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November 11, 2015
  United States v. Puentes
Headline: Eleventh Circuit holds the district court lacks the authority pursuant to a Rule 35(b) motion to eliminate restitution imposed by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act.

Area of Law: Sentencing and Restitution

Issue: Whether the district court erred in eliminating, pursuant to a Rule 35(b) motion, a mandatory restitution obligation.

Brief Summary: The Government challenges the district court's elimination, pursuant to a Rule 35(b) motion, of a mandatory restitution obligation imposed on Appellee, Angel Puentes ("Puentes") by the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act ("MVRA"). The Eleventh Circuit reversed in part and remanded.

Extended Summary: Puentes pled guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. Puentes was held jointly and severally liable with co-conspirators to pay $4,445,305.94 in restitution. While incarcerated, Puentes assisted federal law enforcement authorities with the investigation of another inmate in an unrelated case. The Government filed a Rule 35(b) motion to reduce his term of incarceration based on his assistance. The district court granted the motion and reduced Puentes' prison sentence from 97 months to 42 months. Additionally, the court, without application from the parties, eliminated Puentes' obligation to pay restitution.

Reversing in part, the Eleventh Circuit found: (1) the court had jurisdiction to hear the case; (2) the Government properly preserved the restitution claim by making several objections; (3) the invited error doctrine did not apply and (4) section 3664(o) of the MVRA does not permit a district court to modify an order of restitution pursuant to a Rule 35(b) motion.

To view the full opinion:

Panel: Marcus, William Pryor, and Jill Pryor, Circuit Judges

Argument: October 1, 2015

Date of Issued Opinion: October 5, 2015

Docket Number: 14-13587

Decided: Reversed in part and remanded with instructions

Case Alert Author: Lizbell Lucero, Evelin Mac Clay, Evan Phoenix, and Daniel Villavisanis

Counsel: Madeleine R. Shirley, et al. for Appellant
Jan Christopher Smith, II, et al. for Appellee

Author of Opinion: Marcus, Circuit Judge

    Posted By: Gary Kravitz @ 11/11/2015 02:37 PM     11th Circuit  

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