FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
PUERTO RICO [Hon. José Antonio Fusté, U.S.
Rivera-González for appellant.
A. Mathews II, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States
Attorney, and Nelson Pérez-Sosa, Assistant United
States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, were on brief,
Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
HOWARD, Chief Judge.
Pedro De La Cruz-García pled guilty to illegally
bringing aliens into the United States by boat in violation
of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(i). The district court
sentenced De La Cruz to thirty-eight months in prison based,
in part, on a ten-level enhancement for the death of a
passenger who jumped from the boat. For the reasons discussed
below, we affirm the sentence.
February 28, 2013, De La Cruz and two fellow citizens of the
Dominican Republic crowded twenty-six passengers from Haiti
onto their makeshift twenty-five-foot vessel named the
"Don Tino." The group set sail for United States
soil via the Mona Passage. Ultimately, the journey proved
unsuccessful. Law enforcement agents observed the vessel
approaching Mona Island, Puerto Rico, and reported the
illegal migrant landing to the Department of Homeland
being discovered by law enforcement, several passengers
jumped from the Don Tino in a last-ditch effort to reach
shore. The authorities apprehended all but one of the
passengers. An unaccounted-for Haitian woman, however,
remained in the water. After an unsuccessful rescue attempt,
the missing passenger's body, later identified as Gedette
Benjamin, was recovered off the coast of Mona Island.
in custody, De La Cruz agreed to speak with authorities and
described his plan to illegally enter the United States. The
ensuing investigation revealed that the three Dominican
Republic nationals, including De La Cruz, were responsible
for navigating and operating the Don Tino. De La Cruz agreed
to assist with the journey in return for free passage.
Cruz ultimately entered into an agreement with the government
and pled guilty to one count of bringing or attempting to
bring an alien into the United States at a place other than a
designated port of entry. See 8 U.S.C. §
1324(a)(1)(A)(i). The plea agreement expressly reserved De La
Cruz's right to oppose the U.S.S.G. § 2L1.1(b)(7)(D)
sentence enhancement, which applies "[i]f any person
died" during the commission of the offense. Ultimately,
the district court imposed the ten-level enhancement,
resulting in a guideline range of forty-one to fifty-one
months. The court varied below that range, sentencing De La
Cruz to thirty-eight months in prison and a three-year term
of supervised release.
appeal, De La Cruz challenges only the ten-level enhancement
pursuant to § 2L1.1(b)(7)(D).
review the district court's fact-finding under the
deferential "clear error" standard and its
"resolution of legal questions" de novo. United
States v. ...