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Government Breach of Plea Agreement Leads to REVERSAL

USA v. Salvador Guadalupe Navarro, No. 12-2606

Defendant-Appellant Salvador Guadalupe Navarro (“Navarro”) pleaded guilty to and was convicted of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine. In the plea agreement, the government and Navarro both agreed to refrain from seeking a departure from the sentencing guidelines.  At sentencing, the government argued in favor of an upward departure from the guidelines.  Indeed, the district court departed upward and imposed a sentence of  262 months.  Navarro now appeals his sentence, arguing that the government’s breach of the plea agreement.


Whether a plea agreement has been breached is a question of law we reviewed de novo. United States v. Williams, 102 F.3d 923, 927 (7th Cir. 1996).  There is no “reasonable dispute” as to whether the government’s advocacy for an upward departure breached the plea agreement.   Puckett v. United States, 556 U.S. 129, 135, 129 S. Ct. 1423, 173 L. Ed. 2d 266 (2009). 

The government also seeks to downplay the importance of its recommendation on the court’s sentence.  However, the Supreme Court long ago recognized the importance of the government’s recommendation on the sentence imposed. See Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 262, 92 S. Ct. 495, 30 L. Ed. 2d 427 (1971). InSantobello, the Supreme Court vacated the defendant’s sentence because the prosecutor breached a promise to refrain from recommending a specific term of imprisonment. Id. 


For the foregoing reasons, we REVERSE the judgment of the district court and remand for resentencing.

By:  Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. Petro


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