United States v. Blondet, S13 16-CR-387 (JMF)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Docket NumberS13 16-CR-387 (JMF)
Decision Date02 December 2022



LUIS BLONDET, Defendant.

No. S13 16-CR-387 (JMF)

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 2, 2022



Luis Blondet was a high-ranking member of a violent drug-trafficking organization based primarily in Puerto Rico. Between 2004, when the organization was founded, and 2016, members of the organization brutally murdered dozens of people. One of those people was Crystal Martinez-Ramirez, whom Blondet killed on April 9, 2005, after she rebuffed his sexual advances at a party. For this conduct, Blondet was charged with four crimes: conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, racketeering conspiracy, murder in aid of racketeering, and murder through the use of a firearm. He pleaded guilty to the first of these charges and went to trial on the other three. On April 8, 2022, a jury found Blondet guilty on all three of these charges.

On April 6, 2022, Luis Blondet moved, pursuant to Rule 29(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, for judgment of acquittal on the three counts tried to the jury. See ECF No. 693. On May 9, 2022, after the jury's verdict, Blondet renewed his motion. See ECF No. 749. By bottom-line Order entered on September 6, 2022, the Court denied Blondet's motion with respect to his conviction for racketeering conspiracy, but reserved judgment on his motion with respect to his convictions for the murder of Martinez-Ramirez. See ECF No. 784. As to those crimes, Blondet argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the


murder “for the purpose of . . . maintaining or increasing” his position in the racketeering enterprise, as required by the relevant statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a).

In one sense, Blondet's motion for judgment of acquittal on the two murder counts is academic: For his other two convictions, Blondet faces a sentence of up to life imprisonment, and there is little doubt that the Court can, even without the two murder counts, consider the killing of Martinez-Ramirez in imposing its sentence because it bears on, among other things, “the history and characteristics of the defendant,” “the need for the sentence imposed . . . to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,” and “to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). At the same time, Blondet's motion implicates the constitutional principle that no person may be convicted of a crime unless the Government has proved his guilt of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that that bedrock principle, and the plain language of Section 1959(a), mandate that Blondet's motion be granted. Put simply, as reprehensible as it was, Blondet's murder of Martinez-Ramirez arose from a purely personal dispute and there is no evidence to support the Government's theory that one of Blondet's purposes in committing the crime was to maintain or increase his position in the enterprise.


Blondet was originally indicted, with only one co-defendant, on a single charge of conspiracy to distribute or possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 841(b)(1)(A). See ECF No. 1. On January 9, 2017, Blondet pleaded guilty to that crime, for which he faces a sentence of between ten years and life in prison. See ECF No. 43, at 2, 12-14. Before the Court sentenced Blondet, however, a grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment charging him - and seven new co-defendants, including Julio Marquez-Alejandro - with even more serious crimes. See ECF No. 69 (“S1 Indictment”). To the extent relevant here, Count One of the Superseding Indictment charged Blondet with racketeering


conspiracy, in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); Count Two charged him with murder in aid of racketeering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1959(a)(1) & 2; and Count Three charged him with murder through the use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j)(1) & 2. Counts Two and Three both related to the alleged April 9, 2005 killing of Crystal Martinez-Ramirez.


On March 16, 2022, Blondet and Marquez-Alejandro went to trial on the charges in the Superseding Indictment. At trial, overwhelming evidence established that the two were members and leaders of a violent drug-trafficking organization called La Organization de Narcotraficantes Unidos, or La ONU, an alliance of smaller drug-trafficking organizations based in public housing projects in and around San Juan, Puerto Rico, including the neighboring Manuel A. Perez (“MAPA”) and San Jose public housing projects. Marquez-Alejandro was the leader of the MAPA crew and one of La ONU's founders; Blondet, a member of both the MAPA and San Jose crews, was one of Marquez-Alejandro's closest allies and, in 2013, one of his successors. Between in or about 2004, when La ONU was founded, through in or about 2016, members and associates of La ONU committed dozens of murders, attempted murders, and assaults; distributed thousands of kilograms of cocaine, including shipments from Puerto Rico to the Bronx, New York; and routinely bribed corrupt police officers to assist the enterprise in committing murders, distributing drugs, and providing intelligence about law enforcement and rival organizations.

