Thursday, January 11, 2007

Gang Affiliation Merits Upward Variance

US v. Hernandez-Villaneuva: Hernandez-Villaneuva was convicted of illegal reentry. His Guideline sentence was 0-6 months. The Government argued for an upward variance on grounds that when he returned to the United States Hernandez-Villaneuva associated with a violent Salvadoran street gang, even though there was no evidence that he participated in any illegal activity. The district court imposed a sentence of 18 months in prison, based largely on the gang relationship and the court's conviction that Hernandez-Villaneuva, a former gang member, "has not yet developed or demonstrated a maturity, a backbone, a character to turn things around."

Hernandez-Villaneuva appealed his sentence, which the Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court held that both the need for a variance and the scope of the variance was reasonable, due to the failure of the Guidelines to adequately consider Hernandez-Villaneuva's gang ties.

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