United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are the defendant's Motion to Reduce
Sentence under the First Step Act of 2018, (ECF No. 359),
Amended Motion to Reduce Sentence, (ECF No. 360), and Motion
to Expedite, (ECF No. 361). For the forgoing reasons, the
Court GRANTS the two motions to reduce the
defendant's sentence and DENIES, as
moot, the Motion to Expedite.
was convicted on his guilty pleas of two offenses:
distribution of cocaine and fifty grams or more of cocaine
base and being a felon in possession of a firearm. ECF Nos.
118, 150. On January 11, 2001, he was sentenced to life
imprisonment. ECF No. 206. That sentence was based on the
mandatory minimum of ten years to life under the statutory
framework then applicable. The Court rejected the presentence
report estimate of the amount of cocaine base and concluded
that the defendant's base offense level fell within the
range of 150-500 grams-a level thirty-four under the
sentencing guidelines. Nonetheless, the adjusted offense
level rose to forty-four, and with a criminal history
category of VI, the mandatory guideline sentence was life
imprisonment. The Court later reduced his sentence to a term
of 360 months of imprisonment, pursuant to the 2007 revised
Guidelines for cocaine base, (ECF No. 297), and then to 324
months based on the 2014 revised Guidelines. In light of the
First Step Act, the defendant now seeks a further reduction
of his sentence.
court imposes a sentence of imprisonment, it is considered
the final judgment on the matter and the court, as a general
prohibition, “may not modify a term of imprisonment
once it has been imposed.” 18 U.S.C. §§
3582(b) & 3582(c)(1)(B). However, a court can modify a
sentence where it is “expressly permitted by
statute.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B).
First Step Act of 2018 states, in relevant part, that a
“court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense
may . . . 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.” Pub. L. No.
115- 391, 132 Stat. 5194, § 404(b) (2018) (hereinafter
“The First Step Act”). Section Two of
the Fair Sentencing Act increased the quantity of cocaine
base, or “crack, ” which triggers a mandatory
minimum penalty. Pub. L. No. 111-220, §2, 124 Stat. 2372
(2010). Section Three eliminated the statutory minimum
sentence for simple possession of crack. Id. at
eligible, a defendant's sentence must not have been
imposed or previously reduced under sections two or three of
the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Id. at § 404(c).
Nor can a defendant have been previously denied a reduction
under § 404 of the First Step Act. Id. Though a
defendant, the Government, or the Court can move for a
reduced sentence, individuals are not entitled to a reduction
as courts are not required to grant relief under § 404.
discretion given to courts whether to grant relief is broad
and indicative of how authority under this statute can be
exercised. Courts in this district and throughout the Fourth
Circuit agree that the proper mechanism to seek relief under
the First Step Act is 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(b). United States v. Banks, No.
1:07-00157, 2019 WL 2221620, at *4 (S.D. W.Va. May 22, 2019)
(Faber, J.) (citing United States v. Shelton, No.
3:07-329, 2019 WL 1598921, at *3 (D.S.C. April 15, 2019)
(listing cases)). As such, the language of First Step Act
controls the Court's ability to grant relief. See
Wright v. United States, Nos. 4:95-39, 4:95-44, 2019 WL
3046096, at *4 (E.D. Va. July 11, 2019). Under §
3582(c)(1)(B), a court can choose to conduct a simple
mechanical reduction of a sentence based on a decreased
exposure to statutory minimums and the correlating lower
courts are not limited by § 3582(c)(1)(B). The First
Step Act allows for a court to “impose a reduced
sentence” if an individual is eligible. The First
Step Act, § 404(b). Reading the word
“impose” consistently within the United States
Code reveals that this equates to the announcement of a
convicted person's sentence. See 18 U.S.C.
§§ 3553(a) and 3582(a). Therefore, the First Step
Act grants courts statutory authority to conduct a full
resentencing, in addition to the discretion to decide when
doing so is appropriate. See Wright, 2019 WL
3046096, at *4. Whether a court decides to resentence a
defendant or not, the language of the First Step Act does not
require a hearing. See Id. at *5. It is within the
sound judgment of the Court to determine if an evidentiary or
sentencing hearing is necessary to address the issues of a
considering the statutory authority under the First Step Act,
federal courts presume Congress acts in the context of
relevant case law. Abuelhawa v. United States, 556
U.S. 816, 821 (2009) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529
U.S. 362, 380-81, n.12 (2000). The Fair Sentencing Act, and
its application through the First Step Act, is administered
in light of the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v.
Booker, which held mandatory guideline ranges were
unconstitutional. 543 U.S. 220, 244-45 (2005). While
Booker is not retroactively applied on a collateral
attack, a court may now vary outside of the guideline range
if it chooses to conduct a full resentencing. United
States v. Morris, 429 F.3d 65, 72 (4th Cir. 2005). This
includes variances based on policy disagreements with the
Sentencing Guidelines. Kimbrough v. U.S., 552 U.S.
defendant is determined to be eligible, the Court must
examine the statutory threshold to which that defendant
pleaded and compare it to the alteration of the applicable
law. The Court recognizes that the drug quantity listed in an
indictment traditionally tracks the statutory minimums to
ensure a defendant's plea or conviction complies with the
Sixth Amendment. It is not illogical to speculate that had
the Fair Sentencing Act been enacted at the time of a
defendant's plea, the elevated statutory amounts would be
listed in the indictment and may have had little to no impact
on the defendant's decision to plea. See U.S. v.
Blocker, No. 4:07-36-RH, 2019 WL 2051957, at *4 (N.D.
Fla. Apr. 25, 2019) (explaining
“offense-controls” theories, and adopting the
latter.). Yet to assume such a fact impermissibly alters the
indictment and unconstitutionally abridges a defendant's
Sixth Amendment rights. See Alleyne v. United
States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013). In the context of First Step
Act cases, this is true whether a court is conducting a full
resentencing or not. See United States v. Smith, 379
F.Supp.3d 543, 546- 47 (W.D. Va. May 13, 2019). Due to the
constitutional considerations, this Court-along with a number
of others- adopts an “indictment-controls”
interpretation of the First Step Act's impact on a
defendant's plea. United States v. Springs, No.
3:05-CR-00042-FDW-1, 2019 WL 3310092 (W.D. N.C. July 23,
2019) (applying Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S.
99 (2013) to First Step Act cases) (listing cases).
reviewing the instant case, the Court considered the
pleadings; the original presentence report; the judgment
order and statement of reasons; any supplemental material
from the defendant, including any correspondence; and the
memorandum submitted by the Probation Office, which includes
a summary of ...