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First Circuit Orders Resentencing Where Trial Counsel Failed to Secure Three-Level Reduction Under Sentencing Guidelines

by David Reutter

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled a defendant was entitled to be resentenced where trial counsel failed to secure a three-level reduction under the federal sentencing guidelines for acceptance of responsibility.

Following a December 17, 2015, search by federal agents of a home in Puerto Rico, Rodney Robles-Pabon (“Robles”) was found hiding in a closet. Agents also found drugs, currency, cellphones, AK-47 ammunition, high-capacity magazines, and a chip to modify a Glock firearm. A search of a car outside the house uncovered Robles’ passport and a Glock.

Robles entered into a plea agreement on charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He was sentenced to a total of 93 months.

The July 22, 2006, plea agreement contained guideline calculations, one of which endorsed a decrease by two levels for acceptance of responsibility, ignoring the three-level reduction under the governing guideline. Relying on the 2015 version of the guidelines, the district court approved a two-level reduction for accepting responsibility. On appeal, Robles asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to secure the three-level reduction, error by the trial judge for ignoring the potential three level reduction, and other infirmities in the district court’s choice of sentence.

While the Government denied Robles’ attorney can be found ineffective on the current record, it admitted “Robles could establish attorney ineffectiveness in a proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.” Thus, it argued the Court should vacate the sentence and allow the Government to file a § 3E1.1 (b) motion” to secure the extra level reduction and allow Robles to be resentenced.

The First Circuit agreed as to the result but rejected the Government’s suggestion regarding the motion. The Court thanked the Government for “simplifying matters through its concession that Robles’ trial counsel had failed to detect the possibility of an extra level decrease and its further concession that the extra decrease was justified.”

Accordingly, the Court vacated the judgment imposing the sentence and remanded for resentencing. See: United States v. Robles-Pabon, 892 F.3d 64 (1st Cir. 2018). 

 

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