United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Daniel K. Leggette's Motion
for Reduction of Sentence under the First Step Act of 2018.
Mot. for Reduction of Sentence, ECF No. 137. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS
January 5, 2010, Defendant pleaded guilty to possession with
the intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base,
or “crack, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). Eligibility Mem., ECF No. 141, at 1.
Several months later, on April 13, 2010, this Court sentenced
Defendant to 188 months imprisonment and four years of
supervised release. Id. Defendant is presently
incarcerated at FCI Butner, with a projected release date of
July 19, 2022. Id.
January 17, 2019, Defendant filed a Motion for Reduction of
Sentence pursuant to the recently-enacted First Step Act.
See Mot. for Reduction of Sentence. Per the
Court's Standing Order, the Office of the Federal Public
Defender was appointed to determine whether Defendant was
qualified to seek a reduction in his sentence. See
Standing Order, ECF No. 138. On March 19, 2019,
Defendant's counsel filed a memorandum concluding that
Defendant was eligible for a reduced sentence under the First
Step Act. Eligibility Mem, at 1. On April 10, 2019,
the United States filed a Response indicating that it also
believed that Defendant qualified for a reduced sentence.
Resp., ECF No. 143, at 8. The Court considers
Defendant's motion below.
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 for a reduction in sentence, 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. While 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.
Id. The First Step Act therefore represents a broad
grant of authority to the federal 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 guideline range.
courts are not limited by § 3582(c)(1)(B). The First
Step Act allows 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 or not a court decides to resentence
a defendant, 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 United
States v. Booker, which held that mandatory guideline
ranges are 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. See Kimbrough v.
U.S., 552 U.S. 85 (2007).
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, e.g., 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 to First Step Act cases)