United States v. Porraz, 112719 FED7, 18-3545

Docket Nº:18-3545
Opinion Judge:SYKES, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party Name:United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Ruben Porraz, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:November 27, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
 
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United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Ruben Porraz, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 18-3545

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

November 27, 2019

Argued September 13, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 16 CR 463-7 - Virginia M. Kendall, Judge.

Before Bauer, Rovner, and Sykes, Circuit Judges.

SYKES, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Ruben Porraz was the leader of a Chicago chapter of the Latin Kings gang for about four years. In 2018 he pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961-1968. The district judge applied the base offense level for conspiracy to commit murder, factored in Porraz's criminal history, and sentenced him to 188 months in prison.

Porraz argues that his sentence was procedurally defective because he didn't kill anyone and murder wasn't a reasonably foreseeable part of the conspiracy. He also claims his sentence was substantively unreasonable because of unwarranted disparities between his sentence and sentences imposed on other Latin Kings members.

We affirm. Porraz's admitted conduct defeats his claim that murder was not a reasonably foreseeable part of his gang activities. And the judge considered and responded to his disparity arguments.

I. Background

The Latin Kings is a hierarchical and multinational violent street gang. The gang distributes cocaine, heroin, and marijuana; and engages in assault, burglary, homicide, identify theft, and money laundering, among other unlawful activities. Members have been prosecuted within this circuit on many occasions. See, e.g., United States v. Garcia, 754 F.3d 460 (7th Cir. 2014); United States v. Tello, 687 F.3d 785 (7th Cir. 2012); United States v. King, 627 F.3d 641 (7th Cir. 2010); United States v. Olson, 450 F.3d 655 (7th Cir. 2006).

Local groups of the Latin Kings are organized into "tribes" that represent specific neighborhoods and have ranked leaders. Near the top of the tribal hierarchy sits the "Inca"-the president. Ruben Porraz became a member of the 89th Street Chapter when he was only 13 years old. He rose in the ranks from soldier (the entry-level position) to Inca over a nine-year period.

As a soldier Porraz defended the chapter's territory with violence. He participated in "hood days," during which he stood with other gang members holding guns in order to protect the territory. He also brawled with and shot at rival gang members.

In 2000 Porraz was convicted of possession of a controlled substance and imprisoned for two years. From 2002 through 2011, Porraz had no run-ins with law enforcement. He satisfactorily completed his parole and was regularly employed.

Porraz again became an active member of the Latin Kings sometime between late 2012 and early 2013. At the request of the leadership, he assumed the role of Inca of the 89th Street Chapter. He controlled the chapter's drug-trafficking activities, ensured that the chapter was well stocked with guns, and required members to participate in hood days. He collected dues and ordered his subordinates to "smash on sight" (beat up) the members who didn't pay up.

In 2016 Porraz and 19 other defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering conspiracy. Porraz was indicted on a single RICO conspiracy count under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d). The indictment charged him with participating in the Latin Kings organization, knowing the gang engaged in murder, arson, robbery, extortion, witness tampering, and drug distribution.

Porraz pleaded guilty in 2018. In his plea declaration and at the change-of-plea hearing, Porraz admitted the following...

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