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United States v. Butler

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 16, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MELVIN D. BUTLER, Defendant. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAMES ANTONIO JONES, Defendant

          For RAYFUL EDMOND, III, Defendant: Gregory Bruce English, LEAD ATTORNEY, ENGLISH LAW FIRM, PLLC, Alexandria, VA.

         For EMANUEL W. SUTTON, also known as MANGIE, Defendant: Diane S. Lepley, LEAD ATTORNEY, DIANE S. LEPLEY, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Washington, DC; Jensen Egerton Barber, LAW OFFICES OF J.E. BARBER PC, Washington, DC.

         For KEITH E. COOPER, also known as CHEESE, Defendant: A.J. Kramer, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Washington, DC; Howard Bernard Katzoff, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF HOWARD KATZOFF, Washington, DC.

         For ARMARETTA B. PERRY, Defendant: Carlos J. Vanegas, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Washington, DC; Neil Howard Jaffee, LEAD ATTORNEY, FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER FOR D.C., Washington, DC.

         For USA, Plaintiff: Robert D. Okun, LEAD ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Special Proceedings Division, Washington, DC; Joan Draper, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 318

         MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, United States District Judge.

         Now before this Court are two motions, each seeking sentence reductions under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and based upon the retroactive application of Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (" U.S.S.G." ). The first motion was filed by defendant Melvin Butler [145, 150]; the second by defendant James Antonio Jones [154]. Upon consideration of the motions, the entire records herein, the applicable law, and the reasons set forth below, defendants' Motions to Reduce Sentences pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) will be DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         In 1990, defendants Butler and Jones were sentenced for their roles as organizers and managers in the sweeping cocaine conspiracy run by co-defendant Rayful Edmund III. Each defendant was an essential and high-ranking member of Edmund's drug ring, exercising near complete control over various aspects of the enterprise. According to the Presentence Investigation Report (" PSR" ), defendant Butler was one of three people--along with Rayful Edmund and Edmund's partner, Tony Lewis-who bore primary responsibility for maintaining and directing the organization. PSR ¶ 24, Aug. 20, 1990 (stating that " these three individuals" were the most " culpable" ). Defendant Butler was Edmund and Lewis's primary " broker" for illegal drugs, routinely obtaining cocaine and cocaine base from his contacts in Los Angeles and then arranging for the drugs to be shipped across the country. Id. Butler and his drug supply sustained the organization, allowing it to thrive, expand, and develop into the far-reaching and sophisticated operation that it became. See, e.g., United States v. Edmond, 52 F.3d 1080, 1085, 311 U.S. App.D.C. 235 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (" [T]he Edmond organization received the cocaine that fueled its activities from Colombia through a series of transactions with Melvin Butler in California." ). Moreover, it nearly goes without saying that defendant Butler " recruited and supervised others" when acquiring and transporting immense quantities of drugs from the west coast. PSR ¶ 24, Aug. 20, 1990. After considering the singular role defendant Butler played in procuring the drugs and the independence he exercised in doing so, it is no wonder that the presentencing report identified him as an indispensable leader of the criminal organization--just as culpable as Rayful Edmund himself. Id.

         Like defendant Butler, defendant Jones was a crucial participant in the drug ring. His presentencing report identifies him, along with three others, as " just below" Edmund, Lewis, and Butler in the organization's hierarchy. PSR ¶ 34, Feb. 9, 1990. Jones was one of the organization's four " enforcers," meaning that he would " carry weapons" and " use force . . . to keep rival drug distributors from distributing drugs" in neighborhoods and on blocks claimed by Edmund and his co-conspirators. Id. at ¶ 33. Additionally, defendant Jones " supervised the street lieutenants, collected monies, recruited members for the organization, paid them, and directed their activities." Id. at ¶ 34. Suffice it to say, neither of these defendants was a low-level drug offender.

         After his conviction, defendant Butler was ultimately sentenced to 405 months in

Page 319

federal prison. Defendant Butler's original conviction and sentencing were subject to a series of appeals and post-sentencing motions, the details of which are explained in an Order [110], denying an earlier motion requesting a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). In December 1989, a jury convicted defendant Butler of one count of Conspiracy to Distribute and to Possess with the Intent to Distribute over Five Kilograms of Cocaine and one count of Unlawful Use of a Communications Facility. At sentencing on September 4, 1990, Judge Charles Richey increased defendant Butler's base level offense two levels for the use of guns in connection with the drug trafficking conspiracy, three levels for his role as a manager in the offense, and two levels for obstruction of justice. Judge Richey also granted a two-level reduction for defendant Butler's acceptance of responsibility, resulting in a guideline range of 324 to 405 months imprisonment. Judge Richey then sentenced defendant to the top of the range.

         After sentencing defendant Butler, Judge Richey sentenced defendant Jones to 393 months. Defendant Jones's initial sentencing also underwent several appeals and post-sentencing motions; more specific information can be found in a Memorandum Opinion [137]. In December 1989, a jury convicted defendant Butler of conspiracy to violate narcotics laws under 21 U.S.C. § 846. At sentencing in September 1990, Judge Richey enhanced defendant Butler's sentence for the use of guns in connection with the conspiracy and for his involvement as a supervisor of the organization. These factors produced a guideline range of 324 to 405 months, and Judge Richey sentenced Defendant Jones near the top of the range.

         On April 30, 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission submitted to Congress Amendment 782 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, proposing a downward revision to the applicable sentencing ranges for drug trafficking offenses. Importantly, on July 18, 2014, the Commission then then passed Amendment 788 to allow the Amendment 782's revisions to be applied retroactively. On November 1, 2014, Amendment 782 and its retroactive application became effective.

         With a few exceptions, Amendment 782 reduces by two the offense levels assigned in the Drug Quantity Table, as described in U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1. In fact, the changes are sufficiently sweeping that the Amendment has been informally referred to as " all drugs minus two." In light of the extensive nature of the revisions, the Commission has required that any sentence reduction based on the retroactive application of Amendment 782 not take effect until November 1, 2015. This delay is designed to allow the courts, probation officers, and the Bureau of Prisons the time they need to consider and process motions relating to Amendment 782's retroactive application and to prepare release plans for offenders, where applicable. See U.S.S.G. App. C, Amend. 788 at 87 (2014). (" The administrative burdens of applying Amendment 782 retroactively are significant but manageable given the one-year delay in the effective date, which allows courts and agencies more time to prepare." ).

         Shortly after Amendments 782 and 788 became effective on November 1, 2014, the defendants filed the instant motions to reduce their sentences pursuant to ...


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