United States v. Gaspar-Felipe, No. 19-50997 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions and sentence for his role in an alien smuggling operation during which an alien died. The court concluded that there was no Confrontation Clause violation where the government undertook reasonable efforts to secure the attendance of deported witnesses at trial. The court also concluded that the government was not required to prove that defendant directly received payments for transporting the illegal aliens, and the district court did not abuse its discretion by including a statement saying such in the jury instructions. The court further concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's convictions.
In regard to defendant's sentence, the court concluded that there was no error in the district court's denial of a downward departure for defendant's acceptance of responsibility where he put the government to its burden of proof at trial. Furthermore, there was no error in the application of a ten-level enhancement for the death of one of the aliens. Finally, the court concluded that defendant's bottom-of-the-Guidelines sentence of 78 months was procedurally and substantively reasonable.