United States v. Trejilio Garcia-Vasquez

PRECEDENTIAL UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT _______________ No. 22-2219 _______________ UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. TREJILIO GARCIA-VASQUEZ, a/k/a Trejelio Garcia, Appellant _______________ On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (No. 2-18-cr-00508-001) District Judge: Honorable Katharine S. Hayden _______________ Argued: April 25, 2023 Before: KRAUSE, BIBAS, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges (Filed: June 5, 2023) _______________ Louise Arkel Evan J. Austin [ARGUED] Saverio A. Viggiano FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER’S OFFICE 1002 Broad Street Newark, NJ 07102 Counsel for Appellant Mark E Coyne John F. Romano [ARGUED] U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE 970 Broad Street, Room 700 Newark, NJ 07102 Counsel for Appellee _______________ OPINION OF THE COURT _______________ BIBAS, Circuit Judge. Courts must read broad phrases broadly. Trejilio Garcia- Vasquez was convicted of a drug-trafficking conspiracy and deported. Then he reentered the country illegally. After he pleaded guilty to illegal reentry, the judge enhanced his sen- tence based on his conspiracy conviction. He disputes that en- hancement, claiming that his drug-trafficking-conspiracy con- viction does not count as a “drug trafficking offense” because it did not require selling drugs. But the phrase is broad enough to reach drug-trafficking conspiracies even without an overt act. So we will affirm his sentence. I. GARCIA-VASQUEZ’S COCAINE CONSPIRACY, DEPORTATION, AND REENTRY Garcia-Vasquez is a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic. He first came to the United States illegally in the 1990s. Once here, he joined a drug-trafficking ring. He was 2 arrested and, in 1999, convicted of conspiring to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. After serving his seventy-month federal prison sentence, he was removed to the Dominican Republic in 2003. Garcia-Vasquez later returned to the United States illegally. And he returned to dealing drugs. He was arrested and con- victed in New Jersey state court of distributing heroin and other drug offenses and, in 2019, sentenced to ten years’ imprison- ment. The next year, New Jersey released him to federal immi- gration authorities. After that, Garcia-Vasquez pleaded guilty to reentering the country illegally after having been convicted of an aggravated felony and removed, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a), (b)(2). At his first sentencing, the judge used the wrong edition of the Sentencing Guidelines Manual. So this Court vacated and re- manded for resentencing. At resentencing, the parties disputed how much to enhance Garcia-Vasquez’s illegal-reentry sentence based on his 1999 cocaine-conspiracy conviction. The government advocated a sixteen-level enhancement under Sentencing Guideline § 2L1.2(b)(1)(A)(i) (2015). Indeed, the Guideline’s Applica- tion Note 5 extends that enhancement to inchoate crimes like conspiracy. § 2L1.2 cmt. n.5. But Garcia-Vasquez objected that application notes may not extend the reach of the Guide- line’s text. He added that, under the categorical approach, his federal conspiracy conviction did not count as a generic con- spiracy because its elements did not require an overt act. The District Court agreed with the government and applied the sixteen-level enhancement. It sentenced him to forty-six 3 months’ …

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