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Sentencing — guilty plea

United States Court of Appeals


Sentencing — guilty plea

The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. The district court found that the defendant was responsible for more than 150 kilograms of cocaine and sentenced him to a term of 210 months’ imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release.

The defendant argues that his guilty plea was not given knowingly and voluntarily, that the district court committed error by relying on the testimony of a cooperating witness when it determined the drug quantity for which he was responsible, and that the district court improperly enhanced Hernandez’s mandatory minimum sentence in violation of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment Rights.

The Court of Appeals rejected the argument that the guilty plea was defective, observing that the District Court judge conducted a thorough plea colloquy. The District Court found the witness’s testimony about the quantity of drugs credible and the appellate court said it was not error to rely on it. The court applied a plain error standard to the sentencing enhancement issue because it was not introduced below. It did not find plain error. The Fifth and Sixth Amendment requirements are inapplicable because guideline ranges are only advisory.


12-1719 U.S. v. Hernandez

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