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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

January 13, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL A. ROBINSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Thomas A. Varlan Chief United States District Judge

         This criminal case is before the Court on the defendant's motion for sentence reduction [Doc. 362] and supplemental motion for a sentence reduction [Doc. 375]. In the defendant's motion, the defendant requests that the Court resentence him 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. 377], and the defendant replied [Doc. 380]. The government defers to the Court's discretion 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.

         Also before the Court are various other motions filed by the defendant [Docs. 361, 363, 369, 373374, 376]. The government filed a motion for extension of time to respond to certain motions [Doc. 372] and contemporaneously filed that consolidated response [Doc. 371].

         I. Background

         The defendant was convicted of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute less than 50 kilograms of marijuana and more than 5 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), and aiding and abetting the possession with intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(D) [Doc. 274]. At the time of sentencing, the defendant was held responsible for 5 kilograms of cocaine and 40 kilograms of marijuana, for a combined marijuana equivalent of 1, 040 kilograms [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 38]. Given the amount of drugs for which the defendant was held responsible, the defendant's base offense level was 32 [Id.]. The defendant received a four-level enhancement for his role in the offense and a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice, which resulted in a total offense level of 38 [Id. ¶¶ 41-42, 45]. Given the defendant's criminal history category of III, the defendant's applicable guideline range was 292 to 365 months' imprisonment [Id. ¶¶ 53, 82].

         Judge James H. Jarvis sentenced the defendant on May 15, 2006, to 292 months' imprisonment [Doc. 274], which was within the range produced by the Guidelines. According to the government, the defendant is presently scheduled for release on October 27, 2022 [Doc. 377].

         In 2008, the defendant filed a pro se motion for a new trial, noting that at his trial the jury had placed check marks next to particular drug quantities instead of writing “yes” or “no” on the blank lines provided. The defendant argued that the use of check marks rather than words negated any valid finding at trial regarding drug quantity [Doc. 301]. The Court denied the defendant's motion [Doc. 302]. The defendant subsequently appealed the Court's decision, and the Sixth Circuit agreed that the “perceived flaw in the jury's completion of the special verdict form . . . does not constitute evidence material to [the defendant's] guilt or innocence that would be likely to produce an acquittal if he were retried” [Doc. 313 pp. 2-3]. Rather, the Sixth Circuit indicated that “it is clear from the verdict form and the district court's oral pronouncement of the verdict that the jury found [the defendant] guilty of the charged conspiracy with regard to the amount specified. Accordingly, he is not entitled to a new trial on this basis” [Id.].

         In 2009, the defendant filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion [Doc. 309], which the Court denied [Doc. 328]. Plaintiff sought to appeal the Court's decision, but the Sixth Circuit denied a certificate of appealability and the Supreme Court denied certiorari [Docs. 347, 351].

         In 2013, the defendant filed another motion, purportedly pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 36, in which he contended that the Court should “correct” the check marks on the jury's special verdict form, replace the check marks with “no, ” and grant him an evidentiary hearing [Doc. 349]. The Court denied this motion, finding that the Court has “previously considered and rejected the very same argument the defendant now makes” [Doc. 359]. The defendant subsequently filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's denial of his Rule 36 motion, as well as a number of motions related to Amendment 782 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The Court will first address the defendant's motions related to Amendment 782, and then turn to the defendant's motion for reconsideration.

         II. The Defendant's Amendment 782 Motion

         “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, then “[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 determining whether a defendant has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission, the Court must first determine “the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant had the relevant amendment been in effect at the time of the initial sentencing.” Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.10(b)(1). Other than substituting Amendment 782 for the corresponding provision applicable when the defendant was originally sentenced, the Court “shall leave all other guideline application decisions unaffected.” Id. And the Court “shall not” reduce a defendant's term of imprisonment to a term “less than the minimum of the amended guideline range, ” nor to a term “less than the term of imprisonment the defendant has already served.” Id. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), (C).[1] In addition to ...


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