FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO. Hon. Jay A. Garcí a-Gregory, U.S.
R. Hasse on brief for appellant.
Emilia Rodrí guez-Vé lez, United States
Attorney, Nelson Pé rez-Sosa, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Thomas F. Klumper,
Assistant United States Attorney, Senior Appellate Counsel,
on brief for appellee.
Kayatta, Selya and Stahl, Circuit Judges.
sentencing appeal embodies four discrete claims of error.
Having scrutinized these claims in light of the record as a
whole, we affirm the appellant's sentence.
critical facts are largely uncontested. Defendant-appellant
Englis Pé rez, a Dominican national, journeyed to
Venezuela in early 2014 to undertake a cocaine-smuggling
venture. Shortly after midnight on March 4, 2014, federal
authorities intercepted a 30-foot speedboat -- operating
without lights, powered by two outsized outboard engines, and
equipped with 23 extra fuel tanks -- that had left port in
Venezuela and was approaching the coast of Puerto Rico. The
vessel was carrying 38 bales, which contained in the
aggregate approximately 1,056 kilograms of cocaine.
two persons were aboard the vessel when it was intercepted:
the appellant and an individual later identified as Gregorio
Rodrí guez. A federal grand jury sitting in the
District of Puerto Rico returned a six-count indictment
against the pair, charging them with conspiracy to import 5
or more kilograms of cocaine into the United States, in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § § 952(a), 960, and 963
(count 1); conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 5
kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ § 841(a)(1) and 846 (count 2); aiding and
abetting in the possession with intent to distribute 5
kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 2 and 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (count 3); aiding and
abetting in the importation of 5 kilograms or more of
cocaine, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 21 U.S.C.
§ § 952 and 960 (count 4); conspiracy to possess
with intent to distribute 5 or more kilograms of cocaine on
board a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United
States, in violation of 46 U.S.C. § §
70502(c)(1)(D), 70503(a)(1), 70504(b)(1) and 70506(a) and (b)
(count 5); and aiding and abetting in the possession with
intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine on board
a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2 and 46 U.S.C. § §
70502(c)(1)(D), 70503(a)(1), 70504(b)(1) and 70506(a) (count
6). Although the appellant originally maintained his
innocence, he shortly entered a straight guilty plea to all
six counts of the indictment.
the preparation of a presentence investigation report and
some related skirmishing, the district court convened the
disposition hearing on January 27, 2015. The November 2014
edition of the sentencing guidelines controlled. See
United States v. Harotunian, 920 F.2d 1040, 1041-42
(1st Cir. 1990). The court calculated the appellant's
guideline sentencing range (GSR) as 135-168 months and
imposed a sentence at the bottom of that range: 135 months.
This timely appeal ensued.
case, the appellant challenges both the procedural
underpinnings and the substantive reasonableness of his
sentence. Overall, claims of sentencing error are reviewed
for abuse of discretion. See Gall v. United States,
552 U.S. 38, 51, 128 S.Ct. 586, 169 L.Ed.2d 445 (2007);
United States v. Martin, 520 F.3d 87, 92 (1st Cir.
2008). With respect to procedural claims, however, the
abuse-of discretion standard of review is not monolithic.
Within it, " we assay the district court's
factfinding for clear error and afford de novo consideration
to its interpretation and application of the sentencing
guidelines." United States v. Flores-Machicote,
706 F.3d 16, 20 (1st Cir. 2013).
this backdrop, we turn to the appellant's asseverational
array. Because a reviewing court, in the sentencing context,
should first address claims of procedural error, see Martin,
520 F.3d at 92, we start there.