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United States v. Perillo

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 30, 2018

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Renee S. Perillo, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued May 30, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. 15-CR-202 - Richard L. Young, Judge.

          Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Sykes and Hamilton, Circuit Judges.

          HAMILTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Defendant-appellant Renee Perillo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit kidnapping in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c), and to commissioning a murder for hire in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958. Before sentencing, Perillo moved to withdraw her plea. The district court denied Perillo's motion and sentenced her to concurrent terms of 324 months for conspiracy to kidnap and 120 months for commissioning a murder for hire. The court also ordered Perillo to pay just under $75, 000 in restitution. Perillo appeals the denial of her motion to withdraw her plea and the restitution order. Perillo's plea agreement included a valid appellate waiver that covers both of these claims, however, so we dismiss her appeal.

         I. Factual & Procedural Background

         A. Criminal Conduct

         The underlying facts here sound like the plot of a mediocre novel, focused on Perillo's relationship with her boyfriend, Dr. Arnaldo Trabucco, and her attempts to harm Trabucco's ex-wife and the ex-wife's divorce attorney. On May 22, 2015, police responded to a 911 call from the divorce attorney's husband. Officers found Perillo and her son, Richard Perillo, hiding in the back of the caller's SUV in Noblesville, Indiana. The Perillos had with them a loaded handgun, binoculars, a plastic bag, latex gloves, a knife, a rubber tourniquet, and a syringe that Perillo claimed contained heroin, but in fact contained a potentially lethal dose of succinylcholine, a paralytic. The police arrested Perillo and her son. They obtained a warrant to search Perillo's car, where they found: ammunition, duct tape, a long blonde wig, two machetes, a tranquilizer gun and darts, alcohol pads, syringes, a "commando" saw, a hammer, a shovel with dirt on it, three license plates, a walking cane, a priest disguise, and a full-headed silicone mask depicting an elderly man's face.

         Within forty-eight hours, Trabucco bonded Perillo out of the county jail. Perillo fled west. She was arrested about a month later in Montana. When she was returned to Indiana, she was placed in a cell with Lisa Starr Ramos. According to the government, Perillo told Ramos about her crimes and that she still wanted to kill attorney Rebecca Eimerman, the person she had been hoping would get into the SUV where she was hiding on May 22 in Noblesville. Ramos contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An agent suggested that Ramos give Perillo the name and telephone number of a hitman named "Don-Don," who was of course an undercover agent. Ramos agreed.

         Perillo called "Don-Don" to discuss hiring him to kill Eimerman. She then followed up with a letter describing Eimerman's appearance, vehicle, work address, and daily schedule. She also told "Don-Don" that the murder "should look like spur of the moment," and she suggested that he "intercept her at [the] gym and take her to [the] bank" to make the murder look like a robbery gone wrong.

         B. Guilty Plea

         In November 2015, Perillo was charged with conspiracy to kidnap in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1201(c); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c); interstate transportation of a firearm with intent to commit a felony in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(b); and commissioning a murder for hire in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958. The parties negotiated a plea deal. Perillo agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to kidnap and commissioning a murder for hire. The government agreed to dismiss the other charges.

         Although Perillo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap, she maintained that her intent was actually to kill her victims. In the plea agreement, Perillo admitted that she drove from Florida to Nebraska, stopping along the way to pick up her son and to dig a pit that her son said was intended as a grave for Trabucco's ex-wife. When the Perillos could not find Trabucco's ex-wife in Nebraska, they headed to Indiana, intending to kill attorney Eimerman. They brought with them the paralytic and firearm. Perillo also admitted that she later mailed the letter to the supposed hitman saying that she would pay him to kill Eimerman. At Perillo's request, the plea language was edited to state that Ramos actually wrote a portion of the letter but that it was "adopted by Renee Perillo."

         The district court held a hearing, engaged in a full Rule 11 colloquy to ensure that Perillo's guilty pleas were knowing and voluntary, and accepted her pleas of guilty to both charges. The court's questioning covered the terms of the plea agreement, including the waiver of Perillo's right to appeal her sentence, which was contingent on her receiving a guideline sentence. The court asked Perillo if she understood the appellate waiver, if she had discussed it ...


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