FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. Carmen Consuelo Cerezo, U.S. District
Alexander Vos, Federal Public Defender, Vivianne M. Marrero,
Assistant Federal Public Defender, Supervisor, Appeals
Section, and Liza L. Rosado-Rodríguez, Research and
Writing Specialist, on brief for appellant.
Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney,
Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States
Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Thomas F. Klumper,
Assistant United States Attorney, Senior Appellate Counsel,
on brief for appellee.
Thompson, Boudin, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.
November 2014, Norman Vallellanes-Rosa
("Vallellanes") committed multiple armed robberies
and carjackings around Bayamón, Puerto Rico. On
November 13, Vallellanes and three others robbed a man at
gunpoint before stealing his car. On November 14, Vallellanes
and another individual participated in a separate armed and
violent carjacking. And finally, on November 26, Vallellanes
and two other individuals entered a man's home with a
loaded gun and committed yet another carjacking.
was charged in Puerto Rico Superior Court for crimes
committed during the first and third of these incidents;
Vallellanes pled guilty and received concurrent nineteen-year
November 14 incident, Vallellanes was charged in a two-count
federal indictment. He pled guilty to carjacking with the
intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, 18 U.S.C.
§ 2119, and to carrying and brandishing a firearm during
and in relation to a crime of violence, id. §
924(c)(1)(A)(ii). On appeal, Vallellanes challenges the
sentences imposed for these two offenses.
total offense level adopted by the district court for the
section 2119 offense, coupled with Vallellanes's criminal
history category ("CHC") of III, produced a
guidelines sentencing range of seventy to eighty-seven
months. The section 924(c) violation carried a mandatory
minimum term of eighty-four months, 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(ii), which was also the recommended sentence
under the guidelines, U.S.S.G. § 2K2.4(b).
did not challenge the guidelines calculations (nor does he on
appeal). Rather, defense counsel proposed a sentence of
eighty-four months for the section 924(c) violation and
requested a downward variant sentence of time served--about
twenty months--for the section 2119 violation.
counsel pointed to Vallellanes's adverse personal
circumstances, including his father's leaving the family
when Vallellanes was six years old, his mother and
stepfather's drug use and their deaths, and his
subsequent entry into the foster care system. According to
defense counsel, Vallellanes's criminal behavior began
when he went "astray" after a period of successful
participation in community extracurricular activities.
counsel invoked Dean v. United
States, which held that a district court can consider
the sentence imposed under section 924(c) when determining a
just sentence for the predicate crime of violence or drug
trafficking. 137 S.Ct. 1170, 1176-78 (2017). Given the
mandatory minimum for Vallellanes's section 924(c) count,
18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(ii), and section 924(c)'s
requirement that any sentence imposed be "in addition
to" (i.e., consecutive to) the punishment for
the predicate crime, id. § 924(c)(5),
Vallellanes's counsel urged that a term greater than time
served for the carjacking offense would result in an overall
government agreed with defense counsel's proposal for a
sentence at the mandatory minimum of eighty-four months for
the section 924(c) violation. But, given Vallellanes's
criminal history and the offense conduct, the government
argued that a downward variance for the section 2119
violation was not warranted. The government cited the fact
that Vallellanes was "on a crime spree," having
committed the instant offenses just a day after one of the
locally charged armed carjackings and robberies. The
government also explained that Vallellanes demonstrated
"extreme cruelty to the victim" during the instant
carjacking: Over a period of several hours, Vallellanes and
his co-defendant threatened, beat, and robbed the victim. At
one point, the victim was placed in the trunk of his car.
Still, the government suggested a mid-guidelines sentence of
seventy-eight months for the 2119 offense.
district court imposed a sentence of eighty-four months for
the section 924(c) offense and seventy months for the section
2119 offense, rejecting Vallellanes's request for a
downward variance (yet imposing a sentence lower than that
requested by the government). Given the dictates of section
924(c)(5), the ...