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United States v. Bean

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

June 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
LARRY CHARLES BEAN, Defendant.

          OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT BEAN'S FIRST STEP ACT MOTION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Bean pleaded guilty to a Section 841(b)(1)(A) drug offense involving at least 50 grams of crack cocaine in August of 2009. The government had a Section 851 Notice on file reporting a prior felony drug offense conviction. At the time of Defendant Bean's sentencing in December of 2009, this exposed him to a mandatory minimum sentence of twenty years in prison. He was thirty-one years old at the time.

         The matter before the Court is Defendant Bean's motion for modification or reduction in sentence under the newly enacted First Step Act. (ECF No. 67). The Court appointed counsel to assist Defendant Bean with his motion, and both sides have filed briefs. The government responds that the First Step Act reduces the statutory mandatory minimum applicable to Defendant Bean, but does not affect defendant's maximum sentence or his guideline range. And because Defendant Bean has already received a below-guideline sentence, the government suggests no further reduction is called for. (ECF No. 72). The defense replies by averring that the First Step Act provides a free-standing remedy and so the Court should conduct a plenary resentencing. It contends that in such a proceeding, the Court may consider several other matters and apply other changes in the law that may favor the Defendant. For example, the defense contends the Court should determine whether the predicate offense in the government's Section 851 notice would qualify as a predicate offense today. (ECF No. 73). The government opposes any plenary proceeding.

         The Court sees no need for a hearing on the fully briefed issues. Defendant Bean is eligible for relief under the First Step Act, but the Court does not believe a plenary resentencing is necessary or proper. Once eligibility is established, however, everything else goes into the discretionary mix to inform the Court's decision. The Court discerns a number of considerations that justify a reduced sentence under the First Step Act in this case. The Court can and does exercise its discretion under the First Step Act to reduce Defendant Bean's sentence as provided in this Opinion and accompanying Order.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         1. Offense Conduct

          In December 2008 an anonymous source informed the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team that crack cocaine was being manufactured in an apartment located at 5030 Cooper's Landing, Kalamazoo. A building representative confirmed that there had been complaints of excessive traffic in and out of apartment 2A, and a search warrant was obtained. After conducting surveillance, police determined that the apartment was occupied by Demetrius Haywood, and his cousin, Defendant Bean. A search warrant was executed on the premises on December 16, 2008, and police recovered a semi-automatic handgun, ammunition, narcotics, cash currency, and drug paraphernalia. While Mr. Haywood was arrested, Defendant Bean was not arrested at that time, and the investigation continued. In January 2009, police executed a warrant at the residence of Melvin Scott Coy-Coleman. There law enforcement officers recovered 54.06 grams of crack cocaine, and Mr. Coy-Coleman reported he had recently purchased the crack cocaine from Defendant Bean. Then, Defendant Bean was arrested in March 2009 for driving without a license as well as for child support violations. During a search of his person, police recovered a quantity of crack cocaine. After being arrested, Defendant Bean posted bond and was released.

         The investigation into Defendant Bean culminated on April 27, 2009. On that date police officers executed a search warrant at his residence. The police recovered crack cocaine, lottery tickets, cash, and drug paraphernalia such as scales and packaging materials. In total, approximately 277 grams of crack cocaine was attributed to Defendant Bean.

         2. Charge & Plea

          Defendant Bean was charged in a three-count indictment on May 13, 2009, with conspiracy to distribute fifty grams or more of crack cocaine (Count 1); maintaining a drug involved premises (Count 2); and with possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of crack cocaine (Count 3). (ECF No. 1).

         On August 18, 2009, the government filed an information and notice of prior drug conviction. (ECF No. 33). The filing notified the defense and the Court of the Defendant's April 1, 2002, felony drug conviction in state court for delivery of less than 50 grams of cocaine. The effect of this notice was to increase the range of statutory penalties then applicable to Defendant Bean from ten years to life imprisonment to twenty years to life imprisonment. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A)(iii); 851 (2009).[1]

         On March 5, 2009, Defendant pleaded guilty to Count 1 (conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine). (ECF No. 45). Under the terms of a written plea agreement, the government agreed to dismiss the remaining charges in the indictment and not to file an additional Section 851 notice alleging that the defendant had more than one prior felony drug conviction.[2]

         3. PSR & Sentencing

         The Final Presentence Report (PSR) prepared by the probation officer found that Defendant Bean was responsible for a total drug quantity of 277.71 grams of crack cocaine, as well as for the possession of a firearm and taser recovered during the December 16, 2008 search of the apartment he shared with Mr. Haywood. (PSR ¶ 28). The quantity of narcotics triggered an initial base offense level of 32. Two levels were added for possession of dangerous weapons during the offense, resulting in an adjusted offense level of 34. After adjusting downward for acceptance of responsibility, the total drug offense level was 31. (PSR ¶¶ 34, 38-41).

         The PSR determined, however, that Defendant Bean qualified as a career offender because he committed the offense of conviction after sustaining two prior felony convictions for controlled substance offenses. Since the statutory maximum penalty for the offense of conviction was life under Section 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), the guidelines called for a career offender offense level of 34, after adjusting for acceptance of responsibility. See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b)(A). Level 34 being higher than the offense level calculated under Section 2D1.1, it took precedence and became Defendant Bean's total offense level. (PSR ¶¶ 42-43).

         The officer then scored Defendant's criminal history at eighteen points, resulting in a criminal history category of VI.[3] The guideline range for a total offense level of 34 and criminal history category of VI was 262 to 327 months. (PSR ¶¶ 77-78).[4] At the December 9, 2009 sentencing the Court varied downward from the guideline range and imposed a sentence of 240 months imprisonment-the mandatory minimum. (ECF No. 45). During the hearing, the Court acknowledged Defendant Bean's lengthy criminal history, but noted that the guideline range created an ...


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