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United States v. Ball

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
DAVID WILSON, Defendant.

          OPINION

          PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge

         The matter is before the Court on the pro se motion [Dkt No. 1593] of defendant David Wilson to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Upon careful consideration of the parties" written submissions, the relevant legal authorities, and the relevant portions of the record, the Court will grant the motion.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case was originally assigned to Judge Richard W. Roberts, who presided over the trial of Mr. Wilson and his co-defendants in 2007. In November 2007. the jury found Mr. Wilson guilty of two counts of aiding and abetting first-degree murder, seven counts of distributing crack cocaine, and one count of using a communications facility in relation to a narcotics offense. See United States v. Bell, 795 F.3d 88, 92 (D.C. Cir. 2015).

         Shortly before Mr. Wilson was sentenced, the United States Sentencing Commission promulgated temporary emergency amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines with an effective date of November 1, 2010. See U.S.S.G. app. C, amend. 748 (Supp. Nov. 1, 2010); 75 Fed. Reg. 66188, 66188-93 (Oct. 27, 2010). Prior to the emergency amendments, 1.5 kilograms of cocaine base was the threshold between offense level 34 ("At least 500 G but less than 1.5 KG") and offense level 36 ("At least 1.5 KG but less than 4.5 KG"). See U.S.S.G. § 2D 1.1(c) (2010). After the emergency amendments, 2.8 kilograms of cocaine base was the threshold between offense level 34 ("At least 840 G but less than 2.8 KG") and offense level 36 ("At least 2.8 KG but less than 8.4 KG"). See U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c) (Supp. Nov. 1, 2010).

         Judge Roberts sentenced Mr. Wilson on March 11, 2011, four months after the emergency amendments went into effect. He found Mr. Wilson responsible for "at least 1.5 kilos" of cocaine base, resulting in a base offense level of 34. See Sentencing Tr. at 13-14; Id. at 10 ("The amounts of crack attributable to all those distributions in furtherance of the agreement exceeded 1.5 kilograms and was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant. Under the 2010 guidelines, though, that would establish a base offense level of 34. not 36.") (emphasis added); see also United States v. Wyche, 741 F.3d 1284, 1292 (D.C. Cir. 2014) ("Under the Sentencing Guidelines, the district court determines a defendant's base offense level - and, ultimately, his guideline range - by delineating his relevant conduct.") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). With a total offense level of 34 and a criminal history category of I, Mr. Wilson's applicable Guideline range for his drug distribution convictions was 151 to 188 months. Judge Roberts sentenced Mr. Wilson at the top of that range to 188 months in prison for each drug distribution count, those sentences to run concurrently. See Judgment at 3. Judge Roberts also sentenced Mr. Wilson to 48 months in prison for his communications facility conviction, that sentence to run concurrently to the drug sentences. See ]d. In addition, Judge Roberts sentenced Mr. Wilson to 360 months to life in prison under the District of Columbia Code for each murder conviction, those sentences to run concurrently to each other and consecutively to the other sentences. See Id. at 4. The D.C. Circuit affirmed Mr. Wilson's convictions in July 2015. See United States v. Bell, 795 F.3d at 91.

         This case was reassigned to the undersigned in April 2016. On December 21, 2016, Mr. Wilson filed the instant motion - a pro se motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines.[2] Mr. Wilson later supplemented his motion through counsel. Amendment 782 reduced by two levels the base offense levels for certain controlled substance offenses. See U.S.S.G. app. C, amends. 782 (reduction), 788 (making Amendment 782 retroactive). Prior to Amendment 782, a drug quantity of at least 840 grams but less than 2.8 kilograms of cocaine base carried an offense level of 34; after the amendment, the same amount fell to an offense level of 32. As noted, Mr. Wilson's total offense level of 34 and criminal history category of I yielded a Guideline range of 151 to 188 months at the time of sentencing. A two-level reduction to offense level 32 would result in a revised Guideline range of 121 to 151 months. Mr. Wilson asks the Court to reduce his sentence from 188 months to 121 months, the bottom of the revised Guideline range.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A court may modify a defendant's sentence if the defendant "has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). A court considering a Section 3582(c)(2) motion is to engage in a limited, two-step inquiry. First, the court must determine whether the defendant is eligible for a sentence modification. To do so, the court must determine "the amended guidelines range that would have been applicable to the defendant" had the relevant amendment been in effect at the time of the initial sentencing. United States v. Wyche, 741 F.3d at 1292 (quoting Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 827 (2010)). Second, if the defendant is eligible for a sentence modification, the court must consider any applicable factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and determine whether, in its discretion, a reduction in the defendant's sentence is "warranted in whole or in part under the particular circumstances of the case." United States v. Wyche, 741 F.3d at 1292 (quoting Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. at 827)). The court is to consider the Section 3553(a) factors "to the extent that they are applicable" and determine if the sentence reduction is "consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Mr. Wilson is Eligible for a Sentence Reduction

         The Court must first determine the amended Guideline range that would have been applicable if Amendment 782 had been in effect when Mr. Wilson was sentenced in March 2011. At sentencing, Judge Roberts found Mr. Wilson responsible for "at least 1.5 kilos" of cocaine base, resulting in a base offense level of 34 and a Guideline range of 151 to 188 months. See Sentencing Tr. at 13-14. Based on a drug quantity of at least 1.5 kilograms of cocaine base, Mr. Wilson argues that Amendment 782 now puts him at an offense level of 32 and a Guideline range of 121 to 151 months. See Mot. at 3. He asks the Court to reduce his sentence from 188 months to 121 months, the bottom of the revised Guideline range. See Reply at 2.

         The United States responds that Judge Roberts did not make a specific drug quantity finding at sentencing; he found only that Mr. Wilson was responsible for "at least" 1.5 kilograms of cocaine base. See Opp'n at 1.[3] The United States asks the Court to make a new, more precise drug quantity finding in order to determine Mr. Wilson's applicable Guideline range. See Id. at 4. It maintains that any such factual inquiry would likely result in a finding that Mr. Wilson was responsible for at least 2.8 kilograms of cocaine base, which would put him at an offense level of 34 and a Guideline range of 151 to 188 months under the current Guidelines. See Id. Mr. Wilson's applicable Guideline range therefore would remain the same and he would be ineligible for a sentence reduction. See id.

         "In order to determine the defendant's amended guideline range for a drug-related offense, the resentencing court must determine the drug quantity attributable to the defendant." United States v. Wyche, 741 F.3d at 1293. "If the original sentencing court failed to make a specific drug-quantity calculation, the resentencing court may have to make its own quantity finding in order to determine the defendant's guideline range." Id. But the resentencing court's drug quantity finding "cannot be inconsistent with factual ...


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