United States v. Renteria, 091118 FED3, 17-2079

Docket Nº:17-2079
Opinion Judge:FUENTES, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ZENAIDO RENTERIA, JR., Appellant
Attorney:Susan M. Lin, Esq. [Argued] Kairys Rudovsky Messing & Feinberg Attorney for Appellant. Louis D. Lappen, United States Attorney Bernadette A. McKeon, Esq. [Argued] Andrew J. Schell, Esq. Robert A. Zauzmer, Esq. Office of the United States Attorney Attorneys for Appellee.
Judge Panel:Before: GREENAWAY, JR., RENDELL, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:September 11, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
 
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

v.

ZENAIDO RENTERIA, JR., Appellant

No. 17-2079

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

September 11, 2018

Argued April 18, 2018

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 2:15-cr-00241-002) District Judge: Hon. Nitza I. Quinones Alejandro

Susan M. Lin, Esq. [Argued] Kairys Rudovsky Messing & Feinberg Attorney for Appellant.

Louis D. Lappen, United States Attorney Bernadette A. McKeon, Esq. [Argued] Andrew J. Schell, Esq. Robert A. Zauzmer, Esq. Office of the United States Attorney Attorneys for Appellee.

Before: GREENAWAY, JR., RENDELL, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FUENTES, Circuit Judge.

Petitioner Zenaido Renteria was involved in a drug trafficking conspiracy that conducted business in Pennsylvania and California. He was convicted at trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania of one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and one kilogram or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. He was sentenced to 153 months' imprisonment and five years of supervised release.

Renteria now appeals, arguing that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was not a proper venue for his case because it was not reasonably foreseeable to him that conduct in furtherance of the conspiracy would have occurred there. He also claims that the District Court gave incorrect jury instructions and that the District Court erred in its calculation of his offense level under the Sentencing Guidelines ("Guidelines"). Because we choose not to adopt a "reasonable foreseeability" test for venue, we conclude that the Eastern District of Pennsylvania was an appropriate venue for Renteria's case. We also conclude that the District Court's jury instructions were proper and that it did not err in its Guidelines calculation. Accordingly, we will affirm in all respects.

I.

A. The Investigation

In May 2015, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Jeffrey Kuc posed undercover as a methamphetamine and heroin trafficker in southeastern Pennsylvania. In this role, Kuc communicated over the phone with two men, known to him as Cejas and Juan, who used telephone numbers with Mexican country codes. From his location in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Kuc arranged for Cejas and Juan to send two kilograms of methamphetamine to a mailbox in Springfield, Pennsylvania. The men agreed that Kuc would pay $30, 000 for the drugs. They also agreed that after he received the methamphetamine, Kuc would deposit $2, 000 into a bank account provided by Cejas. Kuc would then pay the remaining $28, 000 in cash when he traveled to California shortly thereafter to purchase heroin and more methamphetamine.

Kuc received the methamphetamine shipment on May 29, 2015, and he deposited $2, 000 in an agreed-upon bank account the following day in Philadelphia. On June 3, 2015, Kuc traveled to Los Angeles and spoke to Cejas, who informed him that he would direct his contact in the area to reach out to Kuc.

Later that day, Kuc received a phone call from Renteria. After some negotiating, the two men formulated a plan to exchange methamphetamine and heroin for $146, 500-the value of the new drugs Kuc would receive plus the $28, 000 he owed for the prior Pennsylvania methamphetamine shipment. The next day, the men discussed a meeting time, and Renteria expressed that he was rushing to prepare for the transaction, explaining, "they just told me this yesterday."[1] Later, the men met at a fast food restaurant in Huntington Beach, California. There, after Kuc saw the drugs and gave other agents a prearranged signal, Renteria was arrested.

B. District Court Proceedings

Within a week of Renteria's arrest, a grand jury convened in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania returned a two-count indictment that charged him with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and one kilogram or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 ("count one") and possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and one kilogram or more of heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 ("count two").

Renteria, a California resident, filed a Motion to Change Venue requesting that his case be transferred to California, but the Motion was denied by the District Court.[2] He then moved to dismiss both counts one and two for lack of venue. The Government conceded that count two should be dismissed, but the District Court denied the motion with respect to count one.

Renteria proceeded to trial on count one in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. At trial, the District Court instructed the jury regarding venue, explaining in part: The government does not need to prove that the defendant himself was present in this district, instead [venue] can be established in this district if a co-conspirator has committed an act in furtherance of the conspiracy here even if the defendant did not know or did not reasonably foresee that the act occurred or would occur in this district.3

Renteria was convicted. Prior to sentencing, the Probation Office calculated Renteria's Guidelines range to be 151 to 188 months of imprisonment. In calculating the Guidelines range, the Probation Office determined Renteria's offense level by considering the quantities of heroin and methamphetamine that Renteria attempted to deliver to Kuc in California, as well as the quantity of methamphetamine shipped to Kuc in Springfield, Pennsylvania. Ultimately, after accounting for Renteria's minor role in the conspiracy, the Probation Office determined that Renteria had a total offense level of 34 and was in criminal history category I.

At Renteria's sentencing hearing, the District Court adopted the Probation Office's Guidelines calculation and explained that the applicable Guidelines range was 151 to 188 months of imprisonment. Neither side objected, although the Government contended that a reduction for being a minor participant should not be given. The District Court imposed a sentence of 153 months' imprisonment and five years' supervised release. Soon thereafter, Renteria appealed.4

II.

We will address each of Renteria's three issues on appeal in turn, beginning with venue.5 Although Renteria urges us to adopt a reasonable foreseeability test to analyze venue in conspiracy cases, we decline to do so.

Venue is a concept that stems from the Constitution itself, which "twice safeguards the defendant's venue right."6First, Article III mandates that "[t]he Trial of all Crimes . . . shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed."7 Second, the Sixth Amendment reiterates, "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed."8 The Federal Rules of...

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