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United States v. Marshall

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Charlottesville Division

March 21, 2014

JERMEER MARSHALL, BOP Register Number: XXXXX-XXX Defendant.


NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion for Sentencing Reduction ("Motion to Reduce") (docket no. 62) filed by Jermere[1] Marshall, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), in which he seeks a reduction in his sentence based on the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372 (2010), and Amendment 750 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. I have fully considered the arguments the parties made during the hearing on this issue, and the authorities set forth in the filings. For the following reasons, I will construe Marshall's motion as a 28 U.S.C. § 2255 motion to vacate sentence, or in the alternative, as a 28 U.S.C. § 1651 petition for a writ of error coram nobis, and I will grant the motion.


A. Federal Sentencing on June 11, 2002

On June 11, 2002, this Court sentenced Marshall to 262 months of incarceration for one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(B) and 851.[2] The presentence investigation report ("PSR") used at sentencing ("2001 PSR") calculated Marshall's guideline range as 262-327 months. Since the government filed under 21 U.S.C. § 851 based on a prior felony drug conviction, a statutory minimum sentence of 120 months applied under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) (2000) ("If any person commits such a violation after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 10 years and not more than life imprisonment...."). Therefore, Marshall's guideline range would have been 120 months without a career offender enhancement.

Instead, Marshall's criminal history category was VI and his offense level was 34. Section 4B1.1 enhances the criminal history score and offense level for defendants who: (1) were at least 18 years old when they committed the federal offense at issue; (2) committed an instant federal offense that is a felony controlled substance offense; and (3) have at least two prior convictions for either crimes of violence or controlled substance offenses. U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a) (2002). A "controlled substance offense" is defined as:

[A]n offense under federal or state law, punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, that prohibits the manufacture, import, export, distribution, or dispensing of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) or the possession of a controlled substance (or a counterfeit substance) with the intent to manufacture, import, export, distribute, or dispense.

U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(b) (2002). Marshall's offense of conviction in federal court in 2002 was possession with the intent to distribute crack cocaine, punishable by well over one year. Two offenses in Marshall's criminal history were committed after he turned 18, and were considered predicate offenses for the enhancement.

The first predicate offense, in paragraph 25 of the 2001 PSR, was for "Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine" in the Salem, New Jersey Superior Court, for which Marshall was found with 4.15 grams (.15 ounces) of cocaine, with a sentence of 90 days of incarceration and two years of probation imposed. This criminal conviction counts as a "controlled substance offense" under §§ 4B1.1 and 4B1.2.[3]

The second predicate offense was for possession with intent to distribute cocaine within 1, 000 feet of a school, for which Marshall pled guilty on May 18, 1998 in Salem Superior Court. See 2001 PSR ¶ 26. Marshall was found with 4.59 grams (.16 ounces) of cocaine on his person. Therefore, like the other offense, this conviction would have qualified as a predicate conviction[4] for possession with the intent to distribute a controlled substance, punishable by over one year. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(b) (2002); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C: 35-5(a)(1), (b)(3) (1997) (effective through 2000) (West); N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:43-6 (1993) (effective through 2008) (West).

Two factors complicate Marshall's second predicate offense. First, the New Jersey court lacked a factual basis to convict him of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine on his guilty plea. During the plea colloquy with the Salem Superior Court on May 18, 1998, Marshall denied he possessed the cocaine with the intent to distribute it, in part because when police arrested him, he had not yet distributed it:

Q: On that occasion were you in fact arrested by various officers of the Salem Police Department?
A: Yes.
Q: All right. And at that time did you have in your possession a quantity of cocaine?
A: Yes.
Q: All right. It was less than half an ounce, is that correct?
A: Yeah.
Q: Was it possessed with the intent to distribute, although you didn't do so?
A: No.

Def.'s Mot. to Reduce ¶ 7; July 14, 2008 Mot. to Reduce Sentence, App. C (docket no. 51.1). Second, Marshall had not been sentenced for this offense in state court at the time of his federal sentencing hearing. He never appeared at the sentencing hearing for the state offense, and a warrant remained out for his arrest until he was apprehended for the federal offense in late 2000. Therefore, this Court only used the fact of the guilty plea to signify conviction, for the charges noted in the guilty plea, in sentencing Marshall.

Qualifying for the career offender enhancement changed Marshall's criminal history category to a VI, and increased his offense level to 37. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b) (with § 851 enhancement, increasing offense level to 37 and criminal history score to VI). With a three-level acceptance of responsibility reduction, Marshall's final range was an offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of VI, resulting in a guidelines range of 262-327 months. Marshall did not object to the PSR. It is unclear whether he objected to the application of the career offender enhancement, but Marshall did make two motions during sentencing: a motion for a downward departure and a motion to withdraw his federal guilty ...

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