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United States v. Czach

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 26, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THEODORE J. CZACH, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR REDUCTION OF SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 18 U.S.C. § 3582(C) [485]

          Honorable Nancy G. Edmunds, Judge

         Defendant Theodore Czach moves to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G."). Specifically, he asks the Court to reduce his 84-month custodial sentence to a term of 68 months. The government agrees that Defendant is eligible for a sentencing reduction but argues for a term of 78 months. For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion and reduces his custodial sentence to 68 months.

         I. Background

         On April 17, 2014, Defendant pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and distribution of controlled substances. (Dkt. 364.) On August 5, 2015, the Court sentenced him to 84 months in custody, followed by 3 years of supervised release. (Dkt. 449.) To arrive at this sentence, the Court calculated a base offense level of 38, based upon Defendant's distribution of 150 kilograms of cocaine and 30, 000 kilograms of marijuana. (Dkt. 479, at 6 (accepting proposals in Dkt. 364 (Plea Agreement)).) The Court then reduced his base offense level by 3 levels for Acceptance of Responsibility and another 2 levels under the U.S.S.G.'s Safety Valve provision, giving Defendant a total offense level of 33. (Id.) Combined with a Criminal History Category of I, this put Defendant's sentencing range at 135-168 months. (Id.) Finally, after considering the government's U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 motion based on Defendant's substantial assistance to authorities, as well the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, the Court departed 37.8% from the low end of that range and imposed a custodial sentence of 84 months. (Id. at 23.)

         On July 25, 2016, Defendant filed this motion to reduce his sentence based on Amendment 782. His motion requests a sentence of 68 months. On August 15, 2016, the government responded, conceding that Defendant was entitled to a reduced sentence but arguing for a term of 78 months. On January 5, 2017, the Probation Department provided the Court a Drug Guideline Amendment Report regarding Defendant and recommended that Defendant's sentence be reduced to a term of 67 months.

         II. Applicable Law

         18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) establishes a two-step inquiry for evaluating a motion for a reduced sentence. Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 826 (2010). First, the Court must determine whether a reduction is consistent with the U.S.S.G. Id. Second, if the U.S.S.G. permits a reduction, "§ 3582(c)(2) instructs a court to consider any applicable § 3553(a) factors and determine whether, in its discretion, the reduction authorized by reference to the policies relevant at step one is warranted in whole or in part under the particular circumstances of the case." Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827. As the Sixth Circuit has noted, this means the Court must consider the § 3553(a) factors, as well as "the nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that may be posed by a reduction in the defendant's term of imprisonment, " and the Court may consider "post- sentencing conduct of the defendant." United States v. Curry, 606 F.3d 323, 330 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10 cmt. n. 1(B)); see also United States v. Howard, 644 F.3d 455 (6th Cir. 2011) (remanding an order reducing defendant's sentence where district court did not provide statement of reasons for its decision).

         III. Analysis

         As to step one of the § 3582(c)(2) inquiry, the parties and the Court agree that Defendant is entitled to a reduction under Amendment 782. Effective as of November 1, 2014, Amendment 782 amended the Drug Quantity Table at U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1 by reducing the base offense level for most federal drug trafficking crimes by two levels. In November 2015, the U.S. Sentencing Commission made Amendment 782 retroactive. U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c). Given that the Court calculated Defendant's base offense level according to the Drug Quantity Table prior to Amendment 782's effective date, the Court concurs with the parties that Defendant is eligible for a reduced sentence.

         The next step of the inquiry requires the Court to exercise its discretion in deciding whether a reduction is warranted, and, if so, what the reduction should be. Dillon, 560 U.S. at 827. In making this determination, the Court must "determine the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant if the amendment(s) ... had been in effect at the time that the defendant was sentenced." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(1). Further, the Court "shall substitute only the [applicable amendment] for the corresponding guideline provisions that were applied when the defendant was sentenced and shall leave all other guideline application decisions unaffected." Id. If, after calculating the amended guideline range, a defendant's current sentence remains below that range, further reduction is forbidden unless the original sentence itself was a downward departure based on substantial assistance to authorities. Freeman v. United States, 564 U.S. 522, 531 (2011) (citing U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(B)).

         Here, under Amendment 782, Defendant's base offense level is 36. If the Court applies the reductions it previously applied for Acceptance of Responsibility (-3) and under the Safety Valve provision (-2), his amended offense level becomes 31. At a Criminal History Category of I, that produces an amended guideline range of 108 to 135 months.

         Defendant's custodial sentence of 84 months is below that amended range. However, because his original sentence was a downward departure based on substantial assistance to authorities, the Court may reduce his sentence further. Freeman, 564 U.S. at 531. If the Court now departs from the bottom of the amended guideline range by the same proportion it departed from Defendant's guideline range at sentencing (37.8%), Defendant's reduced sentence will be 68 months. Notably, § 1B1.10(b)(2)(B) supports such a departure, stating "a reduction comparably less than the amended guideline range ... may be appropriate." Having reviewed the record and considered the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, the policy of U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b), the public safety considerations, and Defendant's post-sentencing conduct, the Court finds that Defendant's sentence should be reduced to 68 months. Specifically, the Court notes that the same factors that justified a 37.8% downward departure from Defendant's original guideline range justify a comparable downward departure from the amended guideline range. These include Defendant's substantial assistance to authorities, the nature and circumstances of his offense, the seriousness of his offense, and the interest in avoiding unwarranted sentencing disparities. The Court further notes that neither the government nor the Probation Department identified any public safety concern associated with reducing Defendant's sentence. Finally, the Court finds that Defendant's post-sentencing conduct militates in favor of a reduced sentence. Among other things, Defendant has completed around 300 hours of educational programming and has received outstanding reviews for his work as a re-entry tutor. (Dkt. 485-2; Dkt. 485-3; Dkt. 485-4.) As the government acknowledges, "it appears that the defendant has made serious attempts at making the most of his incarceration and preparing himself for a more law-abiding life afterwards." (Dkt. 488, at 3.)

         In light of the foregoing, the Court GRANTS Defendant's motion for a reduced sentence and imposes an amended custodial sentence of 68 months, followed by 3 years of supervised release. An ...


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