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United States v. Brandon

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

August 30, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES LEE BRANDON, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REDUCE SENTENCE

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON, United States District Judge.

         On September 15, 2008, Defendant Charles Lee Brandon pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of five or more grams of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). ECF No. 31. On December 22, 2008, Defendant was sentenced to 262 months of imprisonment and eight years of supervised release. ECF No. 37. On September 1, 2016, Defendant was granted clemency by President Obama. ECF No. 77. The grant of clemency commuted Defendant's term of imprisonment to 151 months of imprisonment but left intact Defendant's term of supervised release.

         On April 24, 2019, Defendant filed a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018. ECF No. 92. On May 23, 2019, Defendant filed a stipulation that, if accepted by the Court, would resolve the motion.[1] ECF No. 95.

         I.

         A.

         The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 established significant penalties for the possession and distribution of crack cocaine. The disparity between the penalties for distributing crack cocaine and powder cocaine was 100-to-1. As the Supreme Court observed, the Act “imposed upon an offender who dealt in powder cocaine the same sentence it imposed upon an offender who dealt in one-hundredth that amount of crack cocaine.” Dorsey v. United States, 132 S.Ct. 2321, 2326 (2012).

         In 2010, Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372, which narrowed the disparity between sentences for crack cocaine offenders and powder cocaine offenders. Instead of 100-to-1, it now stands at 18-to-1. In other words, the FSA imposes upon an offender who dealt in powder cocaine the same sentence it imposes upon an offender who dealt in one-eighteenth that amount of crack cocaine. The FSA took effect on August 3, 2010.

         Among other things, the FSA reduced the statutory minimum sentences for crack cocaine offenses by increasing the quantity of crack cocaine necessary to trigger the minimums-raising the amount from 5 grams to 28 grams for the 5-year minimum sentence, and from 50 grams to 280 grams for the 10-year minimum sentence. See FSA § (2)(a). The FSA also directed the Sentencing Commission to conform the sentencing guidelines to the new statutory minimums. Id. § (8)(1). The Sentencing Commission then promulgated amendments to the guidelines, reducing the recommended sentencing ranges to levels consistent with the FSA. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual App. C Amends. 750, 759 (2011).

         The Sixth Circuit originally concluded that the FSA's new mandatory minimums did not affect the penalties associated with crimes committed before the statute's effective date. See United States v. Carradine, 621 F.3d 575, 580 (6th Cir. 2010). But with Dorsey, the Supreme Court established that “Congress intended the [FSA's] new, lower mandatory minimums to apply to the post-Act sentencing of pre-Act offenders.” 132 S.Ct. at 2335. Accordingly, the FSA's amended mandatory minimums only affected defendants sentenced after August 3, 2010.

         On December 21, 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act of 2018. P.L. 115-391. The law permitted the retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and the associated guideline ranges. Section 404 of the First Step Act provides.

(a) DEFINITION OF COVERED OFFENSE.-In this section, the term “covered offense” means a violation of a Federal criminal statute, the statutory penalties for which were modified by section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372), that was committed before August 3, 2010.
(b) DEFENDANTS PREVIOUSLY SENTENCED.-A court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may, on motion of the defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the Government, or the court, impose a reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111- 220; 124 Stat. 2372) were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed.
(c) LIMITATIONS.-No court shall entertain a motion made under this section to reduce a sentence if the sentence was previously imposed or previously reduced in accordance with the amendments made by sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372) or if a previous motion made under this section to reduce the sentence was, after the date of enactment of this Act, denied after a complete review of the motion on the merits. ...

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