United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Defendant Kelvin Andre Spotts' seven
motions requesting relief under the First Step Act. ECF Nos.
1451, 1452, 1456, 1461, 1472, 1473, 1476, 1479. For the
purposes of this analysis, the Court will construe the first
of these motions-styled a “Motion Requesting Immediate
Release From Federal Prison”-as a Motion for Reduction
of Sentence under the First Step Act. ECF No. 1451. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN
PART and DENIES IN PART the motion.
Defendant's successive motions seeking relief under the
First Step Act are accordingly DENIED AS
September 18, 1998, Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts
of an eighteen-count superseding indictment. Plea
Agreement, ECF No. 385. Count Two charged Defendant with
conspiracy to distribute cocaine base, or “crack,
” powder cocaine, and marijuana in violation of 21
U.S.C. § 846. Superseding Indictment, ECF No.
30, at 3. Count Thirteen charged Defendant with use of a
firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime in
violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). Id. at 14.
Third and finally, Count Eighteen charged Defendant with
conspiracy to launder money in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1956(h). Id. at 20-21. Over the course of the
following few months, Defendant filed a series of motions
aimed at withdrawing his guilty plea, changing his
representation, and otherwise lessening his sentencing
exposure. See, e.g., ECF Nos. 432, 433,
439, 440. Under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) and an
Information filed pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, Defendant
faced a statutory sentencing range of twenty years to life
imprisonment on Count Two. He also faced a mandatory minimum
sixty-month term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1), set to run consecutively to all other counts. With
a criminal history category of VI and a total offense level
of forty-four, Defendant faced a mandatory sentence of life
imprisonment on Count Two alone under the then-mandatory
Court denied Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty
plea, and conducted a sentencing on February 10, 1999.
Sentencing Tr., ECF No. 570. Twenty-two kilograms of
crack were attributed to Defendant for the purposes of
calculating his guideline range, though additional quantities
of marijuana and powder cocaine were noted in the presentence
report. Id. at 9-10; Probation Mem., at 3.
The Court concluded that Defendant was “the organizer,
ringleader and in every sense the supervisor of [a drug
distribution] conspiracy involving numerous individuals,
” responsible for importing a “huge quantity of
cocaine and cocaine base” into the Southern District of
West Virginia. Sentencing Tr., at 26-27. The Court
sentenced Defendant to a term of life imprisonment on Count
Two, to be constructively followed by a term of sixty months
imprisonment on the § 924(c) firearm charge contained in
Count Thirteen. Nevertheless, the Court observed that it
likely would not have imposed a sentence of life imprisonment
if the Guidelines had not mandated such a sentence.
Id. at 28. Although rendered irrelevant by
Defendant's lifetime term of imprisonment, the Court also
sentenced Defendant to the ten-year statutory minimum term of
supervised release. Id.
date, the defendant has served approximately 257 months in
prison. Probation Mem., at 5. He completed the drug
education program in 2002, and has satisfied his financial
obligations.Id. Somewhat remarkably, Defendant
has accumulated no more than twelve sanctions over the course
of his nearly twenty-two year term of incarceration.
Id. Pursuant to the 2014 Drug Amendment, on October
30, 2015, the Court reduced Defendant's sentence on Count
Two to 360 months imprisonment. Id. at 3. Even
allowing for this reduction, however, Defendant's
consecutive sixty-month sentence on Count Thirteen means he
is not projected to be released until February 3, 2029.
Id. at 5.
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.
proper mechanism to seek relief under the First Step Act is
18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(b).United States v. Wirsing,
No. 19-6381, 2019 WL 6139017, at *8 (4th Cir. Nov. 20, 2019)
(published). 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. United
States, 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 ...