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United States v. Stallworth

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

July 8, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DOUGLAS LEE STALLWORTH, 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 a motion to reduce sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5220 (2018) (“2018 FSA” or “Act”), which made retroactive certain provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, § 2, 124 Stat. 2372, 2372 (2010) (“2010 FSA”). I find the defendant eligible for relief, but I will not reduce his current term of imprisonment.

         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 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).[1]

         While a defendant whose crack cocaine drug crime was committed before August 3, 2010, may be eligible for reduction in sentence, 2018 FSA § 404(a), the Act provides that the court is not required to reduce any sentence, id. at § 404(c). Thus, 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.

         The defendant was indicted in this court on May 28, 2008, and charged with conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent 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 filed an Information to establish the defendant's prior convictions pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, subjecting him to an increased penalty range of mandatory life imprisonment to be followed by a 10-year term of supervised release due to two or more prior drug convictions.

         On October 29, 2008, a jury found the defendant guilty of conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base. According to the Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”), the defendant was accountable for approximately 730 grams of cocaine base. However, after hearing evidence at sentencing, the court found the defendant accountable for 638 grams of cocaine base. Sent. Tr. 18, ECF No. 2401. He was determined to have a total offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of IV. Because of the mandatory term of imprisonment, his guideline sentence was determined to be life imprisonment. USSG § 5G1.1(b).

         On September 8, 2009, the defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release. On January 17, 2017, the defendant received an Executive Grant of Clemency from President Obama, reducing his sentence to 168 months incarceration and leaving in effect the 10-year term of supervised release. The Bureau of Prisons calculates his current projected release date to be August 6, 2020.

         III.

         The United States argues that the defendant is ineligible for a reduction in sentence due to his receipt of an Executive Grant of Clemency. In particular, it contends that because the defendant is serving a presidentially commuted sentence, he is no longer serving a sentence for an offense for which the statutory penalties were ...


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