § 5D1.3(c), p.s. (2018).
district court “may satisfy its obligation to orally pronounce discretionary conditions
through incorporation” by reference to, for example, the standard conditions recommended
by the Guidelines. Id. at 299. Here, the district court failed to orally pronounce the
standard conditions and several of the special conditions imposed in the written judgment.
Moreover, the court did not incorporate those conditions by reference to the Guidelines or
otherwise notify Menocal-Ruiz that he would be subject to any discretionary conditions
beyond those announced at the sentencing hearing.
We recently clarified that the appropriate remedy when the district court fails to
announce discretionary conditions of supervised release that are later included in the
written judgment is to vacate the sentence and remand for a full resentencing hearing. See
United States v. Singletary, 984 F.3d 341, 346 & n.4 (4th Cir. 2021). We further clarified
that, because unannounced conditions are not part of the defendant’s sentence, a challenge
to such conditions falls outside of the scope of an appeal waiver. Id. at 345.
Outcome: In accordance with Anders, we have reviewed the entire record, and we have found
no other meritorious grounds for appeal.
We therefore affirm Menocal-Ruiz’s convictions, vacate his sentence, and remand for resentencing.