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 John Jackson's letter-form
Motion for Reduction of Sentence under the First Step Act of
2018. Mot. for Reduction of Sentence, ECF No. 175.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN
PART and DENIES IN PART
February 27, 2006, Defendant pleaded guilty to
“Possession with Intent to Distribute 5 Grams or More
of Cocaine Base, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). See Plea Hr'g, ECF No. 62;
Judgment, ECF No. 65, at 1. In light of an
Information filed pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851,
“the defendant's penalties were increased as a
repeat offender.” See Probation Mem., at 3.
This resulted “in a statutory sentencing range of 10
years to life in prison and a term of supervised release of 8
years.” Id. 28.05 grams of cocaine base, or
“crack, ” were attributed to Defendant at the
time. Id. Defendant's original guideline
sentence ranged from 262 to 327 months, based on a criminal
history category of VI and a total offense level of 34.
Id. This Court sentenced Defendant to 262 months
imprisonment, eight years of supervised release, a $100
special assessment, and a $7, 500 fine. See
Judgment, at 2-3, 6.
the imposition of his original sentence, Defendant's
sentence has not been reduced. Probation Mem., at 3.
Considering his designation as a career offender,
Defendant's guideline range was unaffected by the United
States Sentencing Commission's 2011 and 2014 revisions to
the crack to powder cocaine ratio specified in the
Guidelines. See Id. at 4. Defendant's adjustment
to incarceration has not been without its pitfalls. Though he
has completed two drug education programs, he has also been
subject to sanctions on at least thirty-five separate
occasions.Probation Mem., at 4-5.
Defendant's infractions include, inter alia,
numerous instances of engaging in sexual acts, refusing work
assignments, and threatening bodily harm. Id. To
date, Defendant has served approximately 171 months in
prison. Id. He is currently projected to be released
from custody on February 17, 2026. Id.
to the First Step Act of 2018, Defendant filed a letter-form
motion seeking a reduction in his sentence on January 7,
2019. Mot. for Reduction of Sentence, at 1. On June
4, 2019, Defendant's counsel submitted a memorandum
arguing that he was eligible for a reduced sentence under the
First Step Act, that the Court should conduct a full
resentencing, and that Defendant's sentence should be
reduced to time served. Def.'s Mem., ECF No.
178. On June 19, 2019, the Government filed a Response to
Defendant's memorandum, contending that Defendant's
new guideline range was 188 to 235 months imprisonment under
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b) and that the “appropriate
modified sentence is a reduction to a within-guideline
sentence to be followed by a period of supervised release of
six years.” See Resp., ECF No. 180, at 8.
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 provides, 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
eligible for a reduced sentence under the First Step Act, 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 reduced
sentence inasmuch as courts are not required to grant relief
under § 404. Id. The First Step Act thus
represents a broad grant of discretion to the federal courts,
and is indicative of how this Court's authority may be
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, e.g.,
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 (2013). In light of these
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, supplemental material from
the defendant, and the memorandum submitted by the Probation
Office, which includes a summary of the ...