United States v. Mendoza, 101420 FED9, 19-50161

Docket Nº:19-50161
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MIGUEL ANGEL MENDOZA, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before: KLEINFELD, HURWITZ, and BRESS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 14, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit



MIGUEL ANGEL MENDOZA, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 19-50161

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

October 14, 2020


Submitted October 5, 2020 [**] Pasadena, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California Anthony J. Battaglia, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:18-cr-03798-AJB-1

Before: KLEINFELD, HURWITZ, and BRESS, Circuit Judges.


Miguel Mendoza pleaded guilty to importation of methamphetamine and heroin pursuant to a plea agreement containing a waiver of his right to appeal. The district court found Mendoza ineligible for safety valve relief under § 5C1.2 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines and imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months. We dismiss Mendoza's appeal from that sentence in part and affirm in part.

1. In his plea agreement, Mendoza waived "all rights to appeal and to collaterally attack every aspect of the conviction and sentence." The only relevant exception allows him to "appeal a custodial sentence above the greater of 71 months or the statutory mandatory minimum term, if applicable." After determining that Mendoza did not qualify for safety valve relief, the district court imposed the statutory mandatory minimum term.

Mendoza's arguments as to why the appeal waiver does not apply are unavailing. The plea agreement memorializes Mendoza's understanding that he may not be found eligible for safety valve relief, and, if not, "may be subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence." Nor did the district court's comments at sentencing invalidate the appeal waiver; the court merely indicated that if Mendoza disagreed with the court's statement that the appeal waiver's exception was not triggered by the safety valve dispute, he was free to challenge that assessment in this Court. See United States v. Watson, 582 F.3d 974, 987-88 (9th Cir. 2009). And, neither Mendoza's challenge to the legality of his underlying conviction, see United States v. Johnson, 988 F.2d 941, 943 (9th Cir. 1993), nor the district court's safety valve determination, see United States v. Cardenas, 405 F.3d 1046, 1048 (9th Cir. 2005), implicate the illegal sentence exception, see United States v. Torres, 828 F.3d 1113, 1125 (9th Cir. 2016).

2. Assuming without deciding that Mendoza's claim that he was denied procedural due...

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