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United States v. Hernandez-Pineda

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 1, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Inmar Hernandez-Pineda Defendant-Appellant United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
v.
Inmar Hernandez-Pineda Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: October 17, 2016

         Appeals from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Sioux City

          Before RILEY, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

          RILEY, Chief Judge.

         This case is about whether Inmar Hernandez-Pineda's ten-year sentence for illegally reentering the United States, see 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), (b)(2), was reasonable. It is also, incidentally, about the dangers of running with knives. On the legal issue, we hold the sentence was within the district court's[1] discretion. The second point speaks for itself.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In late spring 2015, Hernandez-Pineda and Elim Escobar-Alvira tried to hold up a bakery in Sioux City, Iowa. Escobar-Alvira brought an unloaded sawed-off shotgun, Hernandez-Pineda carried a butcher knife. Things did not go well. While a bakery employee disarmed Escobar-Alvira and briefly wrestled him to the ground, Hernandez-Pineda bolted. On his way out, Hernandez-Pineda ran into the door and stabbed himself in the stomach. By the time Escobar-Alvira got up, Hernandez-Pineda was gone, along with their getaway van. Both perpetrators were caught within an hour, and Hernandez-Pineda was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery.

         The botched robbery brought Hernandez-Pineda, a citizen of El Salvador who had been removed from the United States twice before, to the attention of federal immigration authorities. Hernandez-Pineda eventually pled guilty to unlawful reentry in exchange for the government agreeing not to take a position on whether his various sentences should run concurrently or consecutively. He also admitted the reentry and robbery were violations of the terms of his supervised release for a 2013 illegal-reentry conviction.

         At a combined sentencing and revocation hearing, the district court acknowledged the uncontested United States Sentencing Guidelines (Guidelines) advisory range for the illegal reentry was 33 to 41 months. Because Hernandez-Pineda's original removal had followed an "aggravated felony" conviction-second-degree theft, for stealing a van and driving to Las Vegas, see Iowa Code § 714.2(2)-the statutory maximum was twenty years. See 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2). The government asked for half that, presenting evidence of the circumstances of the robbery, Hernandez-Pineda's gang membership, and the many other crimes he had previously committed. Hernandez-Pineda conceded "there are certainly aggravating factors in the case, " but argued they were mitigated by other considerations. He emphasized that he was brought to the United States as a toddler and has known no other home, virtually his entire family lives in Iowa, and he faced a substantial risk of violence in El Salvador, all of which arguably helped explain, if not justify, his decision to return to the United States. He also pointed out that an Iowa state court had already sentenced him to fifteen years on counts arising out of the robbery itself, so he would be serving a significant prison term regardless of how the district court ruled in this case.

         The district court agreed with the government and varied upward to 120 months, listing the following reasons:

The serious nature of the defendant's criminal conduct, the escalating nature of the defendant's criminal conduct, the repetitive nature of the defendant's criminal conduct, the fact that he's been to prison, he doesn't seem to have learned anything and gets out and then commits an even more serious offense than any of the offenses that caused him to go to prison.

         The district court also revoked Hernandez-Pineda's supervised release and sentenced him to 24 months for the admitted violations. The district court made half of each federal sentence-that is, six years total-consecutive, with the other halves to run concurrently with each other and the state sentences. See 18 U.S.C. § 3584(a). Hernandez-Pineda filed appeals from both sentences, which we consolidated for review, see 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (appellate jurisdiction), yet Hernandez-Pineda now focuses on the 120 months he received for the illegal reentry.[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         We review sentences for abuse of discretion. See Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 51 (2007). Hernandez-Pineda argues the district court abused its discretion by either failing to consider the factors that supported a shorter sentence-namely "the young age at which [he] came to the United States, the presence of his family in the United States, and his lengthy state prison sentence"-or committing a clear ...


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