7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: United States of America v. Juan Carlos Perez
Case No.: 18-3156
Officials: KANNE, HAMILTON, and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.
Focus: Sentencing Guidelines
In December 2016, law enforcement officers facilitated a controlled buy of heroin from Juan Perez- —someone the officers suspected was a high-level drug dealer in the Beloit, Wisconsin area. The controlled buy was recorded: Perez sold 98 grams of heroin to a police informant. Based on that transaction alone, Perez was charged with, and pled guilty to, distributing heroin. At Perez’s sentencing hearing, the district judge expressed concern that the guidelines range of 33–41 months’ imprisonment presented in Perez’s presentence investigation report (“PSR”) did not reflect the full scope of his involvement in drug trafficking. This concern stemmed from the PSR’s description of Perez’s conduct suggesting that he was responsible for distributing large quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine.
Unsatisfied with the disparity between Perez’s guidelines range and his conduct described in the PSR, the judge continued the sentencing hearing and directed the government to file a sentencing memorandum. The memorandum was to detail which offense conduct the government could support by a preponderance of the evidence and which offense conduct it could not so support. When the parties and judge reconvened, the government presented witness testimony that elaborated on conduct described in the PSR. The judge used that evidence to calculate a higher guidelines range and impose a 121-month sentence.
Perez appealed his sentence, arguing that the sentencing judge should have disqualified himself because his impartiality might reasonably be questioned. See 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). Because Perez has not demonstrated that a reasonable observer would have questioned the judge’s impartiality, we affirm the sentence.