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United States v. Richards

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

May 7, 2019



          Aleta A. Trauger, United States District Judge.

         Before the court is defendant Timothy Ryan Richards' pro se “Omnibus Motion for Relief under the All Writs Act and Motion Requiring the Federal Bureau of Prisons to Immediately Place Him in a Residential Reentry Center for the Remainder of His Sentence” (hereafter, “First Step Motion”) (Doc. No. 411), seeking an order compelling the United States Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to immediately recalculate his release date based on the First Step Act of 2018 (“FSA”), Pub. L. 115-391, 132 Sta. 5194, as well as an order compelling the BOP to release him immediately into a Residential Reentry Center. Also pending is Richards' Motion to Expedite Ruling on Previously Filed Motion for Relief Under the First Step Act of 2018 (“Motion to Expedite”). (Doc. No. 414.)

         The latter motion is granted. However, because the court finds that it does not have the authority to grant the other relief requested, the First Step Motion will be denied without prejudice.

         I. Background

         Following a jury trial in this court, Richards was convicted on charges related to the distribution, production, and advertising of child pornography. (Judgment, Doc. No. 386.) On November 7, 2008, Richards received a below-guideline-range sentence of sixteen years, to be followed by eight years of supervised release. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the conviction and sentence, United States v. Richards, 659 F.3d 527 (6th Cir. 2012), and the Supreme Court denied review, Richards v. United States, 566 U.S. 1043 (2012). Richards is currently serving his sentence at FCI Seagoville Low Federal Correctional Institution in Seagoville, Texas. According to Richards, the BOP calculates his release date as August 31, 2019. (Doc. No. 411, at 9.)

         Richards filed his First Step Motion on March 15, 2019. He subsequently supplemented his motion in a letter, further explaining the hardships imposed on him as a result of the BOP's failure to update his release date and its denial of his request for placement in a Residential Reentry Center. (Doc. No. 413.) Shortly thereafter, the court entered an order appointing the Federal Public Defender for the purpose of conducting a review to determine whether the movant was entitled to relief under the FSA and directing counsel to file a notice of appearance or supplemental motion within 45 days of the date of that order. (Doc. No. 412.) The order also provided that the government would then have 30 days to respond to the motion.

         Richards promptly filed his Motion to Expedite, explaining that the scheduling order meant that the court would not be able to rule on his motion until weeks after he believed he would be due for release under the FSA. In response, the court entered an order modifying the briefing schedule. (Doc. No. 415.) Appointed counsel entered an appearance and filed a Supplemental Brief in support of the First Step Motion the same day. (Doc. Nos. 416, 417.) The government filed its Response, opposing relief (Doc. No. 419), and Richards, through appointed counsel, filed a Reply (Doc. No. 420.)

         II. The First Step Motion

         Richards' motion, which purports to seek relief under the authority granted the federal courts by the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, asks that the BOP be ordered to “immediately apply the good time credits afforded him” under the FSA, which was signed into law on December 21, 2018. Richards argues that (1) the FSA provision modifying the method by which federal prisoners' good-time credits should be calculated went into effect immediately upon the signing of the FSA; (2) the effect of that modification is to move his release date up from the end of August 2019 to May 11, 2019; and (3) the BOP's failure to implement the FSA immediately violates his Fifth Amendment right to due process and equal protection.

         In addition, irrespective of his FSA release date, Richards demands an order directing the BOP to place him immediately into a Residential Reentry Center (“RRC”), prior to his actual release from custody, in order to help prepare him for his eventual release. He states that he successfully completed the 500-hour Residential Drug Abuse Program (“RDAP”), which makes him eligible for early release, but that the BOP has refused to place him in any RRC prior to his release.[1] He relies upon the following statutory provision:

The Director of the Bureau of Prisons shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions may include a community correctional facility.

18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1). He details his extensive rehabilitative efforts over his years of incarceration, over and above his completion of the in-prison portion of RDAP. As a result, he argues that the BOP is authorized by statute to allow him to serve up to a year in a community corrections setting. (Doc. No. 411, at 26.)

         He explains that, at his present institution, he requested placement in the RRC program. In October 2017, the prison staff filed the formal request for RRC placement and recommended that such placement take place in a community corrections setting between 271 and 364 days prior to release. Despite this recommendation, the BOP denied Richards' request for placement in a community corrections setting. As a result, he risks being released directly from prison into the community with no transitional assistance from the BOP. He filed a petition for habeas relief challenging the BOP's denial of his request, but his petition was denied. Richards v. Harmons, No. 3:17-cv-02591-L-BT (N.D. Tex. Aug. 9, 2018).[2] He now seeks relief in this court, citing 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), which requires the court to “impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than necessary” to, among other factors, “provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner.” id. § 3553(a)(2)(D).

         The Supplemental Brief filed by counsel adds little to Richards' very thorough pro se brief, except that it notes, somewhat tangentially, that the BOP has, to date, denied Richards the right to serve his eight years of supervised release in Vermont rather than in Tennessee and “asks that this Court take whatever step ...

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