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 Matthew James White's
Motion for Reduction of Sentence under the First Step Act of
2018. Eligibility Mem., ECF No. 115. For the reasons
set forth herein, the Court GRANTS the
October 24, 2005, Defendant pleaded guilty to a single-count
indictment charging him with possession with the intent to
distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base, or
“crack, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). Eligibility Mem., at 1. On February 8,
2006, this Court sentenced Defendant to a term of 292 months
of imprisonment and five years of supervised release.
Resp. to Eligibility Mem., ECF No. 117, at 2;
Probation Mem., at 3. At the time of his original
sentencing, 165.25 grams of cocaine base were attributed to
Defendant. Probation Mem., at 3.
the next nine years, the Court reduced Defendant's
sentence three times. First, on September 21, 2010 the Court
resentenced Defendant to 235 months of imprisonment and five
years of supervised release pursuant to the Sentencing
Commission's amendments to section 1B1.10 of the United
States Sentencing Guidelines. Id. On January 13,
2012, Defendant was again resentenced to 151 months of
imprisonment and five years of supervised release pursuant to
further amendments to section 1B1.10 of the Guidelines.
Id. Finally, on September 11, 2015, Defendant's
sentence was reduced to 130 months of imprisonment and five
years of supervised release as a result of the 2014 Drug
was released from federal custody on November 15, 2016.
Id. at 5. He subsequently began serving the
remainder of an undischarged state sentence for first-degree
murder. Eligibility Mem., at 1. According to the
West Virginia Department of Corrections, Defendant's next
parole hearing is set for January 23, 2020.
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, ” that 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 § 3. To be
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. Id.
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). See
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.
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, 102 (2013). Due to this
constitutional consideration, 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)
reviewing the instant case, the Court considered the
pleadings, the original presentence report, the judgment
order and statement of reasons, and the memorandum submitted
by the Probation Office, which includes a summary of the
defendant's institutional adjustments while in the
custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
Defendant was charged with possession with the intent to
distribute fifty grams of cocaine base; as such, he is
subject to the statutory sentencing provisions outlined in 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). The statutory maximum sentence
for a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) is forty
years, rendering a conviction for such an offense a Class B
Felony. See 18 U.S.C. § 3559(a)(2). As
Defendant has already been released from federal custody,
only the length of his term of supervised release is
implicated here. Class B felonies carry a statutory maximum
term of supervised release of five years under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3583(b)(1), and convictions under 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(B) carry a mandatory minimum term of supervised
release of four years. The Court is thus bounded by a
four-year minimum and five-year maximum term of supervised
Defendant and the United States agree that a reduction to the
statutory minimum term of supervised release is appropriate
in this case. The United States puts it well in noting that a
“slight reduction in the term of Supervised Release
would constitute a variance from the original sentence,
giving effect to the Court's intent to sentence defendant
to less than the 2008 ...