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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 16, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
BRYAN EAMMON WILLIAMS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Bryan E. Williams, through counsel, has filed a "Motion for a Reduced Sentence Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) Based on Retroactive Application of Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines" ("Motion"), with exhibits. ECF 457. The government opposes the Motion (ECF 461) and the defendant has replied. ECF 462. Following a telephone conference on May 5, 2016 {see docket), the government filed a supplement to its Opposition (ECF 468), and the defense also filed a supplement. ECF 469.

No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I reluctantly conclude that I lack authority to grant the Motion.

I. Background

Pursuant to a written plea agreement ("Plea Agreement, " ECF 106; ECF 107), Mr. Williams entered a plea of guilty on May 9, 2012 (ECF 104) to a Superseding Information (ECF 102), charging him with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Of import here, the guilty plea was tendered pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C) (ECF 106, ¶¶ 9), by which the parties stipulated to a sentence of 135 months' imprisonment. Id.¶¶ 9, 10.

Paragraph 5 of the Plea Agreement (ECF 106) provided that "the Court will determine a sentencing guidelines range for this case ...." Further, Paragraph 5 made clear that the Court "must take into account the advisory [sentencing] guidelines range in establishing a reasonable sentence."

Paragraph 6(a) of the Plea Agreement (ECF 106) provided that, under U.S.S.G. §§ 2D1.1(a)(5) and 2D1.1(c)(3), Mr. Williams had a base offense level of 36, because the offense involved at least 50 kilograms of cocaine but less than 150 kilograms of cocaine. ECF 106, ¶ 6(a). Allowing three deductions for acceptance of responsibility (id. ¶ 6(b)) the parties anticipated a final offense level of 33. Id. ¶ 6(c). However, as is generally the practice in this court, there was no agreement as to the defendant's criminal history or criminal history category. Id.7.

Mr, Williams appeared for sentencing on August 8, 2012. ECF 143. The Presentence Report (ECF 454) reflects that Mr. Williams had a criminal history category of I. As expected, he earned three deductions for acceptance of responsibility, pursuant to U.S.S.G. §§ 3El.l(a) and (b), and therefore his final offense level was 33, as anticipated. With a criminal history category of I, and an offense level of 33, the Court computed an advisory sentencing guidelines range of 135 to 168 months' imprisonment. See ECF 146. By statute, the offense carried a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 120 months. See 18 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(b)(1)(A). In accordance with the C Plea, the Court imposed a sentence of 135 months of imprisonment, which corresponded to the bottom of the advisory guidelines range. See ECF 146; ECF 147.

II. Discussion

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), "a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission" may file a motion asking the Court to reduce his sentence. The Court may reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment "after considering the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C. § 3582(a)] to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); see United States v. Smalls, 720 F.3d 193, 195 (4th Cir. 2013).

Amendment 782 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines became effective on November 1, 2014. It reduced by 2 levels the base offense levels in the guidelines for cocaine offenses, under § 2D 1.1. The Sentencing Commission determined that Amendment 782 applies retroactively. U.S.S.G. §§ 1B1.10(d), (c)(1).

The parties dispute defendant's eligibility for relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 782. However, it is undisputed that, at the time of sentencing, Mr. Williams's advisory sentencing guidelines range was 135 to 168 months' imprisonment. It is also undisputed that, under the current, revised sentencing guidelines, defendant's base offense level would now be a 34, rather than a 36, pursuant to § 2D 1.1 (c)(3). After three deductions under U.S.S.G. §§ 3El.l(a) and (b), the defendant's adjusted offense level would now be a 31. And, with a criminal history category of I, Mr. Williams's current sentencing guidelines range would call for a period of imprisonment ranging from 108 to 135 months. As noted, the offense is subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 120 months.

The government takes the position that the defendant is not eligible for relief because he was sentenced "to a specific term of confinement and this was not based upon a guideline range that has subsequently been lowered ...." ECF 461 at 2. Therefore, it claims that the defendant "is ineligible for a sentencing reduction." Id. In this regard, the government notes that the Plea Agreement did not make express reference to the sentencing range under the guidelines or the defendant's criminal history. In support of its position, the government relies, inter alia, on Justice Sotomayor's concurring opinion in Freeman v. United States, 564 U.S. 522 (2011).

Conversely, Mr. Williams relies on Freeman and other cases, and reaches an entirely different result. In his view, the government's position "finds no support in Justice Sotomayor's ...


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