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United States v. Hall

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

August 14, 2019

United States of America,
v.
Cornelius Wallace Hall, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Judge Norman K. Moon Defendant Cornelius Wallace Hall (“Defendant”) filed a motion for reduction of sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018. (Dkt. 68). Also pending before the Court is Defendant's pro se letter, (dkt. 67), which the Court may interpret as a motion seeking a sentence reduction pursuant to Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for review. The Court will grant Defendant's motions, reducing his term of imprisonment to 72 months, but not less than time served, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant was indicted on May 8, 2008, and charged with five counts: (1) conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute a mixture or substance containing more than 50 grams of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A) (Count 1); (2) distribution of a measurable quantity of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C) (Count 16); and (3) three counts of distribution or possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B) (Counts 17, 18, 19). (Dkt. 3). Defendant pled guilty to Counts 16, 17, 18, and 19. Defendant and the Government agreed that Defendant would be held responsible for 53.2 grams of cocaine base for purposes of Sections 2D1.1 and 1B1.3 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. (Dkt. 44 (Plea Agreement) at 1, 4; dkt. 45 (Guilty Plea Form)). Count 1 was dismissed on motion of the United States. (Dkt. 52). At the time of initial sentencing, the statutory penalties under Counts 17, 18, and 19 were 5 to 40 years imprisonment because the drug weight charge on each of the three counts was for more than 5 grams, which amount was admitted by Defendant in the Plea Agreement.

         At the original sentencing, the Total Offense Level was 27 and Defendant's Criminal History Category was V, resulting in an original Guidelines range of 120 to 150 months. The Court sentenced Defendant to 120 months imprisonment on each of the four guilty counts, to be served concurrently, followed by four years of supervised release on each count, all to run concurrently. (Dkt. 52 at 3-4). The Judgment ordered that 60 months of the imprisonment sentence would run concurrent with a State sentence of imprisonment Defendant was serving and the remaining 60 months would run consecutive to the State sentence. (Id. at 3).

         The Court subsequently reduced Defendant's sentence pursuant to Amendment 750 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Under Amendment 750, Defendant's amended Total Offense Level became 23 which, with a Criminal History Category of V, resulted in an amended Guidelines range of 84-105 months. The Court ordered a reduction in sentence to 84 months, with 60 months to run concurrent with the State sentence and the remaining 24 months to run consecutive to the State sentence. (Dkt. 65).

         Hall was scheduled to be released from State custody to the Federal Bureau of Prisons on July 8, 2019. (Dkt. 70 at 3). The Government represents that as of August 5, 2019, Defendant does not appear in the Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator. The Government does not have information on Defendant's projected release date but states that presumably he has 23 months left to serve, less good time credit. (Dkt. 72 at 3). The Court will rule on the pending motions.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Defendant's Motion to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018 requests an order reducing his term of imprisonment from 84 months to 70 months or to time served. Defendant asserts that under Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“U.S.S.G.”), Defendant's Guidelines range would be reduced to 70 to 84 months. (Dkt. 68 at 1, 5). The Government does not contest that Defendant is eligible for consideration of a reduction in sentence under both the First Step Act and Amendment 782 but asserts that Amendment 782 authorizes the Court to reduce his term of imprisonment only to a sentence within the amended Guidelines range of 70 to 84 months. (Dkt. 73 at 1, 3-4). The Court will consider the agreed-upon Amendment 782 Guidelines range as an advisory range in considering application of the First Step Act.

         A. Amendment 782

         Although Defendant's motion for relief under the First Step Act states that he did not apply for relief under Amendment 782, the Court notes that Defendant's letter to the Court (dkt. 67), could be interpreted as a motion for sentence reduction pursuant to that Amendment, although the letter does not reference the Amendment. Defendant's First Step Act motion, however, asserts that even without application of the First Step Act, his sentence should be reduced to 70 months by Amendment 782, the low end of the new Guidelines range of 70-84 months, arguing that the result should be time-served. (Dkt. 68 at 1, 3, 5-6). The Court directed the Government to address the application of Amendment 782 in its response. (Dkt. 71). The Government responded by stating that it did not contest that Defendant is eligible for consideration of a reduction in sentence under the terms of the First Step Act and Amendment 782. (Dkt. 73 at 1).

         Amendment 782 reduced by two levels those offense levels assigned to drug quantities in U.S.S.G. §§ 2D1.1 and 2D1.11. U.S.S.G. App. C., amend. 782 (Supp. 2014). A district court may reduce a sentence in the case of a defendant who has been sentenced based on a Guidelines range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission after considering the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), to the extent they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements of the Sentencing Commission. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The applicable policy statements include U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10, which makes Amendment 782 retroactively applicable in a case in which a defendant is serving a term of imprisonment.

         The Parties agree that applying Amendment 782's two-level reduction results in a new amended Total Offense Level of 21 which, with a Criminal History Category of V, results in an new amended Guidelines range of 70-87 months, reduced to 70-84 months as Defendant is currently serving an 84-month term of imprisonment. For the reasons set out below with respect to application of the First Step Act, the Court finds Amendment 782 applies to Defendant.

         B. ...


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