Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Hernandez

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

August 6, 2013

UNITED STATES
v.
INCENT HERNANDEZ

MEMORANDUM

J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.

Now pending is the government's motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a) to correct the sentence this court imposed upon defendant Vincent Hernandez. The government's motion seeks to adjust Hernandez's ten-year (120-month) sentence to fifteen years (180 months) because of his prior conviction in state court. The issues have been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the government's motion to correct the sentence is denied.

Background

On October 13, 2011, Hernandez was charged in a three-count superseding indictment. (ECF No. 147.) Count 1 of that indictment, the only count at issue in the pending motion, was for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 280 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. That offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years for a defendant not previously convicted for a felony drug offense and a minimum of twenty years if the defendant has a qualifying prior conviction. 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(b)(1)(A). Count 2 - for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) - carries a mandatory five-year sentence consecutive to any other sentence, and Count 3 - for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) - carries a concurrent five-year sentence. Id.

Prior to trial, the government filed a notice pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851 of its intent to seek the enhanced penalty on Count 1 based on Hernandez's January 20, 2003 conviction in the Circuit Court for Washington County, Maryland for manufacturing and distributing controlled substances.[1] (ECF No. 166.) After a two-day bench trial, the court convicted Hernandez of all three counts. On Count 1, however, it convicted him of the lesser included offense of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 28 grams or more of cocaine base because it found that only 28 to 280 grams of cocaine were foreseeable to Hernandez as a member of the conspiracy. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). The lesser offense carries a shorter mandatory minimum sentence of five years and an enhanced minimum sentence of ten years if the defendant has a prior conviction for a felony drug offense. Id.

Before sentencing, Hernandez informed the court and the government that he challenged the validity of his prior conviction and sought coram nobis relief in Washington County. Judge Beachley of the Fourth Judicial Circuit of Maryland granted Hernandez a hearing on his two pro se petitions for coram nobis. Hernandez, however, was in the custody of the U.S. Marshals at the Chesapeake Detention facility. The Sheriff of Washington County refused to accept custody of Hernandez so that he could attend his hearing in state court. When Hernandez failed to appear, Judge Beachley postponed the hearing because Ezra Gollogly, counsel for Hernandez in his federal case, convinced the state court judge that Hernandez was in federal custody and could not attend a hearing without the cooperation of federal and state law enforcement officers. After Hernandez's failure to appear at his rescheduled hearing, however, Judge Beachley dismissed his coram nobis petitions.

On May 30, 2013, Hernandez appeared before this court for sentencing. The government requested a total sentence of fifteen years (180 months)-ten years as to Count 1, five years consecutive as to Count 2, and five years continuous as to Count 3.[2] At the hearing, however, the government responsibly recounted the potential constitutional violations related to Hernandez's inability to attend his coram nobis hearing in state court. (Tr. 4:9-13:9, ECF No. 215.) Alluding to the potential constitutional violations, I sentenced Hernandez to a total of ten years, imposing only a five-year sentence for the reduced amount in Count 1, thereby rejecting the government's request to enhance the sentence on that count to ten years based on the prior conviction in state court. ( See Tr. 15:3-16:17.)

On June 5, 2013, the government filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35 to correct the sentence the court imposed on Hernandez. (ECF No. 205.) Hernandez opposed that motion on June 12, 2013. (ECF No. 214.) Both parties have appealed to the Fourth Circuit. (ECF Nos. 208, 210, 216.) The government argues on appeal that the district court sentenced Hernandez below the mandatory minimum sentence without statutory justification. ( See Docketing Statement, ECF No. 10, in Appeal Case No. 13-4497.)

Analysis

A. Jurisdiction and Timeliness

Although both Hernandez and the government have filed cross appeals in this case, the district court retains jurisdiction to decide the motion for a correction of sentence. Fed. R. App. P. 4(b)(5) ("The filing of a notice of appeal under this Rule 4(b) does not divest a district court of jurisdiction to correct a sentence under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(a), nor does the filing of a motion under 35(a) affect the validity of a notice of appeal filed before entry of the order disposing of the motion.").

Additionally, the court finds that the government's motion to correct the sentence filed within 14 days after the initial sentencing satisfies Rule 35's requirement that the court correct a sentence within 14 days after sentencing. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(a).

B. Rule 35(a) Motion for Correction of Sentence

The government has moved to correct the sentence the court imposed on Hernandez arguing that the five-year sentence on Count 1 was illegal and clearly erroneous because it is shorter than the ten-year mandatory minimum sentence that would result from the enhancement for a prior conviction.[3] Hernandez argues that the court properly found his prior state court conviction invalid as a basis for the sentence enhancement and that the sentence it imposed was, therefore, correct and not the result of a clear error. Under Rule 35, "the court may correct a sentence that resulted from arithmetical, technical, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.