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Wright v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

July 11, 2019

MARTY LORENZO WRIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Raymond A. Jackson, United States District Judge

         On October 12, 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-47, 98 Stat. 1976 ("CCCA"), which included the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 ("SRA"). Through this, the legislature created the United States Sentencing Commission, which in turn established the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. See United States Sentencing Guidelines, § 1A1.1. As part of this new federal sentencing scheme, section 3553(b)(1) of Title 18 of the United States Code made the guideline ranges mandatory.

         On January 12, 2005, the United States Supreme Court held that these mandatory guideline sentences were unconstitutional in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 244-45 (2005). Since then, federal courts have considered the guideline ranges as advisory and are free to impose sentences that are within the statutory minimums and maximums. However, every single United States Court of Appeals has held that the Booker decision is not retroactive for purposes of collateral attacks. In re Fashina, 486 F.3d 1300, 1306 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (collecting cases); Cirilo-Munoz v. United States, 404 F.3d 527, 533 (1st Cir. 2005); Guzman v. United States, 404 F.3d 139, 142 (2d Cir. 2005); Lloyd v. United States, 407 F.3d 608, 610 (3d Cir. 2005); United States v. Morris, 429 F.3d 65, 72 (4th Cir. 2005); United States v. Gentry, 432 F.3d 600, 604 (5th Cir. 2005); Humphress v. United States, 398 F.3d 855, 860 (6th Cir. 2005); McReynolds v. United States, 397 F.3d 479, 481 (7th Cir. 2005); Never Misses A Shot v. United States, 413 F.3d 781, 783-84 (8th Cir. 2005); United States v. Cruz, 423 F.3d 1119, 1120-21 (9th Cir. 2005); United States v. Bellamy, 411 F.3d 1182, 1186-87 (10th Cir. 2005); Varela v. United States, 400 F.3d 864, 868 (11th Cir. 2005).

         The undercutting of Booker's core remedial measure has created a lost generation, a group caught in a national purgatory, where individual citizens pay penance for the constitutional errors of the sovereign. For twenty years of this nation's history, at the height of what has been called the "crack epidemic," which resulted in unconstitutionally high guideline ranges, Kimbrough v. United States, 552 U.S. 85, 108-10 (2007) ("Indeed, the Commission itself has reported that the crack/powder disparity produces disproportionately harsh sanctions."), and which was executed in ways that have been described as racially biased, United States v. Bannister, 786 F.Supp.2d 617, 648 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) ("Overwhelming data, analyses, and judicial findings support the conclusion of a disparate racial impact in the mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine. Although the disparity has somewhat narrowed in the past two decades, it remains stark."), the federal system imposed unconstitutionally constructed sentences. After Booker, although courts now have the discretion to depart from the Guidelines as they see fit, they could not review the sentences of this twenty-year period, leaving those individuals to serve their sentences based on an unconstitutional framework. The Petitioner in this case, Marty Lorenzo Wright ("Petitioner Wright"), is but one of the many members of this lost generation.

         On December 21, 2018, Congress passed the Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018) ("FIRST STEP Act"), which authorizes courts to "impose a reduced sentence for anyone" who (1) was convicted of a statute, for which the penalties were modified by Sections 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372 (2010) ("FSA"); (2) the offense was committed before August 3, 2010; and (3) did not already receive a reduction under the FSA or the FIRST STEP Act. See FIRST STEP Act, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5222. With this newest legislation, Congress has indeed taken the first step to begin correcting the wrongs done to the lost generation of 1984 to 2005.

         Before the Court is Petitioner Wright's pro se letter motion seeking relief under the writs of coram nobis or audita querela. ECF No. 709.[1] The Court construed this Motion as seeking relief under the FIRST STEP Act. ECF No. 710. For the reasons stated below, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. It is DENIED, insofar as Petitioner Wright's sentence for case number 4:95-cr-44 is not affected by the FIRST STEP Act. However, his motion is GRANTED insofar as case number 4:95-cr-39 is indeed affected, and the Court now imposes a total sentence of 360 months as follows: 240 months on Counts 1, 2, 9, 11, 14, and 36; 120 months on Counts 42 and 50, to be served concurrently; and 60 months each on Counts 43 and 51, to be served consecutively.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         From 1985 to August 31, 1995, Petitioner Wright was involved in a family-run crack cocaine and marijuana distribution conspiracy in Virginia. ECF No. 717 at 6. On August 31, 1995, at the age of twenty-six, Petitioner Wright was indicted on multiple counts as indicated below:

• Count 1: Conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base and a quantity of marijuana (21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), 846)
• Count 2: Engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise (21 U.S.C. § 848)
• Count 9: Distribution of approximately 1/8 ounce of cocaine base (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C))
• Count 11: Possession with intent to distribute of 50 grams or more of cocaine base (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A))
• Count 14: Possession with intent to distribute of 50 grams or more of cocaine base (21 U.S.C.§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A))
• Count 36: Distribution of cocaine base (21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C))
• Count 42: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))
• Count 43: Use and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1))
• Count 50: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))
• Count 51: Use and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1))

ECF No. 4. Less than a month later, on September 27, 1995, Petitioner Wright was separately indicted on four more charges:

• Count 3: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))
• Count 4: Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1))
• Count 8: Use and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1))
• Count 14: Perjury (18 U.S.C. § 1623)

4:95-cr-44, ECF No. 1. Petitioner Wright decided to go to trial on all fourteen counts, which commenced on February 24, 1997. 4:95-cr-39, ECF No. 720 at 3. On March 5, 1997, the jury found Petitioner Wright guilty on all counts for ...


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