273 F.3d 622 (5th Cir. 2001), 00-20355, United States v Bustos-Useche

Docket Nº:00-20355
Citation:273 F.3d 622
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDILSON BUSTOS-USECHE, also known as Pacifico Duarte, also known as Edilson Useche Bustos, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:November 13, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
FREE EXCERPT

Page 622

273 F.3d 622 (5th Cir. 2001)

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

EDILSON BUSTOS-USECHE, also known as Pacifico Duarte, also known as Edilson Useche Bustos, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 00-20355

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

November 13, 2001

Page 623

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division

Before EMILIO M. GARZA, and PARKER, Circuit Judges, and ELLISON,

Page 624

District Judge.[*]

ROBERT M. PARKER, Circuit Judge:

Defendant-Appellant Edilson Bustos-Useche pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance in violation of the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act. See 46 U.S.C. app. § 1903. The district court sentenced Bustos to 210 months in prison, followed by a five-year term of supervised release. On appeal, Bustos argues that the district court did not have jurisdiction to accept his guilty plea, that the court should have suppressed his statement to United States Coast Guard officials, and that the court erroneously enhanced his offense level for possession of a dangerous weapon.

I. Facts

In May of 1999, the M/V CHINA BREEZE, a 510-foot Panamanian freighter bound for Portugal, sailed through the international waters south of the passage between Hispanola and Puerto Rico. The United States government suspected the vessel's use in drug trafficking based on information from federal authorities in Greece. On May 27, 1999, the Panamanian government issued a statement of no objection to allow the United States Coast Guard to board the freighter and search for contraband. The Coast Guard boarded the vessel and found four tons of cocaine in a disabled sewage tank. The following day, Panama gave express permission for the enforcement of United States laws on the vessel. The Coast Guard then ordered the M/V CHINA BREEZE to Galveston, Texas. During the ten-day voyage to Galveston, Coast Guard officials questioned the crew members about the hidden cocaine.

Agent Mihalopoulos of the Drug Enforcement Administration interviewed Bustos on May 31, 1999. Three other uniformed officers and a translator were present during the interview. After Agent Mihalopoulos recited the Miranda Warnings, Bustos asked the officers whether his right to counsel entailed postponing the interview until a lawyer arrived. One of the officers stated that Bustos was correct. Bustos claimed that an officer told him that it would be in his best interest to cooperate because he was facing a potential twenty-year prison sentence. Bustos began crying and agreed to give a statement.

When asked about his identification, Bustos claimed that the documents identifying him as Pacifico Duarte, a Panamainian citizen born on December 4, 1975, were falsified. Bustos stated he was Edilson Bustos-Useche from Columbia, born on June 9, 1977. He explained that he traveled from Colombia to Panama in 1998 to obtain the false identification so that he could work as a seaman on a Panamanian vessel. Bustos admitted to being on three voyages where drugs were transported. Bustos claimed he was responsible for accounting for the cocaine on the M/V CHINA BREEZE. He also admitted that he possessed a .38 caliber revolver, which he threw overboard when he heard the Coast Guard helicopters.

Following his arraignment, Bustos filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to the Coast Guard and DEA officials. Bustos also objected to the court's jurisdiction claiming that his true date of birth was February 20, 1983, and therefore he was a juvenile at the time of the offense and indictment. Bustos also filed a motion to incorporate and adopt the motions of his co-defendants, who argued that the court

Page 625

lacked jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. app. § 1903(c) because Coast Guard officials did not have consent from the Panamanian government to enforce United States laws at the time the officials seized the cocaine. The district court rejected Bustos's arguments and set the case for trial. On November 9, 1999, Bustos volunteered an unconditional guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance under 46 U.S.C. app. § 1903(a) and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance pursuant to 46 U.S.C. § 1903(j). Prior to sentencing, Bustos objected to the two-level enhancement recommendation in the presentence report, arguing that his possession of a firearm was unrelated to the charged offenses. The district court adopted the conclusions in the presentence report and sentenced Bustos to a 210-month term of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

II. Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act

Bustos claims that the district court did not have jurisdiction to accept his plea because the M/V CHINA BREEZE was not subject to United States jurisdiction at the time the officers seized the hidden cocaine. Before reaching the merits of Bustos's argument, we assess whether his guilty plea prevents him from raising the issue on appeal.

A. Effect of Bustos's Guilty Plea

A guilty plea forecloses appellate review of the factual and legal elements necessary to sustain a final judgment of guilt...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP