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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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