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United States of America v. Carl Watson
January 26, 2012
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
CARL WATSON, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge
Defendant Carl Watson pled guilty under a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement to conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base, 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and 100 grams or more of heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(ii), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and 841(b)(1)(B)(i). In the plea agreement, the parties agreed to a sentence of 120 months. I accepted and imposed the agreed-upon sentence. Watson now moves under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) for sentence reduction, citing amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines that lowered the base offense levels for offenses involving crack cocaine. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual supp. app. C, amend. 706 (2010) (effective Nov. 1, 2007); id. § 1B1.10 (listing 706 among those amendments with retroactive effect). The government opposes on the grounds that the offenses to which Watson pled guilty subjected him to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, which he received, and that because he pled guilty under a plea agreement, subsequent guidelines amendments do not enable him to seek a reduction.*fn1
A defendant is eligible for a sentence reduction where his term of imprisonment is "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). In the case of a defendant sentenced under a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement, the agreed-upon sentence is "based on" a subsequently lowered range where the plea agreement indicates the parties' intent that the sentence be determined in accordance with that particular guidelines range. Freeman v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2685, 2698-99 & n.5 (2011) (Sotomayor, J., concurring).*fn2 In addition, "any sentence reduction must be 'consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.'" United States v. Berry, 618 F.3d 13, 17 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)). A policy statement in the Sentencing Guidelines prohibits sentence modifications under § 3582(c)(2) if a retroactive Guidelines amendment "does not have the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable guideline range" because, for example, of "the operation of . . . a statutory mandatory minimum term of imprisonment." U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.10(a)(2)(B) & cmt. n.1 (2011).
Here, Watson's plea agreement did not reflect the parties' intent to base the agreed-upon sentence on a range determined by the guidelines. The agreement states only that the parties "agree that a sentence of 120 months' incarceration is the appropriate sentence for the offense." (Plea agreement ¶ 3.) Moreover, Watson was and remains subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(ii), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), the term that he received under the plea agreement.*fn3 For these reasons, ...
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