FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge]
S. McCutcheon, Research and Writing Specialist, Eric
Alexander Vos, Federal Public Defender, and Vivianne M.
Marrero-Torres, Assistant Federal Public Defender,
Supervisor, Appeals Section, on brief for appellant.
Carlos Reyes-Ramos, Assistant United States Attorney, Rosa
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney,
and Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, on brief for appellee.
Torruella, Lipez, and Thompson, Circuit Judges.
TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.
Carlos Vázquez appeals his sentence for possession of
a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking offense and
possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
October 31, 2014, local and federal agents searched the
residence where Vázquez lived with his girlfriend and
their two-year-old child; they also searched four vehicles
belonging to him. The agents discovered cocaine, crack
cocaine and marijuana, drug paraphernalia, two loaded assault
rifles, a loaded pistol, and more than one hundred fifty
rounds of ammunition. Some of the ammunition and "a
large quantity of crack cocaine" were lying in plain
view in the master bedroom, and marijuana, cocaine, and drug
paraphernalia were lying on the dining room table.
to a plea agreement, Vázquez pled guilty to violating
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) ("Count 1") and 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii) ("Count
5"). The parties recommended a sentence of sixty
months' imprisonment for Count 1, the statutory minimum.
For Count 5, Vázquez recommended a sentence of
thirty-seven months, and the Government recommended sixty
months. The imprisonment terms were to run consecutively.
sentencing, the district court calculated recommended
sentences of sixty months for Count 1 and thirty-three to
forty-one months for Count 5 under the United States
Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines"). The
district court discussed Vázquez's possession of
three guns, including "two assault weapons, "
"high-capacity" magazines, and various drugs and
drug paraphernalia "inside his house where a
one-and-a-half-to-two-year-old minor lived" and in his
vehicles. It also "considered Mr. Vázquez's
upbringing" and the need for deterrence,
"especially here in Puerto Rico, where . . . there is
just too much crime." The district court recognized that
murder rates had "gone down" substantially, which
it attributed to "people like Mr. Vázquez [being]
off the streets" and "the firearms initiative
between the Department of Justice of Puerto Rico and the
United States Attorney's Office."
the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a),
the district court determined that a sixty-month sentence for
Count 1 was "not an appropriate sentence" because
even "one pistol, one revolver, " would get a
sixty-month minimum sentence, but Vázquez had
"two assault weapons, a pistol, [and] a tremendous
amount of ammunition." Thus, "sixty months [did]
not reflect the seriousness of the offense, "
"protect the public" from Vázquez, or
district court therefore sentenced Vázquez to
eighty-four months' imprisonment for Count 1. However, it
expressed "concern" about the Government's
above-Guidelines recommendation of sixty months'
imprisonment for Count 5. It therefore sentenced
Vázquez within the Guidelines, although it considered
"a sentence at the higher end" of the Guidelines
range "appropriate" given "the amount of
drugs" and the presence of "a toddler" and
imposed a sentence of forty-one months for Count 5. The
sentences were to be served consecutively, for a total of 125
months of imprisonment.