March 26, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Sentence Enhancement Based on Elements of Actual Convicted Offense

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Castro-Gomez on Monday, July 6, 2015.

Luis Carlos Castro-Gomez pleaded guilty to one count of illegal reentry by a removed alien. Castro-Gomez objected to the Presentence Report’s classification of his prior Illinois conviction for attempted murder as a crime of violence, and argued that since Illinois’ statutory definition of murder is broader than its generic counterpart and requires only the intent to do harm, his conviction for attempted murder should not count as a crime of violence. The district court disagreed and sentenced Castr0-Gomez to 35 months in prison. Castro-Gomez appealed.

On appeal, Castro-Gomez argued that since Illinois’ definition of murder requires only the intent to do bodily harm, it is broader than the generic definition and therefore does not constitute a crime of violence for purposes of the 16-level sentence enhancement. And if murder does not qualify as a crime of violence, then attempted murder must not qualify either. The Tenth Circuit rejected Castro-Gomez’s reasoning. The Tenth Circuit found persuasive a Ninth Circuit opinion with a similar fact pattern, where the Ninth Circuit determined that the actual crime of conviction should be evaluated in determining sentencing enhancements. Using the Ninth Circuit’s reasoning, the Tenth Circuit evaluated the intent requirement of attempted murder under Illinois law and found it corresponded to its generic counterpart, thereby qualifying as a crime of violence.

The Tenth Circuit rejected Castro-Gomez’s challenge and affirmed his sentence.

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