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United States v. Castillo

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division

May 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent,
v.
BRYAN FELIPE CASTILLO, Defendant/Movant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOHN D. RAINEY SENIOR U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendant/Movant Bryan Felipe Castillo's (Castillo) Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, Or Correct Sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (D.E. 47).[1]

         I. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

         Castillo was arrested in 2013 after Border Patrol agents discovered two bags of a white substance in his pocket. The drugs field tested positive for methamphetamine. Castillo was charged in a single count Indictment with possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of a mixture or substance containing methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(B). Castillo pled guilty without a plea agreement.

         During rearraignment, Castillo testified he was not promised anything in exchange for his guilty plea. The Court advised Castillo of the punishment range of a minimum of five years up to 40 years' imprisonment, at least four years' supervised release, potential fines, and a special assessment of $100. Castillo testified he understood. D.E. 28, pp. 13-14. The Court further informed Castillo of the trial rights available to him. He testified that he understood those rights and understood that if he pled guilty he would be giving up those rights. Id., pp. 16-17.

         The Government provided a factual recitation regarding Castillo's possession of the methamphetamine. Castillo agreed with the Government's rendition of the facts. Id., pp. 23-26. The Court accepted Castillo's guilty plea.

         The Court ordered the U.S. Probation Office to prepare a Presentence Investigation Report. Probation determined that Castillo was responsible for 312.00 grams of 100% pure methamphetamine, which resulted in a base offense level of 34. After credit for acceptance of responsibility, his total offense level was 31. Castillo's criminal history category was IV, resulting in a guideline range of 151 to 188 months, with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

         Sentencing was held in February 2014. Defense counsel argued for a minor role reduction and a reduction based on Castillo's youth (age 21), mental health, and abandonment as a child. The Government argued for a low end Guideline sentence based upon Castillo's criminal history. The Court denied minor role, but sentenced Castillo below the Guidelines to 132 months' imprisonment.

         Castillo filed a late notice of appeal, and the Fifth Circuit dismissed his appeal as untimely. The Court later reduced Castillo's sentence to 121 months' imprisonment pursuant to Amendment 782.

         II. MOVANT'S ALLEGATIONS

         Castillo's § 2255 motion raises a single ground of relief: he pled guilty to possession of a mixture of methamphetamine, but was sentenced based on ICE, which has a harsher sentencing penalty. He states he did not understand the distinction at sentencing.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         There are four cognizable grounds upon which a federal prisoner may move to vacate, set aside or correct her sentence: 1) constitutional issues, 2) challenges to the district court's jurisdiction to impose the sentence, 3) challenges to the length of a sentence in excess of the statutory maximum, and 4) claims that the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255; United States v. Placente, 81 F.3d 555, 558 (5th Cir. 1996). “Relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 is reserved for transgressions of constitutional rights and for a narrow range of injuries that could not have ...


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