ESCHBACH, Senior Circuit Judge.
The appellants Jesus Morales ("Morales") and Frederico Sanchez ("Sanchez") appeal their convictions and sentences for distribution and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, see 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. We must decide whether sufficient evidence supports their convictions, and whether the District Court erred by increasing their offense category under § 3C1.1 of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines ("Sentencing Guidelines") by two levels for willful obstruction of justice. We affirm the convictions and Morales' sentence. Because the jury's verdict does not conclusively establish the falsity of Sanchez's testimony and because the District Court made no independent finding that Sanchez had lied on the witness stand we vacate Sanchez's sentence and remand to Judge Crabb for resentencing.
This is a cocaine conspiracy case arising from an undercover government sting operation. With Morales and Sanchez, the indictment named a third co-conspirator, Darryl Stout ("Stout"). Stout is the person who actually made the deliveries of cocaine to undercover authorities. The indictment alleged one count of conspiracy and two counts of distribution against all of the defendants, and two additional counts of distribution against Stout and Morales. Stout cooperated with authorities, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of cocaine, and testified against Morales and Sanchez at the trial below.
Morales and Sanchez conceded at trial that if the jury believed Stout's testimony, a guilty verdict on all counts would necessarily follow. But the appellants challenged Stout's credibility, pointing out to the jury that much of his testimony was uncorroborated by government surveillance officers. The jury apparently did not believe everything to which Stout had testified because it acquitted both Morales and Sanchez of one count each of distribution. However, the jury did not entirely reject Stout's testimony because it convicted the appellants on the remaining counts.
Both Morales and Sanchez testified on their own behalf at trial. Morales denied his involvement in the alleged conspiracy. Sanchez denied that he had ever handed drugs to Stout for delivery to the undercover officers. The District Court explicitly found that Morales had lied during his testimony and increased his offense category under the Sentencing Guidelines by two levels for willful obstruction of justice. See § 3C1.1.
Sufficiency of the Evidence.
The challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are without merit. Morales and Sanchez concede that Stout's testimony, if believed by the jury, supports their convictions. They argue that the jury could not have believed this testimony because Stout is an inherently incredible witness.
Sanchez contends that adjustment of his sentence for obstruction of justice was an improper application of the Sentencing Guidelines. We will affirm the District Court's sentence if we find it is the result of a correct application of the Sentencing Guidelines to facts not found to be clearly erroneous. United States v. Jordan, 890 F.2d 968, 972 (7th Cir.1989). When a sentence is adjusted for obstruction of justice, the factual finding that the defendant willfully obstructed justice is reviewed under the clearly erroneous standard. However, we review de novo the District Court's legal interpretation of the Sentencing Guidelines. See United States v. Teta, 918 F.2d 1329, 1332 (7th Cir.1990). The question before us involves a legal interpretation of the Sentencing Guidelines requiring de novo review.
In his trial testimony, Sanchez denied having ever given cocaine to Stout to distribute to the undercover officers. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the District Court explained the obstruction of justice assessment in this case:
Transcript of Sanchez Sentencing at 10, 11. Neither this statement nor any other portion of the record indicates that the District Court made an independent factual finding that Sanchez had committed perjury in his trial testimony. Rather, it appears that the obstruction of justice adjustment is based entirely upon the jury's verdict. And at oral argument in this Court, the United States conceded that nothing in the jury verdict necessarily establishes the falsity of Sanchez's testimony.
Our conclusion accords with the Supreme Court's pre-Sentencing Guidelines opinion from which § 3C1.1 is born. United States v. Grayson, 438 U.S. 41, 98 S.Ct. 2610, 57 L.Ed.2d 582 (1978). The Court, while recognizing that the criminally accused do possess the right to testify, held that this right is not impermissibly chilled when the sentencing judge imposes a stiffer sentence based upon the judge's determination that the defendant committed perjury. But Grayson does not give a wholesale right to adjust every time a jury returns a guilty verdict after a defendant has testified. The Supreme Court was very concerned that defendants would hesitate to testify if they were worried their sentence would be thereby increased following a guilty verdict.
Grayson, 438 U.S. at 55, 98 S.Ct. at 2618.
In basing Sanchez's adjustment solely upon the jury verdict, the District Court acted in the "wooden or reflex fashion" that is not authorized by Grayson. Sanchez testified and the jury found him guilty, but the jury's verdict in this case says nothing about whether Sanchez lied. To enhance the sentence simply because the defendant testified — without a finding by the judge that he lied about a material subject, or the clear implication of the jury's verdict that he must have done so — is to punish the testimony simpliciter, which raises grave constitutional problems. Cf. United States v. Husky, 924 F.2d 223, 224-25 (11th Cir.1991) (affirming adjustment because the District Court made an independent finding); United States v. Beaulieu, 900 F.2d 1531, 1536 (10th Cir.1990), cert. den., ___ U.S. ____, 110 S.Ct. 3252, 111 L.Ed.2d 762 (1990) (same); United States v. Martinez, 922 F.2d 914, 926 (1st Cir.1991) (rejecting appeal by the Government requesting adjustment simply because the jury returned a guilty verdict for a defendant who had testified).
We therefore must vacate Sanchez's sentence and remand for resentencing. Nothing we have said prevents the District Court from independently finding that Sanchez lied and thereby enhancing Sanchez's sentence on remand. But the adjustment in this case may not rest upon the jury verdict alone.
We also strongly urge district courts in other cases where a sentence is to be increased because of a defendant's trial testimony to make the independent finding that we have required here. When a judge enhances the sentence under § 3C1.1 on the basis of trial testimony, and does not make an independent finding that the defendant
Morales raises the same challenge to his obstruction of justice adjustment that Sanchez did. But Morales' appeal stands upon a different footing. The District Court made a factual determination independent from the jury's verdict that Morales had committed perjury: "I believe that if you get up on the stand and lie about your involvement, that that is an obstruction of justice and I believe that Mr. Morales did lie about his involvement." Transcript of Morales Sentencing at 5. This factual finding is not clearly erroneous and the District Court correctly adjusted under § 3C1.1.
Both convictions and Morales' sentence are AFFIRMED but Sanchez's sentence is REVERSED and REMANDED for resentencing.
Sentencing Guidelines § 3C1.1.