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United States v. Epsinosa

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 13, 2016




         Alberto Espinosa, currently serving a term of imprisonment of 420 months, seeks to have his sentence reduced pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) based on Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.[1] The Government agrees that Espinosa is entitled to a reduction, but opposes the extent of the reduction. For the following reasons, the Court will GRANT Espinosa's Motion to Reduce Sentence (ECF No. 458) and reduce his sentence to 292 months in custody.


         Espinosa was involved in a drug trafficking conspiracy with eleven other co-defendants, in which Espinosa made multiple kilogram deliveries of cocaine to co-conspirators and continued to direct and receive payments for these deliveries, even while being incarcerated on another drug-related charge. Presentence Report ("PSR") ¶¶ 17, 19-20. On July 14, 1998, Espinosa was found guilty by a jury of Conspiracy to Distribute and Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine and Heroin and Conspiracy to Import Cocaine and Heroin. Verdict Form 1 -2, ECF No. 205.

         On November 3, 1998, Espinosa appeared in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland before Judge Williams (now retired) for sentencing. Judgment and Commitment Order 1, ECF No. 252. Under the 1997 United States Sentencing Guidelines, [2] the Probation Office calculated Espinosa's Offense Level at 40 and Criminal History category at III, yielding a guidelines range of 360 months to life imprisonment. PSR ¶¶ 42, 48, 52. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Williams adopted the Probation Office's factual findings and guidelines calculations in the PSR and sentenced Espinosa to 420 months on Counts I and II, each count to run concurrent. Judgment and Commitment Order 2, ECF No. 252. The Court also sentenced Espinosa to ten years supervised release. Id. at 3.

         Espinosa's Motion to Reduce Sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) pursuant to Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines was filed on July 21, 2015. Def.'s Mot. Reduce Sentence 1, ECF No. 458. The Government consents to Espinosa's eligibility for a two-level sentence reduction, but objects to the extent of the relief sought. Gov't Resp. Opp'n 1, ECF No. 454.


         Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual, which became effective November 1, 2014, reduced the base offense level in the Advisory Guidelines under § 2D 1.1 for certain drug offenses by two levels. The Sentencing Commission provided that Amendment 782 would apply retroactively. U.S.S.G. §§ 1B1.10(d)(e)(1).

         Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), a defendant may file a motion requesting the court to reduce his sentence if the defendant "has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has been subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission." The court may reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment "if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

         The court weighs the factors as set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) to determine both "(I) whether a reduction in the defendant's term of imprisonment is warranted; and (II) the extent of such reduction...." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10, app. n. 1(B). A defendant's sentence should not be reduced "to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guideline range...." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A); see United States v. Fennell, 592 F.3d 506, 509 (4th Cir. 2010).


         Espinosa and the Government agree that he is eligible for relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) based on Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines. Gov't Resp. Opp'n 1, ECF No. 454. The parties also agree that, after applying the two-level reduction in the Offense Level pursuant to Amendment 782, Espinosa's revised guidelines range would be 292 to 365 months. Id. at 3. The parties disagree, however, with respect to the new sentence the Court should impose within that range. Id.

         Espinosa contends that reducing his sentence to 292 months is within the Court's authority and would fulfill the policy statements in U.S.S.G. § IB 1.10. Def.'s Reply Gov't Resp. 1, ECF No. 457. He asserts that a sentence at the very bottom of the new guidelines range is warranted by factors such as his age, the length of time he has spent in custody, his spotless record during his time in custody for this offense, and the broader fiscal policy concerns of the Bureau of Prisons. Id. at 2. Espinosa criticizes the Government's percentage-based method because, he says, imposing a proportional sentence based solely on a mathematical calculation violates 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582(c)(2), 3553(a), and the Supreme Court's decision in Pepper. Id.

         Arguing from a percentage-based methodology, the Government submits that a reduced sentence of 342 months is appropriate. Gov't Resp. Opp'n 2, ECF No. 454. The Government reasons that Espinosa was originally sentenced to serve 420 months, which was 116 percent of 360 months, the bottom of the original guidelines range, and that 342 months would represent 116 percent of the bottom of the revised guidelines range. Id. at 3. The Government takes the position that 342 months, 116 percent of 292 months, ensures an accurate and consistent sentence in line with the Sentencing Guidelines' policy statements. Id. Apart from this percentage-based approach, the Government submits that Espinosa should not receive a sentence at the low-end of the revised guidelines range because he was an ...

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