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 Leoditus Aramus Smith's
Motion for Reduction of Sentence under the First Step Act of
2018. Mot. for Reduction of Sentence, ECF No. 563.
For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN
PART and DENIES IN PART his motion.
September 14, 2009, Defendant pleaded guilty to an indictment
charging him with conspiracy to possess with the intent to
distribute fifty grams or more of cocaine base, or
“crack, ” in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Eligibility Mem., ECF No. 573, at 1. At the time,
this quantity of crack subjected Defendant to a mandatory
minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment. Resp.,
ECF No. 577, at 2. His relatively extensive criminal history,
including prior drug felonies, earned Defendant a criminal
history score of fifteen and placed him in criminal history
category VI. Id. This history also rendered
Defendant a career offender under the Sentencing Guidelines,
resulting in a total offense level of thirty-four and a
guideline range of 262 to 327 months imprisonment.
Probation Mem., at 3. On December 15, 2009, the
Court determined that a sentence at the bottom end of the
guideline range was appropriate and imposed a term of
imprisonment of 262 months and a five-year term of supervised
release. Resp., at 2.
date, Defendant has served approximately 118 months of his
sentence. Probation Mem., at 4. He has accumulated a
series of scattered sanctions while incarcerated, but has
also completed the drug education program, the
non-residential drug treatment program, and
“numerous” other educational
courses. Id. At present, Defendant's
projected release date is November 18, 2028. Id.
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, 393 F.Supp.3d
432, 441 (E.D. Va. 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, 393 F.Supp.3d
at 441. 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 441. 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 United
States 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) (listing cases).