United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
Glen E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge
Ricardo Ramere Hilton, through counsel, has filed a motion
for reduction of sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of
2018. The motion has been briefed and is ripe for review. For
the following reasons, the court will grant the
October 6, 2005, a grand jury in the Western District of
Virginia returned a multi-count indictment against the
defendant. On April 28, 2006, the defendant entered pleas of
guilty to Counts Two and Three of the indictment. Count Two
charged the defendant with possessing with intent to
distribute more than five grams of cocaine base, in violation
of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B). Count Three
charged the defendant with using or carrying a firearm during
and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Based on the amount of cocaine base
charged in Count Two, the defendant faced a mandatory term of
imprisonment of five to forty years on that count.
See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) (2006). The
defendant was also subject to a mandatory consecutive term of
imprisonment of five years to life for the § 924(c)
defendant appeared for sentencing on July 18, 2006. At that
time, he was found to qualify as a career offender under
§ 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines. In
determining the advisory guideline range of imprisonment, the
court applied U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(c)(2), and determined
that the combined range for the defendant's two
convictions was 262 to 327 months. See U.S.S.G.
§ 4B1.1(c)(3). The court ultimately imposed a total term
of imprisonment of 270 months, consisting of a term of 210
months on Count Two and a consecutive term of 60 months on
Count Three. The court also imposed a term of supervised
release of five years on each count, to run concurrently.
defendant has now moved for a sentence reduction under the
First Step Act of 2018. Section 404 of the First Step Act
permits the court to retroactively apply the statutory
penalties modified by the Fair Sentencing Act. See
First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132
Stat. 5194 (enacted Dec. 21, 2018); see also 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B) (authorizing courts to modify a
sentence of imprisonment “to the extent otherwise
expressly permitted by statute”). Section 404 provides
that “[a] court that imposed a sentence for a covered
offense may, on motion of the defendant, . . . impose a
reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372)
were in effect at the time the covered offense was
committed.” Pub. L. No. 115- 391, § 404(b). The
Act defines a “covered offense” as “a
violation of a Federal criminal statute, the statutory
penalties of which were modified by section 2 or 3 of the
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124 Stat.
2372), that was committed before August 3, 2010.”
Id. § 404(a).
review of the record, the court concludes that the defendant
is eligible for a sentence reduction under the First Step
Act. It is undisputed that the offense with which the
defendant was charged in Count Two of the indictment is a
“covered offense” for purposes of the Act. The
offense was committed before August 3, 2010, and the
applicable statutory penalties were modified by section 2 of
the Fair Sentencing Act, which “reduced the statutory
penalties for cocaine base offenses” in order to
“alleviate the severe sentencing disparity between
crack and powder cocaine.” United States v.
Peters, 843 F.3d 572, 575 (4th Cir. 2016) (citing Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, § 2, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124
Stat. 2372, 2373 (codified at 21 U.S.C. § 841(2012))).
As relevant in the instant case, section 2 of the Fair
Sentencing Act increased the amount of cocaine base required
to trigger the statutory penalties set forth in §
841(b)(1)(B) from five grams to twenty-eight grams.
See Pub. L. No. 111-220, § 2(a)(1), 124 Stat.
at 2372; see also 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B)
(2012). Accordingly, the court is authorized to “impose
a reduced sentence as if [section 2] were in effect at the
time the covered offense was committed.” 115 Pub. L.
391, § 404(b).
the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactively applied in the
defendant's case, the statutory sentencing range for the
offense charged in Count Two is up to twenty years'
imprisonment and at least three years of supervised release,
based on the quantity of cocaine base charged in the
indictment. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C) (2012)
(setting forth the statutory penalties applicable to offenses
involving less than twenty-eight grams or more of a mixture
or substance containing cocaine base). The guideline range of
imprisonment is still 262 to 327 months. The court has been
advised that the defendant has served approximately 168
months in prison. His projected release date is April 26,
review of the record, the court concludes that a sentence
reduction is warranted in the defendant's case. Although
the advisory guideline range of imprisonment has not changed
since 2006, “nothing in the First Step Act conditions
eligibility for a reduced sentence on a lowered guideline
range.” United States v. Shelton, No.
3:07-cv-00329, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63905, at *4 (D.S.C.
Apr. 15, 2019). Instead, “[t]he Act provides authority
to impose a reduced sentence when application of the Fair
Sentencing Act results in a lower statutory range, ” as
it does in the defendant's case. Id. After
considering the parties' arguments and the sentencing
factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), the court will
reduce the defendant's total term of imprisonment to 229
months, consisting of 169 months on Count Two and a
consecutive 60 months on Count Three. The term of supervised
release imposed for the offense charged in Count Two will be
reduced to three years. All other terms of the original
sentence will remain the same.
Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion
and the accompanying order to the defendant, all counsel of
record, the United States Probation Office, and the United