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United States v. Williams

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

November 7, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
STEPHEN LEON WILLIAMS

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. RONNIE GREER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This criminal case is before the Court on the defendant's motion for a sentence reduction, [Doc. 768]. 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 (“USSG”). The government has responded, [Doc. 775], and the defendant has replied, [Doc. 779]. The matter is ripe for review, and the record is clear. For the reasons that follow, the motion is DENIED.

         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 USSG § 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. Furthermore, 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 pleaded guilty to conspiring to distribute oxycodone, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C), and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), [Docs. 330 and 333]. As part of his 11(c)(1)(C) Plea Agreement, the defendant agreed that he distributed an estimated 2, 250 (30 milligram) oxycodone pills, which converts to marijuana equivalent of 452 kilograms, [Doc. 330, ¶ 4(o)]. The parties further stipulated that the appropriate sentence would be a 90-month term of imprisonment followed by a three-year term of supervised release. [Doc. 330, ¶ 6].

         The probation officer used the stipulated drug quantity to calculate the guidelines range. Given the amount of drugs for which the defendant was held responsible, the defendant's base offense level was 28, [Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 30]. The officer applied a two-level enhancement for the defendant's possession of a firearm [PSR, ¶ 31]. The adjusted offense level for the drug conspiracy was 30, [PSR, ¶ 35]. The officer then calculated the guideline range for the felon in possession of a weapon offense, which had a base offense level of 20, [PSR, ¶ 36]. The officer applied a four-level enhancement, resulting in an adjusted offense level of 24, [PSR, ¶ 24]. The officer used the greater of the adjusted offense levels and applied a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility pursuant to section 3E1.1(a) and (b), which resulted in a total offense level of 27, [PSR, ¶¶ 42-46]. Given the defendant's criminal history category of III, the defendant's applicable guideline range was 87 to 108 months' imprisonment, [PSR, ¶¶ 57, 84].

         The Court accepted the plea agreement, and sentenced the defendant to 90 months' imprisonment pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C), [Doc. 772 at PageID # 4464-65]. The defendant is presently scheduled for release on November 18, 2019, [Doc. 768, at 2; Doc. 775, at 2].

         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. USSG 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. USSG App. C, amend. 788.

         Even with the application of the Guideline revisions, the drug offense level would still be higher than the firearm possession offense, and thus would continue to control. Applying Amendment 782, the defendant's revised base offense level is 26, and affording the defendant the same adjustments the defendant originally received, the defendant's new total offense level is 25. USSG § 1B1.10(b)(1). A total offense level of 25 and a criminal history category of III results in an amended guideline range of 70 to 87 months' imprisonment. Nonetheless, because the defendant was sentenced pursuant to an 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, this court must ...


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