650 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2011), 10-3028, United States v. Martinez

Docket Nº:10-3028.
Citation:650 F.3d 667
Opinion Judge:Kanne, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Erick MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Rajnath P. Laud (argued), Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee. Michael F. Clancy, Mary C. Meehan (argued), Attorneys, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before KANNE, WOOD, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 16, 2011
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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Page 667

650 F.3d 667 (7th Cir. 2011)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Erick MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 10-3028.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

June 16, 2011

Argued Feb. 23, 2011.

Page 668

Rajnath P. Laud (argued), Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Michael F. Clancy, Mary C. Meehan (argued), Attorneys, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellant.

Before KANNE, WOOD, and SYKES, Circuit Judges.

Kanne, Circuit Judge.

Erick Martinez was affiliated with the Latin Kings street gang throughout an extended period of his youth. During his time with the gang, Martinez sold crack cocaine in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago, activity that led to an arrest for crack distribution and drug conspiracy. In 2003, Martinez pled guilty to the conspiracy charge pursuant to a plea agreement. Rather than present himself for sentencing as planned, however, Martinez fled. Police caught up with him in 2008, and he again pled guilty— this time to the drug conspiracy and crack distribution charges. He was ultimately sentenced to 240 months' incarceration. Martinez now challenges his sentence, claiming that the obstruction of justice adjustment he received was improper and that his term of incarceration is " just too much." Because the obstruction adjustment was appropriate and the district court's sentence was reasonable, we affirm Martinez's sentence.

I. BACKGROUND

In 1998, Martinez joined the West Town Chapter of the Latin Kings street gang, an affiliation that would last until at least 2001. As part of his membership with the Chapter, Martinez became associated with an interesting cast of characters. Among this cast of malcontents were Leonard Clark, who was the leader (or " Inca" ) of the Chapter, and Juan Cruz, who was Clark's chief lieutenant (or " Cacicque" ). Also present were a number of disreputables who seemingly occupied the low- to mid-level ranks of the Chapter.1

Like any other enterprise, the Chapter needed funds to maintain itself, and it often utilized rank members like Martinez to make money via the crack cocaine trade. To facilitate crack distribution, the Chapter held meetings, where the payment of dues, the sale of drugs, and the gang's security operations were coordinated. Throughout his time with the Chapter, Martinez attended gang meetings, paid his dues (literally), and sold crack throughout the gang's area of dominance. On at least two occasions, Martinez returned some of the proceeds from his crack sales back to the Chapter. The various monies handed

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over to the Chapter by its members helped to fund something of a social program, subsidizing gun purchases, bonds for jailed gang members, gang security, presumably escalating funeral costs, and the like.

Unfortunately for Martinez, one of his many drug sales was to a cooperating witness of the FBI. In June 2003, Martinez and other Chapter members (the " Inca" and the " Cacicque," along with " Candyman," " Babyfat," and others with similarly creative street names) were arrested and charged with distribution of crack cocaine and drug conspiracy. By November 2003, Martinez could tell which way the wind was blowing and decided to cut his losses. To that end, he pled guilty to the conspiracy count of the indictment pursuant to a written plea agreement, promising to cooperate with the government in the process. Some other members of the Chapter that were charged in the indictment followed suit.

While Martinez initially cooperated with the government, his participation soon became fraught with problems. In early 2004, Martinez's attendance at trial preparation began to wane. By May 2004, Martinez was absent from the scene, having failed to show up for his sentencing hearing. After four years on the lam, Martinez was re-arrested in July 2008. In March 2010, he pled guilty to drug distribution and conspiracy, this time without a plea agreement.

Martinez's sentencing hearing occurred on August 19, 2010. At the hearing, Martinez agreed that his base offense level was properly calculated at 36, and that a two-level upward adjustment for gun possession was appropriate. In two steps that essentially cancelled each other out, the district court applied both a two-level upward adjustment to Martinez's offense level for obstruction of justice (over Martinez's objection) and a two-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility (over the government's objection). Based on two 2002 driving-while-suspended convictions, the district court went on to conclude that Martinez should be placed in criminal history category II; that category— coupled with his offense level of 38— yielded an advisory range of 262 to 327 months' incarceration. After hearing both sides' arguments regarding the § 3553(a) factors, the...

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