United States v. Cruz-Mendez, No. 14-50154 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Defendant plead guilty to possessing 100 kilograms or more of marijuana on a vessel and was sentenced to 80 months in prison, as well as a consecutive 12 month sentence for violation of the terms of supervised released imposed in a prior case. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a two-level enhancement to defendant's offense level for the marijuana conviction pursuant to U.S.S.G. 2D1.1(b)(3)(C) (the “pilot/captain” enhancement). By defendant's own account, he was a lifelong fisherman hired to transport marijuana bales, and in so doing he operated a boat laden with substantial cargo in open water by controlling both its speed and direction. The court also concluded that defendant's below-Guidelines sentence is not substantively unreasonable where the district court exercised its discretion in departing downward from the Guidelines range, just not by as many months as defendant requested. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.