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United States v. Quattlebaum

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 22, 2013


For KEVIN QUATTLEBAUM, Defendant: Jonathan F. S. Love, LEAD ATTORNEY, LOVE, LLP, Washington, DC; Mary Manning Petras, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR D.C., Washington, DC.


For USA, Plaintiff: Joan Draper, Sherri Lee Berthrong, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.


JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

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Defendant Kevin Quattlebaum seeks to reduce his 126-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). The Court agrees that Quattlebaum's sentence should be reduced. But because the governing statute imposes a 120-month mandatory minimum, the Court will grant Quattlebaum's motion only in part.

In 2007, Quattlebaum was arrested and charged with 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). He was convicted after a jury trial. Quattlebaum appealed, and the D.C. Circuit affirmed his conviction. See United States v. Quattlebaum, 331 F. App'x 755 (D.C. Cir. 2009). On June 30, 2008, the Court sentenced Quattlebaum. Based on the evidence at trial, the Court found that

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defendant was responsible for 180.35 grams of crack cocaine. See Sentencing Tr. [Docket Entry 80] at 5:15-17 (June 30, 2008). Given that amount, the United States Sentencing Guidelines range applicable to defendant was 121 to 151 months. And the governing statute provided that any person who possesses, with intent to distribute, 50 grams of more of crack cocaine " shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 10 years." 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) (2006). The Court noted that " [c]onsistent with the sentencing guidelines and that statutory sentencing requirement, I have concluded that a sentence in the lower end of the guidelines is appropriate," and sentenced Quattlebaum to 126 months of imprisonment. Sentencing Tr. at 30:21-23. The Court also imposed a period of supervised release and a special assessment.

The 120-month mandatory minimum required by 18 U.S.C. § 841 at the time of Quattlebaum's sentence 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, 180.35 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). In a recent policy statement, the Sentencing Commission made the reduced guideline ranges retroactive. See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c) (2012). The parties agree that because the sentencing guidelines range was lowered retroactively, the applicable range for Quattlebaum's offense level and criminal history category is now 78 to 97 months, well below his actual sentence. Relying on this retroactive amendment to the applicable sentencing guidelines range, Quattlebaum moves to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) [Docket Entry 89]. The government does not oppose a reduction of Quattlebaum's sentence to 120 months, but objects to any further reduction [Docket Entry 92].

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 sentence " 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. ยง 3582(c)(2). However, because sentencing statutes " trump[] the Guidelines," the Court must sentence an offender to at least the minimum prison term set out in the statute regardless of the applicable guidelines range. See ...

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