Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Tejas: "Special Rule" in Commentary Presuming Number of Victims for Mail Theft Inapplicable Where Evidence is to the Contrary

In United States v. Tejas, No. 16-16336 (Aug. 23, 2017) (Martin, Rosenbaum, Anderson) (per curiam), the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the defendant's 366-day sentence following a conviction for mail theft.

The defendant first argued that the court erroneously enhanced his sentence under U.S.S.G. 2B1.1(b)(2)(A)(i) based on the number of victims.  The Court agreed.  Although there was "special rule" in the commentary presuming that a mail theft offense involves at least 10 victims where, as here, the offense involved a postal delivery vehicle, the Court found that applying that rule in this particular case would conflict with, and was therefore trumped by, the plain language of the text of the Guideline, which focused on the actual number of victims.  That was so because the evidence in that case made clear that there were, at most, only two victims--the postal employee and the intended recipient of the stolen package.

The Court rejected the defendant's remaining sentencing arguments.  It found that the court properly applied the enhancement for theft "from the person of another" under 2B1.1(b)(3), because the defendant pushed the postal employee aside to obtain a package that was still within arms' reach of the employee.  The Court found that the court properly applied an enhancement under 3A1.2 for targeting a government officer or employee, which requires that the defendant be motivated by the employee's status, because the case was sufficiently analogous to an earlier case involving the robbery of a postal employee where he demanded money orders.  Finally, the Court found that the court properly refused to apply the two-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility because, although the defendant was acquitted of robbery and assault, the court found by a preponderance of the evidence that he did push the postal employee, and the defendant affirmatively insisted that he had not.