April 24, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v Gomez-Jimenez and Juarez-Gomez

Gomez pled guilty to drug charges and Juarez was convicted of drug charges. Gomez challenged his sentence and Juarez challenged two convictions and his sentence. The panel, with one judge dissenting in part, affirmed. The whole panel affirmed Juarez convictions holding evidence of the undisputed crack sales and presence in a stash house were sufficient to support the finding of guilt. As to Juarez’ sentence, the majority held that use of a minor enhancement was proper as he had his son pay rent on the stash house and a coconspirator took the son to drug sales. As to Gomez’s sentence, the majority held that the weapons enhancement was proper as the firearms were found in the stash house, Gomez lived in the stash house and an electric bill in his name was found there. The majority held that even if a leadership enhancement in Gomez case or the use of minor enhancement in Juarez case were improper, any error was harmless as the district court declared it would have given the same sentences and those sentences would have been reasonable given the individualized analysis of the district court. The partial dissent argued the minor enhancement was erroneous as paying rent and presence at the stash house is not enough to support a finding of “use” and the mere statement by the district court that it would have imposed the same sentences in not enough as it must also explain why if review of sentences is to remain something more than an academic exercise.

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