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United States v. Moore

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 18, 2013

STACY MOORE, Defendant

For STACY ANTHONY MOORE, also known as STACY MOORE, Defendant: Brian Keith McDaniel, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCDANIEL & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC; Mary Manning Petras, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR D.C., Washington, DC.


For USA, Plaintiff: Barry Wiegand, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Section, Washington, DC; Emory Vaughan Cole, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Violent Crimes and Narcotics Trafficking, Washington, DC.


Page 142

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.


Defendant Stacy Moore seeks to reduce his 120-month sentence for conviction of a crack cocaine offense based on a retroactive amendment to the sentencing guidelines. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Because his sentence is the mandatory minimum under the governing statute, the Court will deny Moore's motion.

In 2008, Moore was arrested and indicted for unlawful possession of crack cocaine, possession of a firearm by a felon, and a number of other offenses. He entered a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement--an agreement that specifies an agreed-upon sentence or sentencing range. [1] Pursuant to the agreement, Moore pled guilty to unlawful possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base (also known as crack) in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(iii) (2006), and 18 U.S.C. § 2, and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). See Plea Agreement [Docket Entry 30] ¶ 1 (Mar. 20, 2009). He acknowledged responsibility for 59.6 grams of crack cocaine, 516 grams of cocaine powder, and 33.5 grams of heroin. See id. ¶ 2; see also Factual Proffer [Docket Entry 31] at 2 (March 20, 2009). The plea agreement stipulated " that the mandatory minimum sentence of 120 months is the appropriate sentence for the offenses." Plea Agreement ¶ 3. After reviewing the presentence investigation report and comparing the agreed-to sentence to both the applicable United States Sentencing Guidelines range (108 to 135 months), and the applicable mandatory minimum (120 months), the Court accepted the plea agreement. On June 19, 2009, the Court imposed concurrent sentences of 120 months in prison for the two convictions, followed by a period of supervised release, and imposed a fine and special assessment. Subsequently, Moore filed a pro se motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) [Docket Entry 53], which he supplemented with certificates of the educational and training programs he has completed in prison [Docket Entry 55]. Assisted by counsel, he then supplemented his section 3582(c)(2) motion [Docket Entry 57]. The government opposes any reduction in Moore's sentence [Docket Entry 61].

Page 143

At the time of Moore's crime and of his sentencing date, the governing statute set forth a mandatory minimum penalty of 120 months for possessing with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) (2006). This reflected a gross disparity in the treatment of crack cocaine and powder cocaine, " impos[ing] upon an offender who dealt in powder cocaine the same sentence it imposed upon an offender who dealt in one one-hundredth that amount of crack cocaine." Dorsey v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 2321, 2326, 183 L.Ed.2d 250 (2012). In 2010, Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (" FSA" ), which reduced the crack-to-power disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. See Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372. The statute took effect on August 3, 2010. Under the FSA, the mandatory minimum sentence for possessing, with intent to distribute, 59.6 grams of crack cocaine would only be 60 months. See 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(B)(iii) (2012); see also FSA § 2(a), Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372.

In light of the FSA, the United States Sentencing Commission promulgated amendments that lowered the guidelines ranges for crack offenses. See United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual (U.S.S.G.), amends. 748 & 750 (2011 app. C, vol. 3). The Sentencing Commission made the reduced guidelines retroactive. See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c) (2012). The government agrees with Moore that because the sentencing guidelines range was lowered retroactively, the applicable guidelines range is now 70 to 87 months, substantially below his actual sentence.

But a district court " may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed," except in limited circumstances. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c); see also Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 130 S.Ct. 2683, 2690, 177 L.Ed.2d 271 (2010). As relevant here, a court may reduce the term of imprisonment " in the case of 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." See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Moore argues that he is eligible for a sentencing reduction under this provision, but his argument runs into two insurmountable hurdles: first, his sentence was not " based on" the sentencing guidelines; second, even if the lower guidelines range applied, the Court would still be required to sentence Moore to 120 months because the FSA is not retroactive and 120 months is the minimum sentence under the governing statute.

Turning to the first issue, the D.C. Circuit recently explained that whether a defendant who enters a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea can be said to have been sentenced " based on" the guidelines, within the meaning of section 3582(c)(2), depends on the district court's reasons for accepting the sentence that it ultimately imposed. See United States v. Epps, No. 11-3002, 707 F.3d 337, 2013 WL 500241, at *10 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 12, 2013). Here, in considering the parties' stipulated sentence under Rule 11(c)(1)(C), the Court considered the sentencing guidelines--which, at that time recommended a sentence of 108 to 135 months. But the sentence the parties agreed to and the one the Court ultimately imposed was the lowest sentence permitted by statute. In this circumstance, the guidelines were only relevant to the Court's analysis in determining whether the parties' stipulated sentence was too low. In other words, even ...

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