United States v. Santana

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
Citation962 F.Supp.2d 906
Docket NumberCase No. 10–20635.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Hector SANTANA, Manuel Antonio Soto, Christopher Espinoza, and Juan Ramon Respardo–Ramirez, Defendants.
Decision Date12 August 2013

962 F.Supp.2d 906

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Hector SANTANA, Manuel Antonio Soto, Christopher Espinoza, and Juan Ramon Respardo–Ramirez, Defendants.

Case No. 10–20635.

United States District Court,
E.D. Michigan,
Southern Division.

Aug. 12, 2013.


[962 F.Supp.2d 912]


Eric Doeh, U.S. Attorney, Detroit, MI, Dawn N. Ison, Rita E. Foley, U.S. Attorney's Office, Detroit, MI, for Plaintiff.

Elias J. Escobedo, Jr., Waterford, MI, for Defendants.


OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL OR NEW TRIAL

DAVID M. LAWSON, District Judge.

Before the Court are motions by four defendants for judgment of acquittal or new trials. The government has responded and the motions are fully briefed. The Court has reviewed the submissions of the parties and finds that the relevant law and facts have been set forth in the motion papers and that oral argument will not aid in the disposition of the motion. Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the motion be decided on the papers submitted. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).

Following a jury trial, the defendants were convicted of various conspiracies dealing with kidnapping, drug and firearm offenses. Defendant Manuel Antonio Soto also was convicted of obstruction of justice. The defendants raise challenges to their convictions based on the sufficiency of the evidence. Some of the challenges are similar; others are not. In addition, defendant Soto raises a challenge based on the failure of his trial counsel to challenge four search warrants. The Court will discuss the defendants' challenges to each count of the indictment together and then address defendant Soto's challenge based on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

I.

The facts of the case are well known to the parties. For context, the Court will summarize the trial evidence relevant to the motions.

The four defendants in this case were charged in a Fourth Superseding Indictment filed on April 2, 2013 with five counts: conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(ii)(II) (count I), conspiracy to kidnap in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(a)(1)(C) (count V), kidnapping, aiding and abetting in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201 (count VI), possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (count VII), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of and during and in relation to a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (count VIII). The guns charged in counts VII and VIII were a Llama Mini Max 45–caliber sub-compact semi-automatic handgun, a Pietro Beretta Model 92 9mm caliber semi-automatic, and a Colt Model Cup National Match Model 45–caliber semi-automatic handgun with serial number NM50277. In addition, defendants Hector Santana, Manuel Antonio Soto, and Christopher Espinoza were charged with possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, aiding and abetting in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B)(ii)(II) (count II) and defendant Manuel Antonio Soto was charged with obstruction of justice, tampering with a witness, victim or an informer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1), (2)(A). The indictment charged that the defendants were involved in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy between November 26, 2008 and

[962 F.Supp.2d 913]

January 23, 2012 and that in October 2009 the defendants conspired to kidnap Jose Ezequiel Enriquez–Enriquez for the purpose of collecting a drug debt. After a jury trial, the defendants were convicted of all charges with the following exceptions: defendant Espinoza was acquitted of count I and defendant Respardo–Ramirez was acquitted of count V.

At trial, the government presented testimony from Erik Freeman, Vanissa Gudino, and Jose Bravo–Garcia, along with several law enforcement officers.

Erik Freeman testified that he was involved in selling cocaine with Jose Enriquez–Enriquez and Francisco Enriquez–Enriquez. Trial Tr. Apr. 22, 2013 at 9–10. The Enriquez–Enriquez brothers sold Freeman cocaine that they obtained from suppliers in Chicago, including defendant Santana and Bravo–Garcia. Id. at 11–12. Freeman testified that in October 2009, Jose Enriquez–Enriquez called him and told him that he had cocaine to sell from his sources in Chicago. Id. at 23. Freeman met with Enriquez–Enriquez, Santana, Bravo–Garcia, Espinoza, Bravo–Garcia's girlfriend, and a man with facial tattoos. Id. at 25–27. They proceeded to a house on Washburn in two separate cars, and Enriquez–Enriquez, Santana, and Bravo–Garcia walked kilograms of cocaine into the residence one at a time. Id. at 29–30. Freeman cooked some of the cocaine to ensure that it was pure. Id. at 31. The group then moved to a house on Asbury Park to complete the transaction. Id. at 32–33. Freeman entered the house carrying the money with the other men walking behind him. Id. at 36–37. Bravo–Garcia, Espinoza, and the man with the facial tattoos pulled out guns and pointed them at Freeman. Id. at 39. Freeman asked the men to take the money and leave. Ibid. Bravo–Garcia told Freeman to go into the basement, where Freeman was duct-taped to a pole. Id. at 39–40. Either Espinoza or the man with facial tattoos removed Freeman's wallet, keys, and phone from his pocket. Id. at 41. Freeman freed himself about an hour later. Id. at 86. The government introduced intercepted conversations between Freeman and several of his associates relating to cocaine transactions, the robbery, and the kidnapping. Id. at 51–83.

Vanissa Gudino testified that Jose Bravo–Garcia was her ex-boyfriend and that he was involved in dealing cocaine. Trial Tr. Apr. 22, 2013 at 172, 174. Through her relationship with Bravo–Garcia, she met defendant Santana, who she called Bravo–Garcia's right-hand man. Id. at 175–76. According to Gudino, defendant Santana picked up and delivered cocaine from defendant Soto for Bravo–Garcia. Id. at 177. Jose Bravo–Garcia testified that defendant Soto sold him kilograms of cocaine at a rate of approximately six to eight kilograms per week. Trial Tr. Apr. 30, 2013 at 34. Defendant Respardo–Ramirez delivered the cocaine to Bravo–Garcia on defendant Soto's behalf. Id. at 35. Bravo–Garcia sold cocaine to Freeman through Jose Enriquez–Enriquez. Id. at 40. Bravo–Garcia testified that defendant Santana worked for him delivering cocaine, including a delivery of five kilograms of cocaine to Freeman in October 2009. Id. at 41, 43. Bravo–Garcia testified that a plan to deliver ten kilograms of cocaine on behalf of defendant Soto to Jose Enriquez–Enriquez and, in turn, to Freeman, went awry when a middleman took the drugs without paying for them. Id. at 48–56.

