Decided: April 29, 2014
The Fourth Circuit held that the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction; the district court’s sentencing enhancement for defendant’s use of a minor in the commission of a crime was warranted; the district court did not err in applying the sentencing enhancement for possession of a dangerous weapon to defendant; and any error in the application of sentencing enhancements regarding defendant’s use of a minor to commit a crime and defendant being an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor was harmless.
Defendants Erasto Gomez–Jimenez (“Erasto”) and Aaron Juarez–Gomez (“Juarez–Gomez”) were charged with various drug related charges including: conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute (P.W.I.D.) cocaine; distribution of cocaine on four separate occasions; P.W.I.D. cocaine, as well as aiding and abetting the P.W.I.D.; and finally, Jaurez-Gomez was charged for being an alien in possession of a firearm. Defendants appealed the application of various sentencing enhancements that the district court applied to their convictions. Specifically, Juarez–Gomez appealed the application of sentencing enhancements for use of a child in carrying out a crime and sentencing enhancement for being an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of a crime; Erasto appealed the application of sentencing enhancements for use of a child in a crime and possession of a firearm.
The Fourth Circuit reasoned that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence to support Juarez–Gomez’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute and possess cocaine because there was a trailer that was used to store drugs, contained firearms, and held materials used to package the cocaine for distribution. In addition, the Court noted that Juarez–Gomez returned to the trailer following drug sales, stayed in the trailer overnight, and his minor son, who participated in the drug activities, lived in the trailer with him. The Court reasoned that the application of the sentencing enhancement for use of a minor was warranted when Juarez–Gomez’s son lived in the trailer, sometimes paid rent, and accompanied his father on drug deals. As to Erasto, the Court determined that it was reasonably foreseeable that his coconspirator’s possession of a firearm would warrant application of the sentencing enhancement for firearm possession to Erasto. As to the leadership sentencing enhancement and use of child sentencing enhancement for Juarez–Gomez, the Court ruled that they were both harmless because the district court certified that it would apply the same penalty regardless of these enhancements.