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United States v. Cole

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

July 14, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DANIEL COLE, 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 a sentence reduction [Doc. 187]. 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. 190]. 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.

         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, 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 these limits, section 1B1.10 states that a court must also consider the § 3553 factors and the danger to the public created by any reduction in a defendant's sentence. Id. at cmt. n.1(B). A court may further consider a defendant's post-sentencing conduct. Id.

         II. Factual Background

         The defendant was convicted of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute oxycodone and methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C), and two counts of possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c) [Doc. 9]. At the time of sentencing, the defendant was held responsible for a quantity of oxycodone with a marijuana equivalent of 4, 020 kilograms [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 31, 38]. Given the amount of drugs for which the defendant was held responsible, the defendant's base offense level was 34 [Id. ]. The defendant received a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility pursuant to section 3E1.1(a) and (b), which resulted in a total offense level of 31 [Id. ¶ 44-45]. Given the defendant's criminal history category of III, the defendant's applicable guideline range was 135 to 168 months' imprisonment with respect to his drug trafficking offenses [Id. ¶ 64, 87]. The defendant was also subject to statutory mandatory minimum consecutive sentences of both 60 months' imprisonment and a 300 months' imprisonment for the 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) offenses. Therefore, the defendant's effective guideline range was 495 to 528 months' imprisonment [Id. ¶ 86-87].

         The Court sentenced the defendant on April 9, 2012, to 495 months' imprisonment [Doc. 99]. According to the government, the defendant is currently scheduled for release on July 22, 2047.

         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 described 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.

         Applying Amendment 782, the defendant's revised base offense level is 32, and affording the defendant the same adjustments the defendant originally received, the defendant's new total offense level is 29. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.10(b)(1). A total offense level of 29 and a criminal history category of III results in an amended guideline range of 108 to 135 months' imprisonment for the drug offenses. Thus, the defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission.

         Next, the Court must determine whether a sentence reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.10. “[T]o satisfy the second requirement, a guidelines amendment must have had the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range.” Riley, ...


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