United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Greeneville
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Jordan United States District Judge
criminal case is before the Court on the defendant's
August 14, 2019 motion for sentence reduction. [Doc. 1463].
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 responded in partial opposition to the
motion, ultimately deferring to the Court's discretion.
[Doc. 1477]. For the reasons that follow, the defendant's
motion will be granted.
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).
defendant pled guilty to Count One of the Superseding
Indictment, conspiring to distribute 50 grams or more of
cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1). Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, 21 U.S.C. §
841 (as applied to the present defendant) mandated an
enhanced sentence of 20 years to life imprisonment for
violations of section 841(a)(1) involving 50 grams or more of
cocaine base. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii)
(2009). For 841(a)(1) violations involving less than 50 grams
of cocaine base, the enhanced statutory imprisonment range
was 10 years to life. See Id. §
841(b)(1)(B)(iii). Since the enactment of the Fair Sentencing
Act, the 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) penalties now apply (as to cocaine
base) only to offenses involving 280 grams or more, and the
841(b)(1)(B)(iii) penalties apply only to offenses involving
28 grams or more (but less than 280 grams). See 21
U.S.C. § 841(b) (2018); Dorsey v. United
States, 567 U.S. 260, 269 (2012).
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.
United States v. Boulding, 379 F.Supp.3d 646, 651,
654 (W.D. Mich. 2019).
noted, the instant defendant pled guilty to conspiring to
distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of
21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A). 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 from 2007 through 2009. [Presentence Investigation
Report (“PSR”), ¶ 13]. Thus, he was
sentenced by this Court for “a covered offense”
and is eligible to be considered for First Step Act relief.