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United States v. Gonzales

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

July 29, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
JAMES GONZALES, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico (D.C. No. 1:18-CR-00585-JAP-1)

          Brian A. Pori, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Defendant-Appellant.

          Marisa Ong, Assistant United States Attorney (Dustin C. Segovia, Assistant United States Attorney, and John C. Anderson, United States Attorney, District of New Mexico), Office of the United States Attorney, Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before MATHESON, SEYMOUR, and BACHARACH, Circuit Judges.

          BACHARACH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Mr. James Gonzales pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm after a felony conviction. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The district court sentenced him to 27 months' imprisonment and 3 years of supervised release. In selecting this sentence, the court enhanced the base-offense level under Sentencing Guideline § 3A1.2(c)(1), which applies when the defendant assaults a law-enforcement officer during the course of the offense. But the court erred in interpreting § 3A1.2(c)(1), so we reverse.

         1. While fleeing from Albuquerque police officers, Mr. Gonzales pulls a firearm and drops it.

         The sentencing issue springs from a 2018 confrontation between Mr. Gonzales and Albuquerque police officers. While trying to arrest Mr. Gonzales on outstanding warrants, the police officers conducted a traffic stop. After the cars came to a stop, the officers approached and Mr. Gonzales ran away.

         As Detective Eric Endzel closed in, Mr. Gonzales lifted up his shirt and pulled a gun. According to Detective Endzel, Mr. Gonzales briefly applied a "firing grip" but then dropped the gun. R. vol. 4, at 19. After dropping the gun, Mr. Gonzales reached forward, but he was unable to grab the gun and it fell to the ground. Detective Endzel believed that Mr. Gonzales was trying to hold onto the gun. Mr. Gonzales contends that the evidence also supported a finding that he had intentionally discarded the gun.

         2. Section 3A1.2(c)(1) requires proof of an intent to instill fear of bodily harm.

         The district court ruled that

• Mr. Gonzales had failed to present evidence regarding his intent and
• § 3A1.2(c)(1) had no intent requirement.

         This reasoning reflects an erroneous interpretation of § 3A1.2(c)(1).

         We engage in de novo review of the district court's interpretation of this guideline provision. United States v. Robertson, 350 F.3d 1109, 1112 (10th Cir. 2003). In applying de novo review, we consider (1) the guideline's language and scholarly commentaries on the common-law definition of assault, (2) our case law defining the crime of assault, and (3) other circuits' interpretations of § 3A1.2(c)(1).

         A. The Common-Law ...


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