United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Elizabeth K. Dillon Elizabeth K. Dillon United States
before the court are two motions to reduce Princibe
Laguerre's sentence pursuant to Section 404(b) of the
First Step Act of 2018. The first was filed by counsel and
requests that his sentence be reduced from a term of
imprisonment of 240 months to 193 months, resulting in his
“immediate release.” (Dkt. No. 297.) The second
was filed by Laguerre, proceeding pro se. (Dkt. No.
300.) The United States has filed a response, in which it
acknowledges that Laguerre is eligible for relief under the
Act and recommends that, if the court reduces his sentence,
that the court impose a sentence of 196 months, but not less
than time served. (Dkt. No. 302.) Laguerre's counsel has
filed a reply, in which she asks for a reduced sentence of
196 months, instead of the 193 originally requested. (Dkt.
No. 303.) Neither party has requested a hearing, and Laguerre
has waived any right to a formal hearing. (Reply 1, Dkt. No.
303.) For the reasons discussed below, the court will grant
the defendant's motion and reduce his sentence to a term
of imprisonment of 196 months, but not less than time served,
to be followed by a four-year term of supervised release.
was charged in a single-count indictment with conspiracy to
distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base and at least five
kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846 and 841(a)(1). He proceeded to trial, and a
jury found him guilty on October 30, 2003.
undisputed that he was convicted of conspiring to distribute
50 grams or more of cocaine base. As to the amount of
cocaine, defendant's counseled motion says he was
convicted only of “more than 500 grams, but less than 5
kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride.” For support, the
motion cites to the Fourth Circuit's decision on direct
appeal (Dkt. No. 183). The text of the Fourth Circuit opinion
echoes the language in the indictment and in the Presentence
Investigation Report (PSR), saying that the jury convicted
Laguerre of conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more
of cocaine hydrochloride. (Dkt. No. 183 at 8.) In a footnote,
though, the Fourth Circuit notes a “discrepancy”
and explains that the jury's verdict form actually found
him guilty of conspiracy to distribute and possession with
intent to distribute “less than five kilograms but more
than five hundred grams of cocaine hydrochloride.”
(Dkt. No. 183 at 8-9 n.5.) Despite documentation to the
contrary (including the PSR and the judgment), the parties
now appear to agree-consistent with the jury's
verdict-that Laguerre should be treated as convicted of 50
grams of cocaine base and more than 500 grams, but less than
five kilograms, of cocaine. (Def.'s Mot. to Reduce 2,
Dkt. No. 297 (so stating); see also U.S. Response 6,
Dkt. No. 302 (noting that, under the First Step Act, Laguerre
should be sentenced pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(B), which would not be applicable to an offense
involving 5 kilograms or more of cocaine).)
case then proceeded to sentencing. At the original
sentencing, the court held Laguerre responsible for 1.5
kilograms of cocaine base. That amount resulted in a base
offense level of 38. Laguerre received a three-level increase
for his role in the offense and no adjustment for acceptance
of responsibility. This resulted in a total offense level of
41. Because he was a career criminal under USSG § 4B1.1,
his criminal history category was a VI. This resulted in a
then-mandatory guideline range of 360 months to life. The
court sentenced him to 360 months, the low end of the
to his sentencing, but while his case was on appeal, the
Supreme Court decided United States v. Booker, 543
U.S. 220 (2005), rendering the guidelines advisory. The
Fourth Circuit thus remanded the case for resentencing in
light of Booker.
resentenced upon remand on May 20, 2006. At that
resentencing, the court concluded that Laguerre's
statutory penalty range remain unchanged: under §
841(b)(1)(A), the penalty was 10 years to life, with a
minimum five-year term of supervised release. The court
likewise concluded that the guideline range remained the
same-360 months to life. The court imposed a variance
sentence of 240 months, which was still ten years above the
low end of the statutory range as the court understood it at
the time. It appears that the court imposed a
below-guidelines sentence for one or more of the reasons
argued by counsel, which were that Laguerre had no criminal
history aside from the two prior convictions that resulted in
his being a career offender, that a number of his
co-conspirators received lesser sentences, his age (which was
50 at the time), and that he had a 57-month sentence on an
illegal reentry charge also to serve. (Resentencing Tr., Dkt. No.
both through counsel and on his own behalf, now seeks relief
under Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018. 115 Pub. L.
391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194 (enacted Dec. 21, 2018);
see also 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B) (authorizing
courts to modify a previously imposed sentence “to the
extent otherwise expressly permitted by statute”).
Section 404 effectively makes the provisions of the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive to defendants who were
sentenced prior to August 3, 2010, and it allows-but does not
require-district courts to reduce the sentence of a defendant
as if the sections of the Fair Sentencing Act were in effect
at the time the defendant's offense was committed.
See First Step Act § 404(c).
parties agree, Laguerre meets all the criteria to be eligible
for a reduction under Section 404 of the First Step Act.
Specifically, his offense was committed before August 3,
2010, and the statutory penalties applicable to his offense
were modified by Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act, which
“reduced the statutory penalties for cocaine base
offenses” in order to “alleviate the severe
sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.”
United States v. Peters, 843 F.3d 572, 575 (4th Cir.
2016). As relevant here, Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act
increased the quantity of cocaine base required to trigger
the statutory penalties set forth in 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(A) from 50 grams to 280 grams.
was charged with 50 grams or more of cocaine base, and not at
least 280 grams. Thus, applying the Fair Sentencing Act
retroactively to his case means he would no longer be subject
to the statutory penalties of § 841(b)(1)(A), but would
instead be subject to the penalties set forth in §
841(b)(1)(B). Under that provision, and without the §
851 notice, Laguerre's statutory sentencing range is 5 to
40 years and a supervised release term of 5 years to life.
regard to the guidelines, Laguerre was sentenced based on 1.5
kilograms of cocaine base. Applying the drug quantity
guidelines in effect now would establish a base offense level
of 32, plus the three-level adjustment for his aggravating
role, resulting in a total offense level of 35. Because the
maximum possible penalty is only 40 years, his offense level
would only be a 34 under the career offender guidelines,
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1, and so the greater offense level as
calculated based on the drug amounts would apply, U.S.S.G.
§ 4B1.1(b). Accordingly, his total offense level of 35
and criminal history category of VI would result in a
guideline range of 292 to 365 months.
review of the record, the court agrees with the parties that
a sentence reduction is warranted in Laguerre's case.
When he was resentenced to 240 months, the court granted
approximately a 33% reduction from the low end of the
guideline range, which was then 360 months. A commensurate
reduction here from the low end of the revised guideline
range (292 months) would result in a sentence of 196 months.
According to the Addendum prepared by the United States
Probation Office, it appears that Laguerre has already served
approximately 191 months. Laguerre's counseled motion
seeks a sentence of 196 months and states that such a