United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Harrisonburg Division
Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge.
Jamal Ancrum, represented by counsel, filed a motion to
reduce his sentence pursuant to Section 404(b) of the First
Step Act of 2018. ECF No. 1472. He asks the court to reduce his
current sentence of life to time served. The government
asserts that Ancrum is ineligible for consideration of a
reduction in his sentence, and in the alternative, that if he
is eligible for consideration, a further reduction of his
sentence is not warranted. For the reasons set forth below,
the court will GRANT Ancrum's request in
part and reduce his sentence to 240 months, to be followed by
an 8-year term of supervised release.
22, 2004, a jury convicted Ancrum on one count of conspiracy
to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams
or more of cocaine base as charged in Count 1 of a
superseding indictment. ECF Nos. 17, 494. In addition, the
government filed two notices of enhanced punishment pursuant
to 21 U.S.C. § 851, based on prior felony drug
convictions. ECF No. 478.
to 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A), Ancrum faced
a statutory minimum sentence of life because he had two or
more prior convictions for a felony drug offense. ECF No.
1456. For purposes of the sentencing guidelines, based on 1,
160 grams of cocaine base, he had a base offense level of 36,
increased by 2 points for carrying a firearm while
distributing narcotics, and by 2 additional points for his
role in the offense, for a total offense level of 40. ECF No.
10. Coupled with a criminal history category of VI, his
guideline range was 360 months to life. U.S.S.G. Ch. 5, Pt.
A; ECF No. 1456. However, because the statutory minimum
sentence was life, the guideline range also was life.
U.S.S.G. § 5G1.1 (c)(2).
December 9, 2004, Ancrum was sentenced to a term of life
imprisonment to be followed by a 10-year term of supervised
release. ECF No. 527. He has served approximately 186 months
and has no projected release date. ECF No. 1453.
seeks relief under the First Step Act. He argues that he is
eligible for relief and that this court has discretion to
reduce his sentence to time served.
First Step Act
time Ancrum was sentenced, a violation of § 841(a)(1)
carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a
maximum sentence of life imprisonment if the offense involved
more than 50 grams of cocaine base, and a penalty range of 5
to 40 years if the offense involved more than 5 grams of
cocaine base. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) and (B) (2006).
In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act was passed, and Section 2 of
the Act reduced penalties for offenses involving cocaine base
by increasing the threshold drug quantities required to
trigger mandatory minimum sentences under 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1). Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220,
§ 2, 124 Stat. 2372 (2010). Currently, in order to
trigger the 10-years-to-life-sentencing range, the offense
must involve more than 280 grams of cocaine base, and to
trigger the 5-to-40-year sentencing range, the offense must
involve more than 28 grams of cocaine base.
First Step Act was passed on December 21, 2018. Section 404
of the act permits a court, upon motion of the defendant or
the government, or upon its own motion, to impose a reduced
sentence for certain offenses in accordance with the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, if such a reduction was not
previously granted. Offenses qualify for the reduction if
they were committed before August 3, 2010 and carry the
statutory penalties which were modified by section 2 or 3 of
the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. First Step Act of 2018, Pub.
L. No. 115-015, 132 Stat. 015(2018).
government argues that even though Ancrum committed his
offense before August 3, 2010, and even though his offenses
carry the statutory penalties which were modified by Section
2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act, that he does not qualify
for a sentence reduction. The government argues that it is
the drug weight for which a defendant is held responsible and
not the drug weight for which he was convicted that
determines eligibility for First Step Act relief and that
Ancrum's drug quantity in the Presentence Investigation
Report (PSR) makes him ineligible. In the alternative, the
government contends that even if Ancrum is eligible for a
modification of his sentence, the court should exercise its
discretion and decline to reduce the sentence.
government asserts that whether a defendant is entitled to
relief under the First Step Act depends on the amount of
cocaine base for which he was found responsible in die PSR,
rather than the amount for which he was indicted and
convicted. Because Ancrum was found responsible for 1, 160
grams of cocaine base in the PSR, which would make him
subject to the 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)(A) penalties, the
government argues that he is not entitled to relief under the
First Step Act.
responds that the drug weight is an element of the offense
and that any fact that increases a mandatory minimum penalty
is an element that must be charged in an indictment and
proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, citing
Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and
Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. 99 (2013). Under
those two cases, if Ancrum were sentenced today, his ...