In October 2009, Gudino and Bravo–Garcia made two trips to Detroit. Trial Tr. Apr. 22, 2013 [hereinafter Gudino] at 181; Trial Tr. Apr. 30, 2013 [hereinafter Bravo–Garcia] at 57. The first trip included Gudino, Bravo–Garcia, defendant Santana, defendant Espinoza, and Anthony

[962 F.Supp.2d 914]

Ramirez. Gudino at 182; Bravo–Garcia at 57. The purpose of the trip was to collect the money owed for the cocaine that Bravo–Garcia fronted or to kidnap the person who had stolen the money; defendant Soto had been “hounding” Bravo–Garcia for the money or for the person who had received the drugs. Gudino at 183; Bravo–Garcia at 56. All of the individuals involved were aware of the purpose of the trip and bought zip ties to restrain the victim. Gudino at 190, 194; Bravo–Garcia at 58–59, 71. The plan was for Bravo–Garcia to pretend to do a drug transaction with the victim, Jose Enriquez–Enriquez. Gudino at 196; Bravo–Garcia at 59. Defendants Santana and Espinoza confronted Enriquez–Enriquez with guns and forced him and another unidentified individual into a minivan. Gudino at 196–97; Bravo–Garcia at 68–69. They drove to Chicago, where defendants Soto and Respardo–Ramirez joined them. Gudino at 205; Bravo–Garcia at 72–73. Defendant Soto was holding a gun; according to Bravo–Garcia, defendant Respardo–Ramirez also was carrying a gun in the waistband of his pants. Trial Tr. Apr. 23, 2013 [hereinafter Gudino 2] at 6; Bravo–Garcia at 74. After questioning the victims for approximately an hour, defendant Soto left and defendant Respardo–Ramirez remained to watch the victims. Gudino 2 at 11; Bravo–Garcia at 87. At that point, defendant Respardo–Ramirez was holding a gun and occasionally placing the gun on a table. Gudino 2 at 12–13.

The next day, Gudino and Bravo–Garcia went on the second trip to Detroit. Gudino 2 at 16; Bravo–Garcia at 87, 90. The purpose of the trip was to rob Freeman, an associate of Enriquez–Enriquez, to recover the money owed to defendant Soto, who agreed to the plan. Gudino 2 at 16; Bravo–Garcia at 87–88. On the trip were Gudino, Bravo–Garcia, Anthony Ramirez, defendant Espinoza, defendant Santana, and Enriquez–Enriquez. Gudino 2 at 19–20; Bravo–Garcia at 87. They brought three kilograms of cocaine and three guns, two of which had been provided by defendant Soto. Gudino 2 at 21; Bravo–Garcia at 88–89. Bravo–Garcia testified that defendant Respardo–Ramirez had nothing to do with the guns. Trial Tr. May 1, 2013 at 65–67. Bravo–Garcia also testified that the guns were the same guns that had been used during the kidnapping the day before. Bravo–Garcia at 89. The unknown victim remained in Chicago with defendant Respardo–Ramirez. Gudino 2 at 49; Bravo–Garcia at 87. When the group met Freeman, they gave Freeman the cocaine to test one kilogram at a time. Gudino 2 at 28; Bravo–Garcia at 98–100. Freeman entered a house to retrieve money to pay for the cocaine, and Bravo–Garcia, Espinoza, Ramirez, and Santana followed him in, carrying guns. Gudino 2 at 32–33; Bravo–Garcia at 102, 105. Bravo–Garcia, Espinoza, and Ramirez pointed guns at Freeman and Freeman and Enriquez–Enriquez dropped to the ground. Bravo–Garcia at 105–06. According to Bravo–Garcia,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • United States v. Soto
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 8 Noviembre 2022
    ...Court sentenced Soto to 516 months (43 years) in prison. Soto's post-trial motions for relief were denied, United States v. Santana, 962 F.Supp.2d 906, 912 (E.D. Mich. 2015); his convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal, United States v. Soto, 794 F.3d 635, 665 (6th Cir. 2015); and......
  • Harris v. Barrett, CASE NO. 2:13-CV-14647
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 19 Junio 2014
    ...house and property and is thus not entitled to relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. See U.S. v. Santana, 962 F. Supp. 2d 906, 926 (E.D. Mich. 2013). Moreover, if petitioner had refused consent, the police would most likely have obtained a warrant to search. The "inevitable......
  • Espinoza v. United States, Criminal Case Number 10-20635
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 20 Abril 2020
    ...in furtherance of a crime of violence, namely the kidnapping. The Court denied the motions on all grounds. United States v. Santana, 962 F. Supp. 2d 906, 912 (E.D. Mich. 2015). On appeal, Espinoza repeated his insufficiency-of-evidence argument as to Counts 2 and 7, the cocaine delivery and......
  • United States v. Soto
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • 10 Septiembre 2020
    ...The total custody sentence was 516 months, or 43 years. Soto's post-trial motions for relief were denied, United States v. Santana, 962 F. Supp. 2d 906, 912 (E.D. Mich. 2015), and his convictions and sentences were affirmed on appeal, United States v. Soto, 794 F.3d 635, 665 (6th Cir. 2015)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT