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United States v. Williams

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 7, 2016

United States of America
v.
Bryan Eammon Williams

         Dear Counsel:

         As you know, by Memorandum and Order of May 16, 2016 (ECF 473, ECF 474), I denied Mr. Williams's "Motion for Reduced Sentence Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) Based on Retroactive Application of Amendment 782 to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines." ECF 457 ("Motion").[1] Thereafter, Mr. Williams filed a motion for reconsideration of the Court's Order (ECF 479, "Motion to Reconsider"), supported by several exhibits. The government opposes the Motion to Reconsider. ECF 481 ("Opposition"). Williams has replied. ECF 482 ("Reply").

         It is undisputed that the defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years. The parties' dispute concerns a potential reduction in sentence of 15 months, from 135 months to 120 months, for a defendant with a criminal history category of I. Thus, Mr. Williams initially received a substantial sentence and he would be left with a substantial sentence even if his Motion were granted. It is also undisputed that, if Mr. Williams were sentenced today, his final offense level would be 31, not 33.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion to Reconsider. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion to Reconsider.

         This was a multi-defendant case. I incorporate here by reference the facts and procedural history that I set forth in ECF 473. For convenience, however, I will again review some of the relevant background.

         On May 9, 2012, Mr. Williams entered a plea of guilty to a felony drug offense, pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(c)(1)(C). See ECF 104; ECF 106. The Plea Agreement (ECF 106) set forth the quantity of cocaine at issue. Id. ¶ 6(a). It also set forth Williams's anticipated final offense level of 33. Id. ¶ 6(c). Notably, ¶ 5 of the Plea Agreement is captioned: "Advisory Sentencing Guidelines Apply."[2] In addition, the parties stipulated to a proposed sentence of 135 months' imprisonment. Id. ¶¶ 9, 10. However, the Plea Agreement stated that there was no agreement as to the defendant's criminal history or criminal history category. Id. ¶ 7. Moreover, there was no express reference in the Plea Agreement as to the defendant's advisory sentencing guidelines range. But, it is clear that the proposed sentence corresponded to the bottom of the advisory sentencing guidelines for an offender with a final offense level of 33 and a criminal history category of I.[3]

         In his Motion to Reconsider, Mr. Williams sets forth several grounds to support his request. He maintains: "The parties explicitly agreed that the sentence would be determined by the applicable guideline range." ECF 479 at 1. In this regard, he reiterates that the Plea Agreement set forth the drug quantity in issue and the defendant's offense level. Id. And, he asserts that the parties "correctly anticipated" a criminal history category of I for Mr. Williams, reasoning that it is "the only criminal history category that corresponds to a Level 33, and 135 month sentence." Id. at 2 (emphasis in ECF 479). Thus, Williams maintains that, for purposes of 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), the sentencing range was evident in the Plea Agreement, and the jointly proposed sentence of 135 months was based on the guidelines, even though the guidelines range was not set forth in the Plea Agreement.[4]

         In addition, Mr. Williams contends that my ruling (ECF 473) contains a "factual misapprehension" that warrants reconsideration. See ECF 482 at 2. As he correctly points out, I distinguished the case of United States v. Reed, WDQ-09-0288, based on the erroneous belief that the government had not opposed Mr. Reed's Amendment 782 motion. Mr. Williams has now provided various submissions from Reed that demonstrate that the government had, in fact, opposed Mr. Reed's sentence reduction motion, although its opposition was not docketed, consistent with the practice at the time. See ECF 479-2 at 1-11.[5]

         Williams has also attached to the Motion to Reconsider his sentencing transcript of August 8, 2012 (ECF 479-1), claiming the transcript "confirms what was evident from the Plea Agreement: Mr. Williams was sentenced to the low-end of the guideline corresponding to an offense level of 33, 135 months' imprisonment." ECF 482 at 3.[6]

         I am mindful that Justice Sotomayor cautioned in Freeman that, to the extent the guidelines are a consideration in a C plea, this must be evident from the four corners of the plea agreement. Therefore, I shall merely reference the sentencing transcript, without relying on it.

         The sentencing transcript reflects that, at the outset of Williams's sentencing, I undertook the guidelines calculation. Sentencing Transcript at ECF 479-1 at 4 ("I recognize that this is a C plea under Rule 11(c)(1)(C) . . . but notwithstanding the fact that it is a C plea, I believe I still must correctly calculate the guidelines . . ."). After determining that the defendant's final offense level was 33 and that his criminal history category was I, I found that "the guideline range calls for imprisonment for a period ranging from 135 to 168 months, and this is a C plea, as indicated, in which the parties have agreed that the appropriate sentence is 135 months." ECF 479-1 at 6.

         During the government's argument in support of the C plea, the prosecutor stated, ECF 479-1 at 9-10:

Your Honor, as the Court is aware, the parties have agreed to a sentence of 135 months imprisonment. The Court has addressed the guidelines calculation and the criminal history of Mr. Williams, as to which there's no objection, and the guidelines range is 135 to 168 months. Therefore, the C plea is for the low end of that guideline. (Emphasis added.)

         Mr. Williams also urges this Court to reconsider its ruling to avoid "disparate treatment" of Mr. Williams, and "to avoid a manifest injustice that would result from treating Mr. Williams differently than similarly-situated defendants who had entered into Rule 11(c)(1)(C) pleas in this district." ECF 482 at 1-2. To support his argument, Williams points to cases decided by other judges of this Court, in which sentencing reductions were granted in connection with C pleas involving plea agreements that lacked an express reference to criminal history or a sentencing guidelines range.[7] These include Judge Blake's decision in United States v. Bowman, CCB-11- 0114 and Judge Quarles's decision in United States v. Reed, WDQ-09-0288.[8] I shall discuss these cases, infra.

         In its Opposition, the government claims that Williams has not satisfied the standard for reconsideration under Rule 59(e).[9] The government also reiterates its earlier argument, explaining that, under Freeman v. United States, 564 ...


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