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Crisostomo, Juan Cruz v. United States of America

November 20, 2012

CRISOSTOMO, JUAN CRUZ PETITIONER,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.:

Amended Opinion & Order

Pro se petitioner Juan Cruz Crisostomo ("Petitioner") petitions for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 ("Section 2255"), asking the Court to vacate, set-aside, or correct his sentence on the grounds that: (1) his sentence is substantively unreasonable because his co-defendant received a lesser sentence; (2) the Government acted vindictively and in ignorance of the facts of the case at sentencing; and (3) the Court should have used its discretion to impose a below-Guidelines sentence. [Dkt. No. 1.]

For the reasons set forth below, the Court DENIES the petition.

I.Background

On April 7, 2005, the Government charged Petitioner and a number of co-defendants for their roles in an international drug-trafficking and money laundering scheme. Petitioner was indicted for participating in a money laundering conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956.

On September 5, 2006, pursuant to an agreement with the Government, Petitioner pleaded guilty. This Court accepted his guilty plea in October 2006.

In the summer of 2008, while preparing for the trial of co-defendant Fatima Henriquez Diaz ("Diaz"), the Government discovered that Petitioner had violated his agreement. Diaz was ultimately convicted of money laundering conspiracy, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of one year and one day.

For purposes of Petitioner's sentencing, the Government argued that Petitioner should be sentenced to a Guidelines sentence (30 to 37 months imprisonment) and refused to submit a letter pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. Petitioner did not contest the Government's decision not to submit a § 5K1.1 motion, but requested a downward departure.

On July 14, 2009, at the sentencing hearing, the Court heard argument from both parties. Petitioner argued he should be given a lesser sentence than Diaz, who he claimed "brought him into the scheme." See United States v. Crisostomo, 04-CR-1353, at 10 (S.D.N.Y. July 14, 2009) (Wood, J.). The Government contended, however, that Petitioner hampered the overall investigation of the case. The Court found that if the Court were to adopt the advisory Sentencing Guidelines calculation, Petitioner's sentence would be within the range of 30 to 37 months in prison. Ultimately, the Court imposed a below-Guidelines sentence of 26 months. In considering Petitioner's sentence, the Court took into account both the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors and Petitioner's conduct over the course of the case.

Petitioner appealed to the Second Circuit, arguing that his sentence was substantively unreasonable because Diaz received a lesser sentence. United States v. Crisostomo, 392 F. App'x 894, 895 (2d Cir. 2010) (No. 09-3234). The Second Circuit upheld Petitioner's sentence, finding that "[t]he four-month downward variance suggests that the district court, in balancing factors, believed that the balance tipped in Cruz's favor but not overwhelmingly so. We think this is a reasonable conclusion and therefore find no abuse of discretion." Id. at 896. The Second Circuit also specifically rejected Cruz's argument premised on the disparity between his and Diaz's sentences. Id. ("[Section] 3553(a)(6) focuses on nationwide sentencing disparities, not those between co-defendants, and . . . while a district court may consider such intra-conspiracy disparities in the exercise of its discretion, it is not compelled to do so. Moreover, it is not clear that Cruz and his co-defendant were similarly situated. We therefore cannot fault the district court for not giving Cruz a more lenient sentence.").

II.Analysis

On April 26, 2010, Petitioner filed the instant habeas petition, arguing that (1) his sentence was substantively unreasonable because of the disparity between his and Diaz's sentences; (2) the Government acted vindictively in seeking a Guidelines sentence and was ill-informed about the case; and (3) the Court should have used its discretion to impose a lesser sentence.

A.Governing Legal Principles

Section 2255 allows a convicted person being held in federal custody to petition the sentencing court for an order vacating, setting aside, or correcting his sentence. 28 U.S.C. ยง 2255. Relief pursuant to Section 2255 is available "only for constitutional error, a lack of jurisdiction in the sentencing court, or an error of law or fact that constitutes a 'fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.'" United States v. Bokun, 73 F.3d 8, 12 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 428 (1962)). The ...


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