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7th Circuit: judge erred when sentencing man

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered an Indiana District Court to take another look at a man’s sentence because the judge cited incorrect information during sentencing.

Juan Corona-Gonzalez was convicted of possession with intent to distribute, distribution of 500 grams or more of a mixture containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. Corona-Gonzalez doesn’t appeal his convictions, but his 240-month sentence.

When he was being sentenced, then U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton made three references to Corona-Gonzalez being deported and returning to the U.S. to deal drugs. But Corona-Gonzalez had originally entered the country legally on a visa and had never been deported. It was his father who was deported following a drug conviction in 2002. The pre-sentence investigation report included that information about the father. Corona-Gonzalez was in the country illegally now because his visa had expired.

At no point during the hearing did Corona-Gonzalez or the government speak up about the inconsistency between the PSR and what the judge said.

Because he didn’t object at the time, the 7th Circuit reviewed the procedural error for plain error and found there was no question that a procedural error occurred during the hearing. This error also affected his substantial rights, wrote Judge Kenneth Ripple in United States of America v. Juan A. Corona-Gonzalez a/k/a Juan R. Ramirez, No. 09-3993.

“Having studied the record and listened to the arguments of counsel, we are left with the firm belief that there is a substantial chance that the district court’s misapprehension played a significant role in the adjudication of the defendant’s sentence,” wrote the judge. “The district court tells us so in the sentencing transcript. …In fact, in stating the reasons for imposing the chosen sentence, the very first factor the court addressed was the supposed removal and reentry.”

The judges decided Corona-Gonzalez deserves the opportunity to have the District Court reassess his sentence. They remanded for the lower court to look at his sentence without including the incorrect statements that he had been deported.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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