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United States v. Goode

United States District Court, District Circuit

July 11, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
LONNIE JEROME GOODE, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the motion of the defendant, Lonnie Jerome Goode, to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Upon consideration of the parties' papers, the relevant legal authorities, and the entire record in the case, the Court will deny the motion.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

On May 25, 2010, Mr. Goode pled guilty to one count of unlawful possession with the intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing more than five grams of cocaine base or crack, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B)(iii). Plea at 1. As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed that Mr. Goode would receive a three-level downward adjustment in his offense level for his acceptance of responsibility. Id. at 2. The parties projected that Mr. Goode would be subject to a base offense level of 34 if deemed a career offender or, if not considered a career offender under the relevant guidelines, a base offense level of 25. Id . The plea agreement recognized that "[t]he guidelines range is [ ] advisory and the court does not have to impose a sentence within that range[, ]" although the Court "does have to impose a sentence of at least the statutory mandatory minimum of five years in prison." Id . In addition, the plea agreement noted that the Court could conclude that the crack cocaine guidelines were unfair, and that "the court may elect to apply those findings." Id. at 2-3.

Mr. Goode was sentenced on September 29, 2010. Tr. at 1. At the sentencing hearing, the parties disagreed as to whether Mr. Goode qualified as a career offender. Id. at 2-6; see also PSR at 3 ("[Mr. Goode] may qualify as a career criminal."). The Court reluctantly concluded, based on Mr. Goode's prior convictions and application of the Sentencing Guidelines, that Mr. Goode was a career offender. Tr. at 6-7, 11. Under the career offender guidelines, Mr. Goode's offense level was 34 and his Criminal History was VI, making his sentencing range 188 to 235 months. Id. at 11-13. The Court then found under Section 4A1.3 of the Sentencing Guidelines that Criminal History VI clearly overstated Mr. Goode's actual criminal history. Id. at 11-12. The Court therefore considered a downward departure under Section 4A1.3(b) of the Guidelines. Id. at 12, 14. Such a departure would allow for a one-level reduction in Mr. Goode's criminal history category, resulting in a guidelines sentencing range of 168 to 210 months. Id.

"[G]iven [Mr. Goode's] lack of criminal history in the last 13 years, " Tr. at 12, the Court then explored the possibility afforded to it under United States v. Booker , 543 U.S. 404 (2005), of not applying either the career offender guidelines sentencing range or the guidelines sentencing range that resulted after any departure under Section 4A1.3(b). Tr. at 14. The Court noted that without factoring in the career offender guidelines and just adding up the criminal history points, Mr. Goode's sentence for the crack offense would be determined by a total offense level of 25 and a Criminal History category of III, yielding a sentencing range of 70 to 87 months. Id. at 12.

The Court also noted that it had been applying a 20-to-1 crack cocaine-to-powder cocaine ratio as a matter of policy, see, e.g., United States v. Burnette , 587 F.Supp.2d 163 (D.D.C. 2008), and that Congress recently had enacted an 18-to-1 ratio in the Fair Sentencing Act ("FSA"). Tr. at 12-13. Applying either an 18-to-1 or a 20-to-1 ratio while ignoring the career offender guidelines would give Mr. Goode a total offense level of 23, a Criminal History category of III, and a sentencing range of 57 to 71 months. Id. at 13. In explaining its thinking, the Court stated that it was not "actually doing a guidelines calculation, " but rather was establishing "some sort of parameters" to justify a particular sentence after varying from the Guidelines under Booker and Kimbrough v. United States , 552 U.S. 85 (2007). Tr. at 13. Ultimately, the Court imposed a sentence of 68 months' imprisonment for the reasons explained in detail at sentencing. Id. at 28.

