United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
GLEN E. CONRAD, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ronald Lee Saunders, through counsel, has filed a motion for
reduction of sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018.
The motion has been briefed and is ripe for review. For the
following reasons, the court will grant the defendant's
April 23, 2009, a grand jury in the Western District of
Virginia returned a one-count indictment against the
defendant. The indictment charged the defendant with
distribution of more than five grams of a mixture or
substance containing cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B). The defendant entered a plea
of guilty on July 10, 2009. Based on the amount of cocaine
base charged in the indictment, the defendant faced a
mandatory term of imprisonment of five to 40 years under
existing law. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) (2006).
defendant appeared for sentencing on October 15, 2009. At
that time, the court adopted the presentence report prepared
by the United States Probation Office, which designated the
defendant as a career offender. That designation, coupled
with the "offense statutory maximum," resulted in a
base offense level of 34 under the United States Sentencing
Guidelines ("U.S.S.G."). See U.S.S.G §
4B1.1(b). With a three-level reduction for acceptance of
responsibility and a criminal history category of VI, the
defendant's guideline range was 188 to 235 months'
imprisonment. The court departed downward by two levels to a
total offense level of 29, which resulted in a post-departure
range of 151 to 188 months. The court ultimately imposed a
mid-range term of imprisonment of 164 months, to be followed
by a five-year term of supervised release.
parties agree that the defendant is now eligible for a
sentence reduction under the newly-enacted First Step Act of
2018. Section 404 of the First Step Act permits the court to
retroactively apply the statutory penalties modified by the
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. See First Step Act of 2018, Pub.
L., No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194 (enacted Dec. 21,
2018); see also 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B)
(authorizing courts to modify a sentence of imprisonment
"to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by
statute"). Section 404 provides that "[a] court
that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may, on motion
of the defendant, ... impose a reduced sentence as if
sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public
Law 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372) were in effect at the time the
covered offense was committed." Pub. L. No. 115- 391,
§ 404(b). The Act defines a "covered offense"
as "a violation of a Federal criminal statute, the
statutory penalties of which were modified by section 2 or 3
of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124
Stat. 2372), that was committed before August 3, 2010."
Id. § 404(a).
case, it is undisputed that the defendant's offense of
conviction is a "covered offense" for purposes of
the First Step Act. The offense was committed before August
3, 2010, and the applicable statutory penalties 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) (citing Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, § 2, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124
Stat. 2372, 2373 (codified at 21 U.S.C. § 841(2012))).
As relevant in the instant case, section 2 of the Fair
Sentencing Act increased the amount of cocaine base required
to trigger the statutory penalties set forth in §
841(b)(1)(B) from five grams to 28 grams. See Pub. L. No.
111-220, § 2(a)(1), 124 Stat. at 2372; see also
21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) (2012). Accordingly, the court
is authorized to "impose a reduced sentence as if
[section 2] were in effect at the time the covered offense
was committed." 115 Pub. L. 391, § 404(b).
the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactively applied in the
defendant's case, the statutory sentencing range for the
defendant's offense is up to 20 years' imprisonment
and at least three years of supervised release, based on the
quantity of cocaine base charged in the indictment. See 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) (2012) (setting forth the
statutory penalties applicable to offenses involving less
than 28 grams of a mixture or substance containing cocaine
base). The guideline range of imprisonment that now applies
in the defendant's case, based on a statutory maximum
sentence of 20 years, is 151 to 188 months.
review of the record, the court agrees with the parties that
a sentence reduction is warranted in the defendant's case
and that a comparable departure from the new guideline range
is appropriate. Specifically, after considering the
parties' arguments and the sentencing factors set forth
in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), and in order to maintain
consistency with the relief afforded in similar cases, the
court will reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment to
132 months, but not less than time served. [*] All other terms of the
original sentence will remain the same.
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and the accompanying order to the defendant, all counsel of
record, the United States Probation Office, and the United
States Marshals Service, for delivery to the Bureau of
court has been advised that the defendant has already served
approximately 117 ...