No Lenience Required for Thrice-Removed Defendant

By Robyn Hagan Cain on April 17, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Rene Valeriano Diaz Sanchez has been removed from the U.S. three times. He thinks that he should get a break on his unlawful reentry sentence for the most recent infraction due to the extenuating circumstances surrounding his return.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagrees.

Diaz Sanchez was removed from the U.S. in 2006. He alleged that, upon returning to his native El Salvador, he opened a restaurant and became the target of a Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) gang extortion attempt.

Diaz Sanchez claimed he was "compelled to return" to the U.S. as he attempted to escape MS 13. He was removed again in 2009, but returned yet again after MS 13 resumed its harassment.

After the feds nabbed him a third time, he was sentenced to 46 months in prison. Though his sentence was at the bottom of the 46 to 57 month range for unlawful reentry, he argues that the coercion and duress behind his decision to return to the U.S. warranted either a departure below the guidelines range, or a non-guidelines variance.

Diaz Sanchez argues that the sentence is procedurally unreasonable because the district court did not adequately explain the sentence. It neither addressed the arguments for the lower sentence that he proposed nor explicitly applied the sentencing factors in his case.

He also characterizes the sentence as "substantively unreasonable" because it was "plainly greater than necessary" in light of the mitigating factors that he presented to the district court.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected both arguments, finding that the bottom-of-the-guidelines sentence was appropriate in light of the factors that Diaz Sanchez presented, and that the district court did not abuse its discretion.

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