United States v. Pineda-Hernandez, No. 18-2261 (7th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Police found more than 80 grams of red methamphetamine in a car. The ensuing investigation resulted in the indictment of 12 people for a drug-distribution conspiracy; 11, including Garcia, pleaded guilty. Pineda-Hernandez stood trial and was convicted. The Seventh Circuit found that the judge improperly enhanced Garcia’s sentence based on a prior drug conviction. That conviction involved an Indiana law that then banned manufacturing or delivering “marijuana, hash oil, hashish, or salvia.” Decisions by Indiana’s Supreme Court and Court of Appeals show the statute is not divisible and the modified categorical approach does not apply. Inclusion of salvia in the statute excludes it from the federal definition of “felony drug offense,” so Garcia’s prior conviction is not a “felony drug offense” and does not support the sentencing enhancement. The court affirmed with respect to Pineda-Hernandez, who spoke little English, rejecting claims of multiple errors involving an alleged language-interpretation debacle and that the judge improperly augmented his sentence based on his role. No widespread or particular interpretation errors deprived Pineda-Hernandez of due process. Pineda-Hernandez’s arguments that he was not the leader or organizer do not overcome the bulk of the evidence showing he exercised some significant control and was responsible for some significant organization of others.