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United States v. Spruhan

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

October 25, 2019



          Michael F. Urbanski, Chief United States District Judge.

         This matter comes before the court on defendant Guy Harvey Spruhan's motion and amended motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to the holding in Hughes v. United States, 138 S.Ct. 1765 (2018). ECF Nos. 490, 497. The government responded to the motions on August 31, 2018. ECF No. 505. The court entered an Order to Respond on January 17, 2019, directing the government to address the arguments raised by Spruhan. ECF No. 510. The government responded on April 8, 2019, ECF No. 515, and Spruhan replied on April 16, 2019.[1] ECF No. 516. For the reasons set forth below, the court DENIES Spruhan's motion for sentencing relief.


         On June 30, 2014, Spruhan entered into a plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) to Count 1 of the Indictment, charging him with distributing and possessing with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A). The maximum statutory penalty was a fine of $20 million, imprisonment for a term of life, plus a term of supervised release of at least five years. In addition, a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of twenty years applied. ECF No. 233, at 1. However, as part of the plea agreement, the government dismissed a 21 U.S.C. § 851 Information seeking enhancement of his penalty range because of a prior felony drug conviction. With dismissal of the § 851 notice regarding the prior conviction, the mandatory minimum sentence dropped to ten years. Id. at 1-4. Pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the parties agreed that Spruhan would be sentenced to a term of incarceration within the range of 144 months to 180 months if the court accepted the plea and plea agreement. Id. at 3.

         Spruhan's attorney submitted a sentencing memorandum arguing that Spruhan be sentenced to the low end of the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement range, 144 months, and that he be given credit for seven months he had spent in state custody on charges of selling methamphetamine in February 2008. ECF No. 316, at 1. The government also submitted a sentencing memorandum recommending that Spruhan be sentenced to the high end of the sentencing range, 180 months. ECF No. 317, at 13.

         The Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) assigned Spruhan a base offense level of 38. He received a two-level enhancement for using or attempting to use a person under the age of eighteen to commit the offense. He received a three-level decrease for acceptance of responsibility, leaving him with a total offense level of 37. ECF No. 319, at 6-7. He was assigned the criminal history category of III. Id. at 9. As a result, Spruhan's sentencing guidelines range was determined to be 262 to 327 months. Id. at 13.

         On October 9, 2014 the court sentenced Spruhan to 180 months of incarceration, to be followed by a five-year term of supervised release. ECF No. 322. The court imposed a sentence at the top end of the Rule 11(c)(1)(C) range because "Spruhan has been unrelenting in his involvement in drug dealing in this community over a long period of time." Sent. Tr., ECF No. 431, at 41. The court stated:

The fact of the matter is that while you argue you have removed yourself from the drug-dealing lifestyle, the evidence is different from that. So to protect the public, to provide adequate deterrence to you and to others, to make sure there's not unwarranted sentencing disparities, to provide a just sentence for selling this kind of poison in our community, I believe a sentence at the 180 range, which when you consider all things together, is a huge break off the guidelines in this case; and given the dropping of the 851 in this case takes you five years below the mandatory minimum. I think 180 months is absolutely fair and reasonable and consistent with the 3553(a) factors in this case.
It takes into account your history. It takes into account your history and consistent involvement in drugs. It takes into account your involvement of minor folks in this drug dealing and drug use. It takes into account the nature and circumstances of this offense.

Id. at 42.


         Spruhan asserts that he is entitled to the relief afforded by Hughes to defendants who entered plea agreements pursuant to Rule 11(c)(1)(C). Hughes held that defendants who were sentenced pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) agreement are eligible for a sentence reduction based on Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines range if the guidelines were part of the framework the district court relied on in imposing the sentence. Hughes. 138 S.Ct. at 1175.

         It is cleat that in this case that the Sentencing Guidelines provided a part of the framework upon which the court relied in imposing Spruhan's sentence as the court expressly mentioned the guidelines when imposing his sentence. Further, each side addressed the Sentencing Guidelines in their sentencing memoranda and argument to ...

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