The Court finds that Defendant Webb is entitled to a 3 level reduction of his offense level for Acceptance of Responsibility pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1(b). Defendant Webb not only accepted responsibility for his involvement in this offense at a very early stage of the investigation, he also provided timely information to law enforcement authorities concerning his involvement and the involvement of others.
The Court also finds that Defendant Webb is entitled to a 2 level reduction based on the Specific Offense Characteristics, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(4). He meets the criteria set forth in subdivisions (1)-(5) of U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2 (Limitation of Applicability of Statutory Minimum Sentences in Certain Cases)
and the offense level is level 26 or greater.
After increasing Defendant Webb's Total Offense Level by 2 levels for Obstruction of Justice, pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1, the Court finds that Defendant Webb's Total Offense Level is set at 27 before consideration of departure. The Guidelines call for a sentence of 70 - 87 months under such circumstances.
II. Departure From the Guidelines Range
Under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b), the sentencing court may impose a sentence outside the range established by the applicable guideline, if the court finds "there exists an aggravating or mitigating circumstance of a kind, or to a degree, not adequately taken into consideration by the Sentencing Commission in formulating the guidelines that should result in a sentence different from that described above."
The Court finds that a departure from the Guidelines is warranted in this case. The principal mitigating circumstance here is Defendant Webb's addiction to drugs, specifically crack cocaine. The PIR reports that Defendant Webb "started smoking marijuana while in his mid-teens, consuming the herb twice weekly. . . he commenced smoking cocaine and eventually crack cocaine in 1977." PIR, page 7. The Court has also heard testimony from Detective Perry on February 25, 1995 who essentially identified Defendant Webb as only a low-level street dealer.
Defendant Webb was not a large-scale dealer, but simply a drug addict. His criminal conduct in this case, as well as his abscondence, can be explained by his addiction. Defendant Webb needs drug treatment, not a 70 - 87 month period of incarceration. Indeed, if Defendant Webb were privileged to be a member of a different socio-economic class, he would now be on his way to the Betty Ford Clinic rather than a Federal Correctional Institution.
What is more, the Guidelines range is disproportionate and unduly harsh in this case, and would subject Defendant Webb to constitutional and legal deprivations. Even the Court's imposed sentence--41 months--might be too long. It makes no sense to turn our jails into long term addict housing.
This is another case where the government played a key role in the determination of Defendant Webb's ultimate sentence. Defendant Webb is charged with having distributed 50 grams or more of cocaine base rather than a lesser amount because the undercover officer involved in the case arranged to make an arrest only after purchasing 55.85 grams on February 18, 1994, thereby establishing a high mandatory and/or increasing the minimum guidelines sentence. If the undercover officer had arrested Defendant Webb after making lesser purchases from him on February 2 and 14, 1994, then Defendant Webb would be facing a sentence of less severity. The sentencing court should have the right to take this fact into account. Indeed, the Court would hope that the Sentencing Commission would address the issue of so-called government buys in arriving at an appropriate sentence in such cases--especially as in this case where an addict is an easy prey for the government to get another notch on its belt. This court is unable to discern how putting away the Defendant, an admitted narcotics addict, for a 70-87 month sentence would contribute to ridding this nation of its drug scourge.
Why is this nation's criminal justice system in this age of high tech unable to differentiate between the drug lord and the addict? Why has it become so politically unpopular for this nation's political leaders to speak out on the need to reform the sentencing regime? One size does not fit all. While it seems that the populace does not want to return to the pre-guidelines era, it is clear from the ten years that guidelines sentencing has been in operation that some adjustments are absolutely necessary. With our experience under guidelines sentencing, a much fairer system can be produced--one that will not turn our prisons into addict centers and will produce savings of some $ 30,000 a year, the estimated yearly cost of housing a prisoner.
The Court finds that a departure was warranted in this case from Total Offense Level 27 to 22 and that the sentence of 41 months imposed in this case, as stated in the Judgment and Commitment Order issued on April 1, 1997, is a much more appropriate and justifiable sentence. This Court has recommended that the Defendant receive drug treatment during his incarceration.
May 30, 1997
United States District Judge