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United States v. King

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 1, 2019

CHARLES KING, JR., Defendant.



         Defendant Charles King, Jr. is halfway into a five-year term of supervised release. Pending before the Court is his second motion for early termination of supervised release, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1), based upon his unblemished supervision record and his significant progress reintegrating into the community. See Def.'s Mot. for Early Term. Super. Rel. (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 146; Def.'s Reply in Supp. of Mot. (“Def.'s Reply”), ECF No. 149; Def.'s Ltr. (Jan. 25, 2019), ECF No. 150 (sealed).[1] The government opposes the pending motion because of the defendant's significant, violent criminal history involving offenses the defendant committed when he was a juvenile. Gov't's Opp'n Def.'s Mot. (“Gov't's Opp'n”) at 3-4, ECF No. 148. For the reasons stated below, the defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part. The defendant's term of supervised release is reduced from 60 months to 36 months, and at the government's suggestion, see Id. at 5 n.3, the defendant is no longer required to submit monthly reports to the U.S. Probation Office.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 12, 2004, following a jury trial, the defendant was sentenced to a term of 151 months' imprisonment on possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(iii) (Count One), to run consecutively with 60 months' imprisonment on one count of using, carrying, and possessing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count Two), for a total of 211 months' incarceration. See Judgment (July 12, 2004) at 2, ECF No. 64. The defendant was also sentenced to two, concurrent 60-month terms of supervised release. Id. at 3. The defendant was statutorily required to receive a minimum 60-month term of supervised release because of his conviction under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). See Presentence Investigation Report (“PSR”) ¶ 57, ECF No. 151. Had no statutorily required term of supervised release applied, the defendant's conviction under §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), a Class A felony, would have been subject to the recommendations of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. At the time the defendant was sentenced, those guidelines recommended at least three but not more than five years of supervised release for conviction of a Class A felony. See U.S.S.G. § 5D1.2(a)(1) (2003).[2] No. statutorily required minimum term of supervised release applies to a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1).[3] The defendant's sentence on Count One was later reduced to 120 months pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), see Order (Dec. 5, 2013), ECF No. 138.[4]

         The defendant served 13 years and two months in prison, see Def.'s Mot. at 4, and his concurrent five-year terms of supervised release began on June 20, 2016 and are scheduled to end on June 19, 2021. See U.S. Probation Office Mem. at 1 (Aug. 15, 2017), ECF No. 143.

         II. ANALYSIS

         The defendant seeks relief from his five-year term of supervised release under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1), which authorizes termination of a term of supervised release “at any time after the expiration of one year of supervised release, ” so long as certain factors set out in § 3553(a) are considered and the release “is warranted by the conduct of the defendant [on supervision] and the interest of justice.” 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1). Both parties agree that this Court has the discretion to modify the defendant's term of supervised release even though he is subject to a statutorily mandated five-year term. See Gov't's Opp'n at 1; Def.'s Mot. at 3; see also United States v. Harris, 258 F.Supp.3d 137, 142-43 (D.D.C. 2017) (BAH) (discussing this issue and concluding that the “weight of authority confirms that § 3583(e)(1) authorizes termination of [a] statutorily mandated term of supervised release . . . ”) (citing cases and U.S. Sentencing Comm'n, Federal Offenders Sentenced to Supervised Release 35 (July 2010)); see also United States v. Wesley, 311 F.Supp.3d 77, 79 n.1 (D.D.C. 2018) (CKK) (same).

         The D.C. Circuit has instructed, at least in the context of a denial of a motion for early termination of supervised release, that the district court explain its consideration of the relevant factors, unless “the reasons for denying the motion are apparent from the record.” United States v. Mathis-Gardner, 783 F.3d 1286, 1289-90 (D.C. Cir. 2015). The reasoning of the D.C. Circuit applies equally to a decision to grant such a motion. Harris, 258 F.Supp.3d at 143. Accordingly, the Court first considers the relevant factors under § 3553(a) before turning to whether the defendant's post-incarceration conduct and the interest of justice warrant early termination of supervised release.

