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United States v. Sevilla-Acosta

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 27, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Cesar Sevilla-Acosta, Defendant-Appellant

Submitted February 14, 2014.

Page 901

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - St. Paul.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee: Thomas More Hollenhorst, Erika Renea Mozangue, U.S. Attorney's Office, Saint Paul, MN.

For Cesar Sevilla-Acosta, Defendant - Appellant: Mark D. Nyvold, Fridley, MN.

Cesar Sevilla-Acosta, Defendant - Appellant, Pro se, Anoka, MN.

Before SMITH, BEAM, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 902

BENTON, Circuit Judge.

Cesar Sevilla-Acosta was convicted of one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846. The district court[1] sentenced him below the guidelines to 135 months' imprisonment. He appeals his conviction. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, this court affirms.

I.

Sevilla contends he was " forced" to stipulate that he lived at a house used for marijuana distribution, in violation of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. This court reviews legal conclusions de novo, and evidentiary issues for abuse of discretion. United States v. Pumpkin Seed , 572 F.3d 552, 557 (8th Cir. 2009) (legal conclusions); United States v. Mohamed , 727 F.3d 832, 836 (8th Cir. 2013) (evidentiary issues).

Before trial, Sevilla admitted, as part of a proffer agreement with the government, that he lived with a friend on Hawthorne Avenue for about three to four months in 2010. The agreement provided it could not be used against him in a criminal proceeding unless he presented evidence contradicting it.

At trial, a DEA agent testified that Sevilla was in the driveway of the Hawthorne residence on April 20, 2010--the day agents seized 84 pounds of marijuana from a vehicle leaving the residence. During cross-examination, defense counsel asked the agent:

Q: [D]o you have any documents showing that Mr. Sevilla-Acosta ever entered into a rental agreement for the premises at [the Hawthorne residence] or any kind of lease arrangement or ownership showing that he was a resident, as opposed to maybe somebody who just stayed there with a friend for a period of time?
A: We do not have the lease agreement for there, no.

After cross-examination, defense counsel spoke with the government off the record. Defense counsel then asked the agent:

Q: All right. Now, to be clear, my question is not, and it was not meant to imply, that Mr. Cesar Sevilla-Acosta did not stay at [the Hawthorne residence] even for a period of months. My question was whether or not you had any documents showing that he was the lessor of [the Hawthorne residence] or anything like that?
A: We don't have the lease agreement. The documents that we have pertaining to that residence are the Xcel Energy documents that we've already--I've already testified about.
Q: Okay. And you had other information in the case, without going into detail, that he would stay there for an extended period of ...

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