United States v. Rene Lugo-Barcenas, No. 21-3863 (8th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Defendant pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute at least 50 grams of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine and as part of his plea agreement he agreed to waive some of his rights to appeal his conviction and sentence. He nonetheless appealed his sentence, arguing that the district court erred in applying the Sentencing Guidelines despite their harsh and disparate treatment of methamphetamine offenders, erred in treating the Guidelines as mandatory, and imposed an unreasonable sentence.
The Eighth Circuit concluded that the appeal waiver bars most of his appeal. As for the remainder, the court affirmed. The wrote that because the appeal waiver precludes appeal of the court's "abuse of discretion, or the imposition of an unreasonable sentence," the court dismissed this claim of error.
Further, even assuming that the district court erred in not sua sponte declaring the relevant methamphetamine Guidelines unconstitutional, the court concluded that any error was not plain. Defendant has cited scattered opinions from district courts across the country that take issue with the difference in treatment between those caught with pure methamphetamine and those with mixtures containing methamphetamine, but he hasn't shown that any of these courts held the relevant Guidelines unconstitutional. Those decisions instead appear to come from district courts that have taken these matters into consideration when selecting a sentence. Defendant has not pointed to any Supreme Court or circuit court authority to support his contention.