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9th Circuit Vacates Sentence; Remands

USA V. Jesus Rodriguez Docket: 21-50108, Opinion Date: August 17, 2022. Defendant was convicted of importing methamphetamine into the United States. He argued that the court should vacate his sentence and remand for resentencing because the district court erred in denying him a minor-role adjustment at sentencing and by erroneously concluding that he was not eligible for safety-valve relief. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court erred in analyzing whether to apply the minor role adjustment. Accordingly, the court vacated Defendant’s sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court started by correcting two legal errors that appear to have infected all of the district court’s analysis. First, the district court incorrectly held that Defendant’s recruiter’s culpability was not relevant to the minor-role analysis. Second, the district court appeared to treat each factor in the mitigating-role analysis as presenting a binary choice, but the commentary to Section 3B1.2 instructs courts to analyze the degree to which each factor applies to the defendant. Because the court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing, the court did not need to reach Defendant’s argument that the district court erred in concluding that he was not eligible for safety-valve relief.

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