USA v. Carlos Ramirez-Lara
Per Curiam OPINION filed : the district court's judgment is AFFIRMED, decision not for publication. Ronald Lee Gilman, Circuit Judge; Julia Smith Gibbons, Circuit Judge and Jane Branstetter Stranch, Circuit Judge.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR FULL-TEXT PUBLICATION
File Name: 14a0320n.06
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Apr 24, 2014
DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk
ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR
THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF
BEFORE: GILMAN, GIBBONS, and STRANCH, Circuit Judges.
PER CURIAM. Carlos Ramirez-Lara, a federal prisoner, appeals through counsel the
ten-year sentence imposed following his guilty plea to a charge of conspiring to possess more
than five kilograms of cocaine with intent to distribute.
Ramirez-Lara and his co-defendant were arrested following a traffic stop in Tennessee.
Officers located more than five kilograms of cocaine in the vehicle. The two men admitted that
they were paid to transport the cocaine from Colorado to Georgia. Ramirez-Lara entered a guilty
plea pursuant to a plea agreement. Two days before the sentencing hearing, his counsel moved
for a continuance because there had been no opportunity for Ramirez-Lara to make a proffer of
information to qualify him for sentencing under the safety-valve provision of 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(f) and U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2.
The next day, the district court denied the motion, and
Ramirez-Lara was interviewed by an agent from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). At the
sentencing hearing, the district court informed Ramirez-Lara that the DEA agent reported that
United States v. Ramirez-Lara
Ramirez-Lara did not give a truthful proffer. The judge gave Ramirez-Lara a second opportunity
to do so, but Ramirez-Lara stated that he knew nothing about the drug conspiracy and had
merely caught a ride with his co-defendant from Colorado to Atlanta.
In view of these
statements, the district court found that the fifth requirement for sentencing under § 5C1.2 had
not been met and sentenced Ramirez-Lara to the ten-year statutory mandatory minimum
Ramirez-Lara now claims that he should have been sentenced under the safety-valve
provision because he told the DEA everything he knew. He argues that the district court failed to
make a finding that he had not provided truthful information but relied instead on the DEA
A district court’s decision that a defendant is not entitled to be sentenced below the
mandatory minimum under the safety-valve provision is a factual finding that is reviewed for
clear error. United States v. Haynes, 468 F.3d 422, 426 (6th Cir. 2006). The defendant bears the
burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that he is entitled to a safety-valve
reduction. Id. at 427. In this case, the dispute was over whether Ramirez-Lara provided truthful
information about all relevant conduct underlying the offense. See United States v. Salgado, 250
F.3d 438, 459-60 (6th Cir. 2001).
The record does not support Ramirez-Lara’s argument. He claims that the district court
did not make a finding that he had supplied untruthful information, but instead relied only on the
DEA agent’s conclusion. In fact, the transcript shows that the district court gave Ramirez-Lara
the opportunity to provide the information before sentencing, but Ramirez-Lara again claimed
that he had simply caught a ride with his co-defendant and knew nothing about the conspiracy.
The same judge had conducted the plea hearing, at which Ramirez-Lara admitted the factual
United States v. Ramirez-Lara
basis for his plea, including that he had knowingly agreed to possess with intent to distribute the
cocaine found in the vehicle. Based on the discrepancy, the district court then clearly found that
the criteria necessary to grant for the safety valve had not been met. Defendant attempts to
persuade the court that it is not clear in what way his proffer was deficient, perhaps due to the
telephonic interpretation used, although he gives no specific examples of any interpretation
He claims that, if his statement had actually contradicted his plea testimony, the
reduction for acceptance of responsibility would also have been taken away. Perhaps the district
court should have taken away that reduction, but the government has not raised that issue by way
of a cross-appeal.
Because review of the record shows that the district court did not clearly err in finding
that Ramirez-Lara did not provide complete truthful information about the relevant conduct
underlying his offense, Ramirez-Lara was not eligible for safety-valve relief, and the district
court’s judgment is affirmed.
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