Shortly after Mr. Goode was sentenced, the United States Sentencing Commission promulgated a temporary amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines that lowered the guidelines sentencing ranges for crack offenses, commensurate with the FSA. See Davis v. United States Sentencing Comm'n, ___ F.3d ___, 2013 WL 2302542, at *1 (D.C. Cir. 2013); United States v. Dunn , 856 F.Supp.2d 90, 91 (D.D.C. 2012) (discussing Amendment 750); United States v. Hilliard, Cr. No. 05-175 , 2012 WL 425968, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Feb. 9, 2012) (same). The Sentencing Commission re-promulgated the amendment and made it permanent on April 6, 2011. U.S. SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL app. C, amend. 750 (supp. 2011) (effective Nov. 1, 2011); see also Davis v. United States Sentencing Comm'n, 2013 WL 2302542, at *1; United States v. Dunn , 856 F.Supp.2d at 91. On June 30, 2011, the Commission issued Amendment 759 to the Guidelines, which made Amendment 750 retroactive. U.S. SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL app. C, amend. 759 (supp. 2011) (effective Nov. 1, 2011).

Mr. Goode has filed a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) to reduce his sentence from 68 months to the mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months. Mot. at 1. Mr. Goode claims that "[b]ecause the Court based Mr. Goode's sentence on the crack cocaine guideline range, not the career offender guideline range, the Court is authorized to reduce his sentence" pursuant to Amendment 750. Id. at 2. He also contends that a reduction of his sentence would be consistent with applicable policy statements by the Commission, as properly construed in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision in Freeman v. United States , 131 S.Ct. 2685 (2011). The government counters that Section 1B1.10, a policy statement issued by the Commission, provides that a defendant's sentence may be reduced only if the "applicable guideline range" has been subsequently amended. The government contends that the "applicable guideline range" in this case is the career offender guideline range, regardless of whether the Court varied from these guidelines, and notes that the career offender guidelines have not been amended. Opp'n. at 1, 4-5.

II. DISCUSSION

A district court does not have inherent authority to modify a sentence once it has been imposed. Dillon v. United States , 130 S.Ct. 2683, 2687 (2010). 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) provides a "narrow exception to [that] rule of finality." Id. at 2692; see also United States v. Armstrong , 347 F.3d 905, 909 (11th Cir. 2003). Under that statute, the Court may modify a sentence only when the defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that subsequently has been lowered. Dillon v. United States , 130 S.Ct. at 2687 (citting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)). "To be eligible for a sentence modification under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), a defendant must show (1) that he was initially sentenced based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered' by the Sentencing Commission; and (2) that the reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.'" United States v. Sweet , 756 F.Supp.2d 94, 95-96 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting United States v. Berry , 618 F.3d 13, 16 (D.C. Cir. 2010)); see also Dillon v. United States , 130 S.Ct. at 2687 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)).

A. "Based on" a subsequently lowered sentencing range

This circuit has declined to extend Section 3582(c)(2) relief to crack offenders sentenced under the career offender guidelines, concluding that career offenders' sentences are not "based on" the subsequently amended crack cocaine guidelines. See United States v. Tepper , 616 F.3d 583, 585-87 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (defendant ineligible for Section 3582(c)(2) sentencing modification because sentence based on career offender status); United States v. Berry , 618 F.3d 13, 18 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (denying Section 3582(c)(2) motion because defendant was subject "to the career-offender range, and not the non-career range"); see also United States v. Sweet , 756 F.Supp.2d at 96 (rejecting Section 3582(c)(2) motion because defendant's sentence was based on career offender guidelines rather than on crack cocaine guidelines); United States v. King, Crim. No. 00-340, 2010 WL 5394907, at *2 (D.D.C. Dec. 23, 2010) (denying Section 3582(c)(2) relief to defendant sentenced under the career offender provisions of the Guidelines). Thus, had the Court based Mr. Goode's sentence solely on the career offender guidelines, Mr. Goode would have no argument for relief.

In this case, the Court found that Mr. Goode was technically a career offender under the Guidelines and that, because the Guidelines overstated his actual criminal history, a Criminal History category departure under Section 4A1.3(b) of the Guidelines would be appropriate. In the Court's view, however, the resulting guideline sentencing range was still higher than necessary to meet the legitimate goals of sentencing. See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). The Court therefore varied from the Guidelines under Booker. See Tr. at 11-15. As noted above, the Court considered applying, but ultimately declined to apply, the crack cocaine guidelines without the career offender enhancement. Instead, the Court ...


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