         A. Consideration of Applicable Factors Under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)

         In evaluating a motion for early termination of supervised release, the Court must consider the following seven factors from § 3553(a): (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the defendant's history and characteristics; (2) deterrence of criminal conduct; (3) protection of the public from further crimes of the defendant; (4) the need to provide the defendant with educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment; (5) the applicable sentencing guideline range for the offense and pertinent policy statements issued by the U.S. Sentencing Commission; (6) the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities; and (7) the need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense. See 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e) (authorizing modification of supervised release “after considering the factors set forth in” § 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(B)-(D), and (a)(4)-(7)). The fifth, sixth, and seventh factors, however, have limited relevance to the defendant because the Sentencing Commission has not promulgated guidelines or policy statements addressing early termination of supervised release, see generally U.S.S.G. Ch. 7, Pts. A & B, because the “factor of avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities . . . would generally undermine the case specific inquiry required in evaluating a motion for early termination of supervised release, ” Harris, 258 F.Supp.3d at 145, and because the defendant has no restitution obligations.

         In considering the four remaining, relevant factors, the Court is cognizant that supervised release “serves an entirely different purpose than the sentence imposed under § 3553(a).” Pepper v. United States, 562 U.S. 476, 502 n.15 (2011). “Supervised release fulfills rehabilitative ends, distinct from those served by incarceration.” United States v. Johnson (“Johnson I”), 529 U.S. 53, 59 (2000); see also Johnson v. United States (“Johnson II”), 529 U.S. 694, 708-09 (2000) (recognizing the “congressional policy in providing for a term of supervised release . . . is to improve the odds of a successful transition from the prison to liberty”). In addition, the Supreme Court has noted the congressional “aim[] . . . to use the district courts' discretionary judgment to allocate supervision to those release[d] who need[] it most, ” Johnson II, 529 U.S. at 709. “The relevant factors under § 3553(a) are, consequently, evaluated mindful of the Supreme Court's clear articulation of the purpose of supervised release and the district court's discretion to limit terms of supervised release to those who need it.” Harris, 258 F.Supp.3d at 145 (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).

         Consideration of the first factor-the nature and circumstances of the offense-indicates that the defendant was driving a vehicle that was stopped for a license plate violation, and an ensuing search of that vehicle uncovered 106.6 grams of cocaine base, a loaded handgun, and cash. See PSR ¶¶ 4-6; Gov't's Opp'n at 1-2. As the government observes, this behavior “present[ed] a serious danger to the community, ” Gov't's Opp'n at 5, and was “even more alarming” in light of the defendant's criminal history, id. at 6.

         The defendant concedes the seriousness of his conduct, but also notes that no violence occurred in connection with this offense. Def.'s Mot. at 4. Further, the defendant points out that he has already served significant time for his offenses, id., and that, had the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 been made retroactive to his offense, the statutory mandatory minimum for his Count One conviction would have been 60 months' imprisonment rather than 120 months' imprisonment, and he therefore would already have completed both his sentence and his term of supervised release, see Def.'s Reply at 4-5.[5] Indeed, although neither party raises this issue, Congress recently made the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive to the drug offense for which the defendant was convicted. See First Step Act of 2018 (“First Step Act”), Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, § 404.[6] Thus, any defendant sentenced for a crack cocaine offense before the 2010 effective date of the Fair Sentencing Act who did not receive the benefit of the statutory penalty changes made by that Act is now eligible for a sentence reduction.

         While the defendant has already served his sentence and therefore cannot benefit from any sentence reduction, the Fair Sentencing Act and the First Step Act, taken together, are evidence that Congress has decided as a policy matter that a 120-month mandatory minimum sentence for the defendant's offense is no longer appropriate. These sentencing changes are relevant to the Court's consideration of a motion to reduce a term of supervised release. See United States v. Epps, 707 F.3d 337, 345 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (holding that a defendant's challenge to his sentence after he had been released but while he was still serving a term of supervised release was not moot because “there seems to be a very substantial likelihood that a ruling that [defendant's] incarceration should have been shorter would influence the district court's readiness to reduce his term of supervised release”). Congress has effectively indicated that the defendant's term of imprisonment should have been shorter.[7] Thus, while recognizing that the defendant's conduct was serious, the nature and circumstances of the offense, in ...

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