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United States v. Davis

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

September 24, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS CHARLES DAVIS, Defendant. 2008 Guidelines 2018 Guidelines

          OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT DAVIS’S FIRST STEP ACT MOTION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Davis pleaded guilty to a Section 841(b)(1)(B) crack cocaine offense in August 2008. At the time, the offense of conviction exposed Defendant to a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of forty years. On December 23, 2008, the Court imposed a sentence of 210 months imprisonment. This was the bottom end of Defendant’s guideline range, after accounting for the government’s 5K motion, and still well above the mandatory minimum. Since then, Defendant has received the benefit of certain retroactive guideline amendments and is currently serving a reduced sentence of 168 months imprisonment. According to the Bureau of Prisons website, Defendant Davis is currently scheduled to be released on June 11, 2020.

         The matter before the Court is Defendant Davis’s motion for modification or reduction in sentence under the newly enacted First Step Act, which provides for the retroactive application of certain sentencing reforms contained in the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act. (ECF No. 141). The Court appointed counsel to assist Defendant Davis with his First Step motion. Both sides have filed briefs. The government responds that Defendant Davis is not eligible for a reduced sentence based on the 4.15 kilograms of crack cocaine attributed to him in the PSR. (ECF No. 145). The defense responds that the First Step Act goes further and opens the door to a plenary resentencing with the statutory range of 0 to 240 months in Section 841(b)(1)(C) being the only limit. (ECF No. 144). According to the defense this means, among other things, that the Court should apply the current statutory framework and take into account Defendant Davis’s post sentencing behavior to impose a reduced sentence.

         The Court finds that Defendant Davis is eligible for relief under the First Step Act, but that he is not entitled to a plenary resentencing. Nor does the Court see any other need for a hearing on the fully briefed issues. The First Step Act grants reviewing courts the discretion to reduce, or not to reduce, an eligible defendant’s sentence. The Court concludes, in its discretion, that no reduction is warranted for this eligible defendant. While the range of statutory penalties applicable to Defendant Davis may be reduced after applying the First Step Act, that range never constrained this Court in determining an appropriate sentence when imposing the original sentence. For this reason, and those detailed more fully below, the Court denies Defendant’s motion to the extent it seeks a reduced sentence.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         1. Defendant Davis’s Charge & Plea

         In July 2008, officers with the Kalamazoo Valley Enforcement Team (KVET) arrested Travis Farris for trafficking crack cocaine. Following his arrest, Mr. Farris waived his Miranda Rights and told the interviewing officers that his supplier was Defendant Davis. Mr. Farris further stated that for the past eighteen months he had obtained at least two ounces of crack cocaine per week from Defendant Davis, and on at least five additional occasions, Defendant Davis had sold him 4.5 ounces of crack cocaine.

         On July 8, 2008 KVET officers conducted a controlled buy from Defendant and 62.9 grams of crack cocaine were involved in that purchase. Defendant Davis was subsequently arrested. While executing a search warrant of his residence, law enforcement officers found cash currency, an empty box relating to a digital scale, as well as a handgun and ammunition.

         Defendant Davis was indicted the following day on July 9, 2008. (ECF No. 11). Thereafter he reached a plea agreement with the government to plead guilty to a lesser charge contained in a superseding felony information. That document charged Defendant with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute five grams or more of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846; 841(a)(1); and 841(b)(1)(B)(iii). (ECF No. 32). Defendant Davis pleaded guilty to that charge in open court on August 19, 2008. (ECF No. 33). In exchange for his guilty plea, the government agreed (among other things) not to file a notice of prior drug conviction that would serve to enhance Defendant’s sentence under 21 U.S.C. § 851, and not to oppose Defendant’s request for a reduction in his offense level for acceptance of responsibility. (ECF No. 31).

         2. PSR & Sentencing

         The Final Presentence Report (PSR) prepared by the probation officer found that Defendant Davis was responsible for 4.15 kilograms of crack cocaine. (PSR ¶ 28). The quantity, in turn, triggered an initial base offense level of 36, the second highest level under the drug guidelines. (PSR ¶ 45). Two points were then added under Section 2D1.1(b)(1) of the sentencing guidelines for possession of a dangerous weapon. (PSR ¶ 46). After adjusting downward for acceptance of responsibility, the total offense level was 35. (PSR ¶ 52). The officer next scored Defendant’s criminal history at nineteen points, resulting in a criminal history category of VI. (PSR ¶ 78).

         The guideline range for the offense, based on a total offense level of 35 and criminal history category of VI, was 292 to 365 months on the chart. (PSR ¶ 117). These levels, furthermore, were reached independent of Defendant Davis’s status as a career offender. There were no guideline objections raised during the June 14, 2010, sentencing hearing and the Court accepted the PSR’s guideline determination. The Court then granted a government motion for a three-level reduction under Section 5K for Defendant Davis’s substantial assistance. This resulted in an offense level of 32, corresponding to a guideline range of 210 to 262 months on the chart.

         In applying the Section 3553(a) factors during Defendant’s sentencing, the Court concluded a sentence of 210 months was appropriate to accomplish the purposes of sentencing. The Court proceeded to impose a sentence of 210 months followed by a 5-year term of supervised release. Judgment entered on June December 24, 2008. (ECF No. 54). Defendant timely appealed, and on October 16, 2009, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Court’s Judgment. United States v. Davis, No. 09-1059 (6th Cir. Oct. 16, 2009).

         3. Defendant Davis’s Guideline Amendment 782 Motion

          Following his unsuccessful appeal Defendant returned to his criminal case to seek a reduced sentence under Guideline Amendment 782. (ECF No. 113, 128).[1] The probation officer prepared a Sentence Modification Report with the following analysis using the November 1, 2015 edition of the guideline manual.

Base Offense Level: 34 (based on 4.15 kilograms of crack cocaine. See ยง ...

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