United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Jordan, United States District Judge.
criminal case is before the Court on the defendant’s
April 23, 2019 motion for sentence reduction. [Doc. 114].
Through counsel, the defendant asks the Court to reduce his
sentence pursuant to Section 404 of the First Step Act of
2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, which
retroactively applies certain provisions of the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372.
United States has filed its response. [Doc. 115]. For the
reasons that follow, the defendant’s motion will be
granted in part.
Defendant’s Eligibility for First Step Act
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, 564 U.S. 522, 526 (2011)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted). One of those
narrow exceptions is 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B), which
provides that “the court may modify an imposed term of
imprisonment to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by
statute . . . .” The First Step Act, which was enacted
on December 21, 2018, is one such statute.
404(b) of the First Step Act instructs that the “court
that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may, on motion
of the defendant . . ., impose a reduced sentence as if
sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . .
were in effect at the time the covered offense was
committed.” A covered offense is “a violation of
a Federal criminal statute, the statutory penalties for which
were modified by section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of
2010 . . ., that was committed before August 3, 2010.”
First Step Act, § 404(a).
2007, a jury found the present defendant guilty possessing
with the intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine
base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
841(b)(1)(B). Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, 21 U.S.C.
§ 841 (as applied to the present defendant) mandated an
enhanced sentence of ten years to life imprisonment for
violations of section 841(a)(1) involving five grams or more
of cocaine base. See 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(B)(iii) (2007). For 841(a)(1) violations involving
less than five grams of cocaine base, the relevant enhanced
statutory imprisonment range was (and remains) zero to thirty
years. See Id . § 841(b)(1)(C). Since the
enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act, the 841(b)(1)(B)(iii)
penalties now apply only to offenses involving 28 grams or
more of cocaine base. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)
(2019); Dorsey v. United States, 567 U.S. 260, 269
noted, the First Step Act defines a “covered
offense” as “a violation of a Federal criminal
statute, the statutory penalties for which were modified by
section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . .,
” First Step Act, § 404(a). This Court agrees that
eligibility under the language of the First Step Act turns on
a simple, categorical question: namely, whether a
defendant's offense of conviction was a crack cocaine
offense affected by the Fair Sentencing Act. If so, the
defendant is categorically eligible for consideration
regardless of actual quantities. The particular quantities
affect only the Court's discretionary call on whether to
grant a reduction in sentence.
. . .
. . . This is a categorial decision based on the type of
prior conviction, not any particular quantity determination.
The Court then determines whether to exercise its discretion
to reduce the defendant's sentence. . . . Based on this
information, the Court will then determine the extent of any
reduction it decides in its discretion to award, consistent
with statutory limits, non-binding guideline considerations,
and the Section 3553 factors.
United States v. Boulding, 379 F.Supp. 3d 646, 648,
651, 654 (W.D. Mich. 2019).
noted, the instant defendant was found guilty possessing with
the intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base
in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and
841(b)(1)(B). Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010
modified the statutory penalties for that federal criminal
statute. See Fair Sentencing Act, 124 Stat. 2372.
The defendant committed his crime in 2005. [Presentence
Investigation Report (“PSR”), ¶ 6]. Thus, he
was sentenced by this Court for “a covered
offense” and is eligible to be considered for First
Step Act relief.