US v. Juan Guzman
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Motion disposition in opinion--denying Motion for temporary administrative stay [1000231910-2]; denying Motion to proceed pro se [1000078569-2], denying Motion to proceed pro se [1000076786-2]; denying Motion for leave to file [1000076789-2]; denying Motion to extend filing time [1000076789-3]; denying Motion to reconsider [1000062244-2] Originating case number: 4:15-cr-00034-AWA-LRL-1. Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. . Mailed to: Juan Guzman. [16-4749]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee,
Defendant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at
Newport News. Arenda L. Wright Allen, District Judge. (4:15-cr-00034-AWA-LRL-1)
Submitted: March 26, 2018
Decided: April 6, 2018
Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, and FLOYD and THACKER, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Chad G. Dorsk, LAW OFFICE OF CHAD G. DORSK, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellant.
Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Tracy Doherty-McCormick, Acting United
States Attorney, Alexandria, Virginia, Eric M. Hurt, Assistant United States Attorney,
Matthew K. Hoff, Special Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED
STATES ATTORNEY, Newport News, Virginia; Alexander R. Kalyniuk, Third-Year
Law Student, Collin C. Crookenden, Third Year Law Student, WILLIAM & MARY
LAW SCHOOL, Williamsburg, Virginia, for Appellee.
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Juan Guzman appeals the district court’s judgment imposing the mandatory
minimum sentence of 240 months in prison after the jury convicted him of conspiracy to
distribute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 100
kilograms or more of marijuana, subsequent to his conviction for a felony drug offense.
In his opening brief, Guzman’s attorney challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to
sustain his conviction. After the brief was filed, Guzman filed several pro se motions
seeking to raise additional issues, including whether the district court plainly erred in
violation of United States v. Collins, 415 F.3d 304 (4th Cir. 2005), by sentencing him
based on the jury’s verdict. We ordered counsel to file supplemental briefs addressing
the issue, and they have done so. We now deny the pending pro se motions and affirm. ∗
Guzman argues the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of
acquittal. We review this issue de novo. See United States v. Cowden, 882 F.3d 464, 473
(4th Cir. 2018). “A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal faces
a heavy burden.” Id. at 473-74 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “We
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, and we will sustain the
Although we have considered the issues that Guzman sought to raise in his pro se
motions, we conclude they are without merit; and we deny his motions to proceed pro se
on appeal as untimely filed. See 4th Cir. R. 46(f); United States v. Gillis, 773 F.2d 549,
560 (4th Cir. 1985). We deny his motions to file pro se supplemental briefs, because his
counsel filed a merits brief and a supplemental brief as we directed, not a brief pursuant
to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738 (1967). See United States v. Hare, 820 F.3d 93,
106 n.11 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 224 (2016); United States v. Penniegraft, 641
F.3d 566, 569 n.1 (4th Cir. 2011). Finally, we deny his motion for a stay as moot.
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jury’s verdict if it is supported by substantial evidence.” Id. at 474 (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). “Evidence is deemed ‘substantial’ if a reasonable finder of
fact could view the evidence as establishing the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable
doubt.” Id. (citation omitted). “We do not review the credibility of the witnesses and
assume that the jury resolved all contradictions in the testimony in favor of the
United States v. Cone, 714 F.3d 197, 212 (4th Cir. 2013) (citation
To establish a drug conspiracy under 21 U.S.C. § 846 (2012), the Government
must prove the defendant (1) entered into an agreement with one or more persons to
engage in conduct that violated 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (2012); (2) had knowledge of that
conspiracy; and (3) knowingly and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy. United
States v. Howard, 773 F.3d 519, 525 (4th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). “Given the
‘clandestine and covert’ nature of conspiracies, the government can prove the existence
of a conspiracy by circumstantial evidence alone.” Id. (citation omitted).
“[O]ne may be a member of a conspiracy without knowing its full scope, or all its
members, and without taking part in the full range of its activities or over the whole
period of its existence.” United States v. Allen, 716 F.3d 98, 103 (4th Cir. 2013) (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted).
“Therefore, ‘[o]nce a conspiracy has been
proved, the evidence need only establish a slight connection between any given defendant
and the conspiracy to support conviction.’” Id. (citation omitted).
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Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Government, we conclude
that Guzman’s drug conspiracy conviction was supported by substantial evidence, and the
district court did not err in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal.
We next consider whether the district court plainly erred under United States v.
Collins, 415 F.3d 304 (4th Cir. 2005). In Collins, “we held that, in order to properly
apply the sentencing provisions of § 841(b)(1) in a § 846 drug conspiracy prosecution,
the jury must determine that the threshold drug quantity was reasonably foreseeable to
the defendant.” United States v. Jeffers, 570 F.3d 557, 569 (4th Cir. 2009) (citing
Collins, 415 F.3d at 314). When a defendant fails to object on the Collins issue, we
review for plain error. Id.; United States v. Foster, 507 F.3d 233, 249 (4th Cir. 2007).
He must show that an error occurred; it was plain; and it affected his substantial rights.
Jeffers, 570 F.3d at 569. “Even if he makes such a showing, however, we can decline to
correct the error unless it seriously affected the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of
judicial proceedings.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
“[W]here the evidence against a defendant is overwhelming and essentially
uncontroverted, a plain error does not seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public
reputation of judicial proceedings, and a reviewing court can choose not to recognize it.”
Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “[I]f the evidence ‘overwhelmingly
establishe[s]’ that the defendant was personally responsible for the threshold quantity of
drugs, and if his trial assertions ‘primarily focused on whether he committed the offenses
and not on the drug quantities reasonably foreseeable to him,’ we may decline to
recognize a plain Collins error.” Id. at 569-70 (quoting Foster, 507 F.3d at 252).
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In this case, neither the district court’s jury instructions nor the special verdict
form stated that the drug quantities must be foreseeable to Guzman. Rather, the jury only
found the drug quantities involved in the entire conspiracy. Moreover, at sentencing, the
district court adopted the jury’s drug quantity findings in applying the Sentencing
Guidelines and sentencing Guzman to the mandatory minimum 240 months in prison,
which exceeded the Guidelines range. However, having reviewed the record and the
parties’ arguments, we conclude the evidence overwhelmingly established that Guzman
was personally responsible for at least the threshold quantities of five kilograms or more
of cocaine and 100 kilograms or more of marijuana. Moreover, his trial assertions
primarily focused on whether he committed the offenses and not on the drug quantities
reasonably foreseeable to him. We therefore decline to recognize any plain Collins error.
Accordingly, we deny the pending pro se motions and affirm the district court’s
judgment. We dispense with oral argument because the facts and legal contentions are
adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not aid the
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