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United States v. Pride

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

June 11, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
BRYANT KELLY PRIDE, Defendant.

          Jennifer R. Bockhorst, Assistant United States Attorney, Abingdon, Virginia, for United States; Brian J. Beck, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Abingdon, Virginia, for Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James P. Jones United States District Judge.

         The defendant has filed motions in these two cases seeking to reduce his sentences pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018 (2018 FSA), Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5220, which made retroactive certain provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (2010 FSA), Pub. L. No. 111-220, § 2, 124 Stat. 2372, 2372.[1]

         I.

         Section 2 of the 2010 FSA reduced the 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). After the enactment of the 2010 FSA, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) must involve at least 280 grams of cocaine base, rather than 50 grams, to trigger the 10-years-to-life penalty range of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) and at least 28 grams of cocaine base, rather than five grams, to trigger the 5-to-40-years penalty range of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B). The 2018 FSA provides that the court may, on motion of the defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the government, or the court, impose a reduced sentence as if the 2010 FSA were in effect at the time the defendant's crime was committed. 2018 FSA § 404(b).

         Both before and after the 2018 FSA, if the government gives appropriate notice prior to sentencing pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, and the defendant is found to have been previously convicted of one or more certain types of drug crimes, the minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment and minimum terms of supervised release are increased. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A), (B).[2]

         While a defendant may be eligible for reduction in sentence, the 2018 FSA provides that the court is not required to reduce any sentence, id. at § 404(c). Accordingly, the court must first consider whether the defendant is eligible for a reduction in sentence. Second, if the defendant is eligible for reduction, the court must determine whether, and to what extent, a reduction is warranted. Cf. Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 827 (2010) (setting forth procedures for modifying sentences under retroactive guideline amendments). If eligible, a plenary resentencing is not appropriate, since the statute only authorizes the court to impose a “reduced sentence.” 2018 FSA § 404(b).

         II.

         A.

         Defendant Bryant Kelly Pride was indicted in this court in case number 1:07CR00020 on March 22, 2007, and charged in one count with possessing with the intent to distribute and distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A). The United States filed an Information pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, which established the defendant's prior convictions for more than two felony drug offenses, thus subjecting him to mandatory life imprisonment.

         On June 15, 2007, after a one-day trial, a jury found Pride guilty and in answer to a special interrogatory with its verdict, determined that 50 grams or more of cocaine base was attributable to him. According to his Presentence Investigation Report (PSR), Pride was found accountable for approximately 69.2 grams of cocaine base. He was determined to be a career offender, and his sentencing guideline range was enhanced in accordance with U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual (USSG) § 4B1.1. He was found to have a total offense level of 37 and a criminal history category of VI. Due to the statutory mandatory minimum, his sentencing guideline was life imprisonment.

         On October 5, 2007, Pride was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment. In addition, a term of 10 years of supervised release was imposed. On appeal, his conviction and sentence were affirmed. United States v. Pride, 317 Fed.Appx. 380, 382 (4th Cir. 2009) (unpublished). A later pro se motion to vacate the conviction and sentence made pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 was denied. United States v. Pride, No. 1:07CR00020, 2011 WL 251211 (W.D. Va. Jan. 25, 2011), appeal dismissed, 440 Fed.Appx. 184 (4th Cir. 2011) (unpublished).

         B.

         On May 28, 2008, Pride was indicted in this court in a second case, case number 1:08CR00024, and along with multiple codefendants, charged with conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute and to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), and 846. The United States again filed an Information to establish the defendant's prior convictions, subjecting him to mandatory life imprisonment if convicted.

         On October 6, 2008, Pride pleaded guilty pursuant to a written Plea Agreement. The parties agreed that the government would dismiss all but one conviction under the § 851 Information, thus allowing him to escape another mandatory life term but subjecting him to a mandatory minimum of 20 years imprisonment and a maximum of life, as well as a 10-year term of supervised release. The parties also stipulated that the defendant was a career offender and that he should be subjected to a four-level enhancement as an organizer or leader in accordance with USSG § 3B1.1. According to the PSR, Pride was held accountable for at least 4.5 kilograms of cocaine base which, because it was higher than his career offender offense level, was used to ...


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