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United States v. Vargas

May 5, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
RAPHAEL VARGAS, ALSO KNOWN AS RALPH, ALSO KNOWN AS GORDO, ALSO KNOWN AS RALPHY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Defendant Raphael Vargas appeals from a March 2008 judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Johnson, J.), which he claims unlawfully extended his sentence of supervised release. The district court initially sentenced Vargas to five years of supervised release but revoked the supervised release and sentenced Vargas to six months of home confinement in January 2008. The March 2008 judgment continued the original supervised release term. We conclude that the district court could properly reimpose or extend the term of supervised release, but only after considering the relevant factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). Because the district court did not do so, we VACATE the March 2008 judgment and REMAND to the district court for resentencing based on consideration of the section 3553(a) factors.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Restani, Judge

Argued March 13, 2009

Before: CALABRESI and LIVINGSTON, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI,*fn1 Judge.

Defendant Raphael Vargas appeals from a March 2008 judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Johnson, J.). The district court initially sentenced Vargas to five years' supervised release. In January 2008, the district court found that Vargas violated a condition of supervised release, revoked the supervised release, and sentenced him to six months of home confinement. In March 2008, the district court entered a judgment continuing Vargas' original five-year supervised release term. Vargas claims that this judgment unlawfully extended his supervised release. We conclude that the January 2008 judgment did not plainly continue or terminate Vargas' original supervised release and that neither the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution nor 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(2) prevented reimposition or extension of the period of supervised release. The district court, however, was required to consider the relevant factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) before imposing the sentence. Because the district court did not consider those factors, we vacate the March 2008 judgment and remand the case to the district court for resentencing based on consideration of those relevant factors.

BACKGROUND

In December 1998, Vargas pled guilty to distributing cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), which is punishable by a minimum of ten years' imprisonment, a maximum of life imprisonment, and a term of supervised release of at least five years. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b). In April 1999, the district court sentenced Vargas to ten years of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

Vargas' supervised release began on March 16, 2007. One condition of supervised release required that Vargas obtain full-time employment. Vargas did not become employed for several months and pled guilty to violating the condition at a proceeding on January 8, 2008. The district court determined that "the sentence [for the violation] is going to be six months home confinement" with electronic monitoring. (Appellant's App. 23.) The district court entered judgment on a form entitled "JUDGMENT . . . (For Revocation of . . . Supervised Release)," stating that "the defendant shall be on supervised release for a term of: Six (6) months home confinement and electronic monitoring." (Id. at 26--27.) The district court did not mention at the proceeding or in the written judgment whether Vargas would serve any term of supervised release after the home confinement.

On March 17, 2008, however, the district court continued the original term of supervised release. The district court also entered judgment on a form entitled "AMENDED . . . JUDGMENT . . . (For Revocation of . . . Supervised Release)," stating that "the defendant shall be on supervised release for a term of: Supervised release continued. Six (6) months home confinement and electronic monitoring." (Id. at 35--36.)

Vargas appeals the March 2008 judgment. Vargas argues that because the district court revoked his supervised release and sentenced him to home confinement in January 2008, absent a new violation of his conditions of supervised release, the court could not continue the original term of supervised release, and that the court's March 2008 judgment was not authorized under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 35(a)*fn2 and 36*fn3 or under the federal supervised release statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3583. Vargas also argues that the March 2008 judgment violated the Double Jeopardy Clause.

JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a). We review de novo the district court's authority to modify or extend Vargas' term of supervised release, see United States v. Barresi, 361 F.3d 666, 671--72 (2d Cir. 2004), and Vargas' double jeopardy challenge, see United States v. Dionisio, 503 F.3d 78, 81 (2d Cir. 2007).

DISCUSSION

This appeal arises from a misunderstanding among the parties and the district court regarding the January 2008 judgment. In the March 2008 proceeding, the district court apparently concluded that the January 2008 judgment omitted the important language that supervised release is "continued or discontinued" and concluded that it could correct the omission in the March proceeding. (Appellant's App. 31--33.) Vargas argues that the revocation of supervised release and failure to mention in the January 2008 judgment any term of supervised release after the home confinement unambiguously indicates that his sentence would end after he served the six months of home confinement. The Government argues that the six-month sentence was only a punishment for the violation of the condition of supervised release ...


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