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United States v. Muldrow

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

December 27, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
WILLIAM HENRY MULDROW, a/k/a William Cooper, a/k/a Willie, a/k/a Fred Washington, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
LUIS GOMEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued: October 26, 2016

         Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Deborah K. Chasanow, Senior District Judge. (8:03-cr-00555-AW-3; 8:95-cr-00267-DKC-14)

         ARGUED:

          Sapna Mirchandani, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellants.

          Sujit Raman, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          James Wyda, Federal Public Defender, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellants.

          Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Debra L. Dwyer, Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

          Before DUNCAN and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and Bruce H. HENDRICKS, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina, sitting by designation.

         Affirmed by published opinion. Judge Duncan wrote the opinion, in which Judge Agee and Judge Hendricks joined.

          DUNCAN, Circuit Judge:

         Defendants William Henry Muldrow ("Muldrow") and Luis Gomez ("Gomez") challenge the district court's determination that the Guidelines commentary--as amended by United States Sentencing Guideline Amendment 759 ("Amendment 759")--requires a district court at resentencing to calculate the "applicable guideline range" without applying any departures or variances from a defendant's original sentencing range. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court and join all of our sister circuits that have considered the issue in holding that Amendment 759 binds sentencing courts.

         I.

         A.

         Both Defendants were convicted of drug offenses in unrelated cases--Muldrow in 2006 and Gomez in 1996. This court consolidated their appeals.

         Muldrow pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five or more grams of cocaine and oxycodone, on January 19, 2006. At his sentencing on March 29, 2006, the district court adopted the findings of the presentence report with one exception. It departed from a criminal history category VI to a category V because it found Muldrow's criminal history category overrepresented the seriousness of his criminal record. U.S.S.G. § 4A1.3. Employing an offense level 34 and a post-departure criminal history category V, the district court calculated a guideline range of 235 to 293 months and sentenced Muldrow to 235 months in prison.

         A jury convicted Gomez of one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, on June 29, 1996. At sentencing, the district court calculated his guideline range based on an offense level 44 and a criminal history category III, resulting in a then-mandatory guideline sentence of life imprisonment. On November 6, 1996, the court imposed a life sentence, but subsequently granted Gomez's 28 U.S.C. § 2255 petition in part, vacating his sentence. The district court recalculated Gomez's guideline range as 360 months to life imprisonment based on an offense level of 41 and a criminal history category II. Like Muldrow, Gomez received a downward departure under § 4A1.3 because the district court found that a criminal history category III overstated the seriousness of his criminal record. The court resentenced Gomez on February 27, 2006, imposing a below-guideline-range sentence of 340 months.

         B.

         In 2014 and 2015, Defendants separately filed motions for resentencing under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on the retroactive application of United States Sentencing Guideline Amendment 782. U.S.S.G., app. C., amend. 782 (2014) ("Amendment 782"). Amendment 782 reduced the base offense level for drug offenses by two levels. Id. The United States Sentencing Commission ("Commission") has the power to make its amendments retroactive, and although it has done so sparingly, it did so with Amendment 782 by listing it in subsection (d) of § 1B1.10 of the Guidelines Manual. U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(d); United States v. Williams, 808 F.3d 253, 263 (4th Cir. 2015). Before the district court, the parties agreed that Defendants are eligible for ...


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