United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. BRACK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
controlled substances are often diluted and combined with
other substances as they pass down the chain of distribution,
the fact that a defendant is in possession of unusually pure
narcotics may indicate a prominent role in the criminal
enterprise and proximity to the source of the drugs.”
U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1, cmt. n.27(c). Commensurate with that
theory, the United Sentencing Commission imposed harsher
sentencing Guidelines ranges for crimes involving drugs of
high purity, which is why Defendant Cecilio Ibarra-Sandoval
faces a Guidelines range of 63-78 months imprisonment for
trafficking methamphetamine instead of the 46-57 month range
he would have faced had the methamphetamine been less pure.
The problem, however, is that Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval neither
played a prominent role in the drug enterprise, nor was he in
close proximity to the source of the drugs-he was a low level
courier who didn't even know what drug he was
transporting. Because the Court refuses to punish a low-level
courier with a sentence intended for high-level criminals,
the Court uses the 46-57 month Guidelines range and imposes a
sentence of 46 months, as well as a mandatory assessment of
Mexico, Defendant Cecilio Ibarra-Sandoval moved to
Albuquerque, New Mexico, when he was 17. (Presentence
Investigative Report (PSR) ¶¶ 40-41.) During his
time in New Mexico, Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval ran his own furniture
business for ten years and also worked in construction. (Doc.
39 at 3.) Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval is a husband and the father of
two young children, one 11 years old and the other eight.
(See PSR ¶ 43.) In 2007, Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval
and his wife lost a third child at childbirth due to
physician negligence. (PSR ¶ 44.) Mrs. Sandoval, Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval's wife, receives Social Security
Disability Insurance for low back pain and diabetes, and she
also relies on food stamps to support herself and the
couple's two children. (PSR ¶ 43.) Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval's family has endured severe financial
difficulties since his arrest on July 14, 2016. (See
Doc. 39 at 3.)
14, 2016, Jose Luis Adriano-Mascarro picked up Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval to go to El Paso, Texas. (See Id. at
2.) Mr. Adriano-Mascarro was a friend of Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval,
and the two men had previously worked together to smuggle
undocumented aliens. (See id.) On this occasion, Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval thought he was going with Mr.
Adriano-Mascarro to pay off an alien smuggler. (Id.)
Unbeknownst to Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval, Mr. Adriano-Mascarro had
arranged to pick up drugs in El Paso and to deliver the drugs
to Las Cruces, New Mexico. (See id.) In El Paso, Mr.
Adriano-Mascarro drove to a gas station and told Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval to retrieve a package-two clear plastic
containers wrapped in black electrical tape-from another
vehicle. (Id.) At this point, Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval
knew that he was picking up contraband, but he didn't
know the contents of the package. (See id.) Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval collected the package from a light blue
vehicle at the gas station, and he and Mr. Adriano-Mascarro
headed for Las Cruces. (PSR ¶ 14.) On their way to Las
Cruces, a Metro Narcotics officer pulled over Messrs.
Adriano- Mascarro and Ibarra-Sandoval. (Id. ¶
10.) The officer discovered a small amount of cocaine on Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval and 2.27 kilograms of methamphetamine in the
package. (See id.) Both Messrs. Adriano-Mascarro and
Ibarra-Sandoval were arrested and indicted.
February 1, 2017, Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval pled guilty to
Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute 500 Grams and
More of a Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of
Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846,
841(b)(1)(A), and Possession with Intent to Distribute 500
Grams and More of a Mixture and Substance Containing a
Detectable Amount of Methamphetamine and Aiding and Abetting,
in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)(A) and 18 U.S.C.
§ 2. (Doc. 42 at 1.) Initially, the Government used the
methamphetamine-mixture formula to calculate the recommended
Guidelines range of 46-57 months. (Id.) After
receiving a laboratory report indicating that the
methamphetamine in the package was 98.1 percent pure,
however, the Government recalculated the recommended
Guidelines range based on the purity of the methamphetamine,
leading to a new range of 63-78 months. (Id. at
1-2.) Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval now asks the Court to reject the
new 63-78 month range and base his sentence on the
methamphetamine-mixture range of 46-57 months.
matter of administration and to ensure consistency, a
district court should begin all sentencing proceedings by
calculating the applicable Guidelines range. Gall v.
United States, 552 U.S. 38, 49 (2007). Post United
States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the Guidelines
are advisory, see Id. at 227, and serve as a
“starting point” and “initial benchmark,
” see Gall, 552 U.S. at 49. Although the
Guidelines are afforded “respectful consideration,
” see Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85,
101 (2007), a district court must not presume that the
Guidelines range is reasonable. See Gall, 552 U.S.
at 50. Instead, the district court must independently
consider all the sentencing factors in 18 U.S.C. §
3553(a) to determine the appropriate sentence. See
Id. at 49-50.
district court finds that the § 3553(a) factors support
an outside-Guidelines sentence, it may deviate from the
Guidelines. See Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338,
351 (2007). Permissible deviations include variations
“based solely on policy considerations, including
disagreements with the Guidelines.” See Kimbrough
v. United States, 552 U.S. 85, 101 (2007). The Supreme
Court emphasized this last point in Spears v. United
States, 555 U.S. 261 (2009), when it reiterated that
policy deviations from the Guidelines need not be based on a
particular defendant's individual circumstances; all that
is needed to justify a variance-even in a mine-run case-is
the sentencing court's disagreement with the Guidelines.
See Id. at 263-64.
sentence the district court imposes must be reasonable.
See Gall, 552 U.S. at 51 (appellate courts review
district court sentences for reasonableness). If the court
imposes a sentence outside the Guidelines, it “must
consider the extent of the deviation to ensure that the
justification is sufficiently compelling to support the
degree of variance.” See Id. The sentencing
court “must adequately explain the chosen sentence to
allow for meaningful appellate review and to promote the
perception of fair sentencing.” See id.
The Guidelines range
district court's sentencing analysis begins with the
Guidelines range. See Gall, 552 U.S. at 49. Based on
Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval's guilty plea, his initial base
offense level is 36. See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c).
Following § 2D1.1(a)(5), the Court lowers Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval's base offense level by three because he
qualifies for a mitigating role adjustment under §
3B1.2. Next, the Court finds that Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval meets
the criteria set forth in § 3553(f) and §
5C1.2(a)(1)-(5), and the Court lowers his offense level by
two pursuant to § 2D1.1(b)(17) and sentences Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval without regard to any mandatory minimum
sentence. Because Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval was a minor
participant, the Court lowers the offense level by two,
see U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2(b), and the Court further
lowers the offense level by two because Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval
accepted responsibility for the offense, see
U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(a). Finally, following U.S.S.G. §
3E1.1(b), the Court lowers the offense level by one because
Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval notified authorities in a timely manner
of his intention to enter a guilty plea. Mr.
Ibarra-Sandoval's resulting total offense level is 26.
Mr. Ibarra-Sandoval has no prior criminal convictions, so he
is in criminal history category one. A total offense level of
26 and a criminal history category of one correspond with a
Guidelines range of 63-78 months imprisonment.
The methamphetamine Guidelines are not based ...