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United States v. Rutherford

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville

June 3, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SHINNA MARIE RUTHERFORD, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

THOMAS A. VARLAN, Chief District Judge.

This criminal case is before the Court on the defendant's motions for a sentence reduction [Doc. 1364; Doc. 1393]. The defendant moves the Court to resentence her pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and in accordance with Amendment 782 and Amendment 788 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual. The government has responded [Doc. 1395], deferring to the Court's discretion as to whether, and to what extent, to grant any such reduction, subject to the limitations of 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and section 1B1.10 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual.

I. Standard of Review

"Federal courts are forbidden, as a general matter, to modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed, but the rule of finality is subject to a few narrow exceptions." Freeman v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 3685, 2690 (2011) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). One exception is identified in 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2):

[I]n the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission..., the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.

The United States Supreme Court has interpreted § 3582(c)(2) as setting forth two requirements for a sentence reduction. First, "the defendant [must] ha[ve] been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission[.]" United States v. Riley, 726 F.3d 756, 758 (6th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Second, "such reduction [must be] consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

If the reviewing court determines that the defendant is eligible for a sentence reduction, "[t]he court may then consider whether the authorized reduction is warranted, either in whole or in part, according to the factors set forth in § 3553(a).'" United States v. Thompson, 714 F.3d 946, 949 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 826 (2010)). In making this determination, the reviewing court also should consider the danger to the public created by any reduction in the defendant's sentence and may consider the defendant's post-sentencing conduct. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.10 cmt. n.1(B).

II. Factual Background

The defendant pleaded guilty to and was convicted of conspiring to manufacture 5 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(B) [Doc. 582; 1316]. At the time of sentencing, the defendant was held responsible for a marijuana equivalent of 240 kilograms [Doc. 1393 p. 2; Doc. 1395 p. 3]. Given the amount of drugs for which the defendant was held responsible, the defendant's base offense level was 26 [ Id. ]. The defendant received a 3-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a total offense level of 23 [ Id. ]. Given the defendant's criminal history category of III, the defendant's guideline range would have been 57 to 71 months' imprisonment, but she was subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 120 months [ Id. ]. Therefore, the defendant's guideline range was restricted to the mandatory minimum [ Id. ].

Before sentencing, the government moved for a downward departure pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) and section 5K1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines [ Id. ]. The Court granted that motion and sentenced the defendant to 75 months' imprisonment, which is 38 percent below the defendant's restricted guideline range [ Id. ]. According to the parties, the defendant is presently scheduled for release on August 1, 2019 [ Id. ].

III. Analysis

Amendment 782 to the Guidelines, which became effective on November 1, 2014, revised the Guidelines applicable to drug-trafficking offenses by reducing by two levels the offense levels assigned to the drug quantities set forth in section 2D1.1. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual App. C, amend. 782. Amendment 782 also makes corresponding changes to section 2D1.11. Amendment 788, which became effective on November 1, 2014, as well, identified Amendment 782 as retroactive. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual App. C, amend. 788.

Section 1B1.10 of the Sentencing Guidelines addresses reductions under § 3582(c)(2):

In determining whether, and to what extent, a reduction in the defendant's term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and this policy statement is warranted, the court shall determine the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant if the amendment(s) to the guidelines ...

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