United States v. Castro-Ponce

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 10-24-2014
  • Case #: 13-10377
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judges Berzon and Reinhardt
  • Full Text Opinion

A perjury will only be deemed an obstruction of justice if the district court finds that the defendant gave, with willful intent, false testimony on a material matter.

Following the government’s investigation into Indalecio Castro-Ponce (“Castro-Ponce”) concerning his involvement in narcotics trafficking, federal agents arrested Castro-Ponce and indicted him on four felony counts. During his trial, Castro-Ponce testified in his own defense and the jury convicted him of conspiracy to possess and possession of methamphetamine. The district court deemed his personal testimony to be false and an obstruction of justice resulting in an increase to his prison sentence. Castro-Ponce appealed the increase in his sentencing. The Ninth Circuit determined that for perjury to be deemed obstruction, the district court must find that: “(1) the defendant gave false testimony, (2) on a material matter, (3) with willful intent.” The issue of materiality is to be determined by the district court and the case will be remanded if materiality is not proved. Although the district court found Castro-Ponce’s testimony to be false, it did not find that his testimony was material or willful. As a result, the district court wrongfully increased Castro-Ponce’s sentence, and the sentence must be vacated. VACATED and REMANDED.

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