Evidence about La ONU's formation, rules, purposes, members, and criminal activities came primarily from four former members of the organization who testified pursuant to cooperation agreements with the Government: Harold Figueroa-Sanchez; Reinaldo Cruz-Fernandez, a/k/a “Remy”; Jose Victor Pellot-Cardona, a/k/a “Vitito”; and Jorge Asencio Viera, a/k/a “Macar.” As they explained, Marquez-Alejandro and others formed La ONU to minimize conflict between and


among the drug crews in the different housing projects and to facilitate the purchase and sale of drugs. See Tr. 256, 280, 898-99, 1179, 1221, 1529.[1] The leaders of La ONU made decisions about drug prices, where and by whom drugs could be sold, and to whom they could be sold. See Tr. 256, 280. More significant for present purposes, the leaders of La ONU also made decisions, in Figueroa-Sanchez's words, “as to who lived and who died.” Tr. 256; see also Tr. 280, 292-93, 606, 1208, 1550. Indeed, as a “rule,” murders had to be “pre-approved” by the leaders of La ONU; in the case of murders within MAPA, that meant approval by Marquez-Alejandro. Tr. 607, 936; see also Tr. 292-93, 1550. Another “rule” provided that “women and children were not supposed to be murdered.” Tr. 607; see also Tr. 936. Violation of these rules usually meant death. As Cruz-Fernandez explained, for example, if someone committed a murder in MAPA that had not been authorized by Marquez-Alejandro, “[t]hat person would die too.” Tr. 936.

The evidence at trial made plain that members of La ONU killed with ruthless abandon. They killed people from rival crews; they killed rivals within La ONU; they killed La ONU members suspected of cooperating; they killed civilians who had reported criminal activity to the police; and so on. Indeed, the four cooperating witnesses who testified at trial, by themselves, admitted to a collective total of forty-nine murders. See Tr. 2136. For his part, Blondet was implicated in at least seven murders: the April 9, 2005 murder of Martinez-Ramirez, see Tr. 724-27; the April 29, 2008 murder of Hommysan Carino-Bruno, see Tr. 346-49, 360-61, 376-84, 919, 117274, 1242-43, 1514; the murder in or about 2016 of Alex DeJesus, see Tr. 1287-94; and two double murders that predated the formation of La ONU (evidence of which was admitted at trial for only


limited purposes), see Tr. 884-86, 887-91, 1207-10. Of these murders, however, Blondet was charged substantively with only one: the murder of Martinez-Ramirez.[2]

B. The Murder of Martinez-Ramirez

Martinez-Ramirez's body was found on April 9, 2005, on the sidewalk near the intersection of Calle Jerusalem and Calle Pena Lara in MAPA, down the block from a barbershop. See Tr. 669 70. Crime scene investigators observed and photographed a large amount of blood on the sidewalk in front of the barbershop, near a .380 caliber shell casing, as well as a trail of blood leading away from the barbershop and to the corner where Martinez-Ramirez's body was found. See Tr. 676-81; GX 210-F to -P. Inside the barbershop, investigators found another .380 caliber shell casing on the floor, as well as large amounts of blood, dollar bills, beer cans, cups, and bottles of alcohol throughout the barbershop. See Tr. 670-71, 681-88; GX 210-R to -JJ. In a “very small” bathroom near the back of the barbershop, there were a broken sink and a pair of earrings on the floor. See Tr. 689-90, 703-06; GX 210-KK to -LL; DX 14. An autopsy of Martinez-Ramirez revealed that she had been shot in the face and in the back of the head. See Tr. 640-43. The bullet wounds caused massive bleeding and damage to her central nervous system, leading to death. See Tr. 650.


Hector Velez-Santiago, an associate of La ONU subpoenaed by the Government to testify at trial, provided direct evidence of Blondet's role in Martinez-Ramirez's death. Tr. 718-27. Velez-Santiago testified that he first met Blondet in or about 2003 or 2004, when “Papito,” a member of La ONU, introduced them (although he knew Blondet to have been a been a member of La ONU with a drug spot in MAPA before they were introduced). See Tr. 718-19, 721-23. On the night of the murder, “Papito” invited Velez-Santiago to a party at the barbershop in MAPA to have some drinks before going out to a disco. See Tr. 723. Upon his arrival, Velez-Santiago was standing outside the barbershop making a telephone call when he saw a body “flying out of the barbershop” and...

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