Child Endangerment a Crime of Violence for Sentencing

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By Bernie Pazanowski

Considering a child endangerment conviction as a crime of violence in sentencing an undocumented immigrant was probably a mistake, but it won’t help the immigrant, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled Jan. 26 ( United States v. Solano-Hernandez , 2017 BL 23740, 5th Cir., No. 15-41554, 1/26/17 ).

Santiago Solano-Hernandez pleaded guilty in 2012 to illegally reentering the country. The plea agreement stipulated that a 1995 conviction for child endangerment be considered a crime of violence, lengthening the sentence.

He was eventually removed, then reentered the country. He was arrested in 2014 for violating terms of his supervised release.

Facing a new jail term, he appealed the crime of violence designation in the plea agreement, which, as an aggravated felony, again added time to his sentence.

But the complete record, including application of New Jersey law, didn’t support the lower court’s enhancement. Even so, this plain error wasn’t egregious enough to reverse, the appeals court said in the opinion written by Judge Jerry E. Smith.

Solano-Hernandez’s conviction and sentence, including the extra six months he sought to avoid, was affirmed.

Judges E. Grady Jolly and Edward C. Prado joined the opinion.

The U.S. Attorney’s office represented the government. The Federal Public Defender represented Solano-Hernandez.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bernie Pazanowski in Washington at bpazanowski@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

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