for certiorari filed at, 06/14/2016
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO. Hon. Juan M. Pérez-Giménez, U.S.
Guzmán Dupont for appellant.
Y. Hernández-Vega, Assistant United States Attorney,
with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United
States Attorney, Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United
States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Francisco A.
Besosa-Martínez, Assistant United States Attorney,
were on brief, for appellee.
Lynch, Selya and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
party who fails to preserve potential claims of error in the
trial court usually encounters strong headwinds on appeal.
So it is here. Concluding that the appellant's
asseverational array is largely unpreserved and wholly
unpersuasive, we affirm his conviction and sentence. We
nonetheless remand to allow the district court to consider a
sentence reduction under a recent amendment to the sentencing
recite the background facts " in the light most
hospitable to the verdict, consistent with record
support." United States v.
Maldonado-García, 446 F.3d 227, 229 (1st Cir.
2006). Starting in 2005, a drug-trafficking organization
headed by the notorious Junior Cápsula smuggled
cocaine by sea from the Dominican Republic into Puerto Rico
aboard yawls specially retrofitted with secret compartments.
After law enforcement personnel seized two of the vessels,
the drug ring began to consider alternative modes of
transportation (including airplanes).
of 2009, defendant-appellant Carlos E.
Rodríguez-Milián became involved with a scheme
to fly drug shipments from the Dominican Republic to Puerto
Rico and to ferry cash on return flights. Shortly after this
plot was hatched, the appellant purchased a small aircraft
that he thereafter used to transport a leader in the drug
ring from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic. Later that
summer, the appellant and a confederate, Jeffrey
transported roughly $500,000 in illegal drug-sale proceeds
from Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic.
subsequent flight by the two men in the appellant's
recently-purchased airplane took place on August 22, carrying
a cargo of no less than 50 kilograms of cocaine. Spotted on
radar when it entered Puerto Rican airspace, their airplane
aroused suspicion because it failed to communicate with
anyone, flew past Borinquen Airport, and descended instead
into Arecibo Airport (which was not an authorized port of
entry for international air traffic). The airplane landed
before any law enforcement personnel arrived to investigate.
Two men (later identified as Diego Pérez and Fernando
Nieves) approached the aircraft, while a third man,
José Marrero-Martell, watched from a nearby
automobile. Marrero-Martell testified that Junior
Cápsula had told him that he (Cápsula) had
delivered cocaine to the appellant and Núñez.
Junior Cápsula then added that Marrero-Martell should
pick up the drugs from the airport.
airport security guard became inquisitive at the sight of all
the activity around the appellant's aircraft. When the
guard approached, the appellant told Pérez that he
would distract the guard while the bags were unloaded. The
appellant told the guard (falsely) that Pérez and
Nieves had arrived by parachute. The guard then instructed
the appellant not to take off until customs officials could
arrive, and shortly thereafter put the appellant on the
telephone with a customs agent. The appellant suggested that
the landing at Arecibo was due to electrical problems and
that his real destination was Isla Grande Airport. In the
meantime, the other three men (Pérez, Nieves, and
Núñez) unloaded bags filled with cocaine from
the aircraft and stashed them in a waiting automobile. The
car then departed and -- about 35 minutes after landing at
Arecibo -- the appellant and Núñez flew away
before customs officials could arrive.
season, a federal grand jury returned an indictment that
other things, the broad drug-trafficking conspiracy headed by
Junior Cápsula. One count of the indictment, however,
charged the appellant with participating in a narrower
conspiracy to import five or more kilograms of cocaine into
the customs territory of the United States. See 21 U.S.C.
§ § 952(a), 963. At trial, Marrero-Martell and
Pérez testified for the government as cooperating
witnesses. The jury found the appellant guilty on the single
count lodged against him and, on August 22, 2014, the
district court sentenced him to serve a 235 month term of
immurement. This timely appeal ensued.