United States v. Enrique Montano-Garcia, No. 17-11773 (February 5, 2019), UNPUBLISHED
The Court held that the sentencing court erred in attributing to the defendant the entire drug quantity found at his co-conspirator’s apartment because the court failed to make a finding that the defendant, a drug courier, agreed to participate in the co-conspirator’s broader criminal activity. The Court also held that the sentencing court erred by considering only one factor in applying a minor-role reduction.
Sentencing Guidelines/Drug Quantity – The sentencing court erred by holding the defendant accountable for drugs found at his co-conspirator’s apartment without first finding that the defendant agreed to participate in the joint criminal activity involving those drugs.
Sentencing Guidelines/Minor Role – The sentencing court erred by only considering one factor in determining how much to reduce a defendant’s offense level under § 3B1.2.
Enrique Montano-Garcia was sentenced to 70 months for acting as a courier in a drug transaction. Montano-Garcia had couriered $47,000 to a co-conspirator’s apartment, where Montano-Garcia remained for several days until law enforcement raided the apartment. The sentencing court calculated a total drug quantity of 11 kilos of heroin towards Montano-Garcia’s offense level based on the total amount of heroin the officers found at the apartment.
Montano-Garcia appealed the total drug quantity and the district court’s denial of a three-point role reduction under U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2. He argued that only 2 kilograms were in plain view at the apartment and that his conduct was limited to acting as a courier.
On appeal, the Court agreed that the district court had erroneously attributed the 11 kilograms to Montano-Garcia. The Court held that, while the amount of heroin might have been foreseeable, the district court failed to make an individualized finding on the scope of Montano-Garcia’s joint participation in the conspiracy— “to hold Montano-Garcia accountable for the entire 11 kilograms, the district court had to find that all 11 kilograms were part of the criminal activity Montano-Garcia agreed to undertake.” This was especially important since the district court had recognized that Montano-Garcia was just “a drug courier, pure and simple.”
Regarding the minor role reduction, Montano-Garcia argued that the district court erred in reducing his offense level by only two points for playing a minor role rather than the three points for playing “between a minimal and minor role” as he had requested. The district court found that Montano-Garcia’s role was less than that of his co-conspirator but that he was not entitled to the three-point reduction because he was aware of the overall drug trafficking enterprise.
The Court held that the sentencing court erred because it only considered one factor in in its analysis, and a sentencing court is required to evaluate “the totality of the circumstances” and the multiple factors listed under § 3B1.2.
Appeal from the Northern District of Georgia
Per Curiam Opinion by Martin, J. Pryor, and Anderson