United States v. Jorge Santos Caballero-Melgar

NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLICATION File Name: 23a0348n.06 Case No. 21-6036 UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT FILED ) Jul 31, 2023 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEBORAH S. HUNT, Clerk ) Plaintiff - Appellee, ) ) v. ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED ) STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE ) JORGE SANTO CABALLERO-MELGAR, WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY ) Defendant - Appellant. ) OPINION ) ) Before: BOGGS, GIBBONS, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges. JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge. Jorge Santo Caballero-Melgar (“Caballero- Melgar”) was convicted of one count of illegal reentry after deportation and four counts related to a series of armed robberies, including one that resulted in death. He was sentenced to 460 months’ imprisonment. On appeal, Caballero-Melgar asserts errors in the trial proceedings, his conviction, and his sentence. He alleges insufficiency of the evidence, improper joinder, an error in the jury instructions, violation of his Sixth Amendment speedy trial right, improper denial of his motion for new counsel, and the procedural unreasonableness of his sentence. Because Caballero-Melgar fails to show any error, we affirm. I. From December 23, 2016, through September 2, 2017, a series of fifteen armed robberies took place across Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana. Caballero-Melgar was No. 21-6036, United States v. Caballero-Melgar involved in fourteen of the robberies. Only the March 17, 2017 robbery of the La Placita grocery store in Bowling Green, Kentucky requires further detail here. On the afternoon of March 17, 2017, three Honduran men—Caballero-Melgar, Jose Adan Mejia Varela (“Varela”), and Jonny Reyes-Martinez (“Reyes-Martinez”)—arrived in Bowling Green. Reyes-Martinez testified that Caballero-Melgar had the idea to rob the La Placita grocery store. Caballero-Melgar knew both men because he had assisted Reyes-Martinez, a childhood friend, in coming to the United States earlier that year, and he had met Varela through Varela’s brother. The three men met in a Wal-Mart parking lot, where Caballero-Melgar gave Varela and Reyes-Martinez guns to use in the robbery. The pistol given to Reyes-Martinez was unloaded, but Caballero-Melgar had extra bullets in his car. According to Reyes-Martinez, it was Caballero- Melgar’s idea to have a loaded firearm with which to “react” in case people in the store had weapons or the police arrived. DE 592, Trial Tr., Page ID 3427. The three men left the parking lot to drive to La Placita, and Caballero-Melgar stationed himself as lookout at a nearby gas station. About an hour before the robbery, the wives of Caballero-Melgar and Varela both made money transfers at La Placita. After they drove away, Caballero-Melgar entered the store, made two money transfers, and walked out about thirty minutes before the robbery would occur. Around 3 p.m., Reyes-Martinez and Varela entered the La Placita grocery store, locking the door behind them. Reyes-Martinez carried two phones, being on the line with Caballero- Melgar on one. The two men moved the employees near the cash register and bound them with duct tape. The son and daughter of one La Placita employee were in the store; the son was waiting for …

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