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United States v. Ingram

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

September 27, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CRAIG ALLEN INGRAM, Defendant.

          OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT INGRAM’S FIRST STEP ACT MOTION

          ROBERT J. JONKER, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Ingram pleaded guilty to a Section 841(b)(1)(A) drug offense involving at least 50 grams of crack cocaine in May 2008. The Final Presentence Report completed by the probation office determined Defendant Ingram was responsible for a quantity of narcotics-including 1.336 kilograms of crack cocaine-that was equivalent to over 26, 000 kilograms of marijuana. This was sufficient at the time to trigger a sentencing range of 10 years to life imprisonment under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b), as well as to trigger a base offense level of 34. On October 10, 2008, Judge Bell sentenced Defendant Ingram to 240 months imprisonment, a downward variance from the guideline range. Defendant Ingram was 28 years old at the time.

         The matter before the Court is Defendant Ingram’s motions for modification or reduction in sentence under the newly enacted First Step Act. (ECF Nos. 121, 123, and 124). The Court appointed counsel to assist Defendant Ingram with his motion, and both sides have filed briefs. The government responds that Defendant Ingram is not eligible for consideration because the quantity of crack cocaine the PSR attributed to Defendant’s conduct is more than enough, even after subsequent statutory changes, to activate the original statutory penalty range that applied to Defendant. The government further contends that even if the Court finds Defendant Ingram eligible, Defendant Ingram has already received a below-guideline sentence and so no further reduction is called for. (ECF No. 59).

         The defense replies by averring that Defendant is eligible for a reduced sentence and requests the Court award a comparable variance under the newly calculated guidelines. Defendant also challenges the quantity of narcotics that he was found responsible for as well as his career offender status. The government opposes any plenary proceeding.

         The Court sees no need for a hearing on the fully briefed issues. Defendant Ingram is eligible for relief under the First Step Act, but the Court does not believe a plenary resentencing is necessary or proper. This means, among other things, that while the Court may consider these arguments in making its discretionary call, the First Step Act does not provide an avenue for Defendant to challenge his career offender status or the quantity of narcotics that was attributed to him. That said, 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 Ingram’s sentence as provided in this Opinion and accompanying Order.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         1. Offense Conduct

         In June 2006 a confidential informant (CI) told a detective with the Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) of the Michigan State Police that Defendant Ingram had been selling crack cocaine to the informant for the past few months. In the following weeks and months, TNT members conducted an investigation that included controlled buys, interviews, and the execution of search warrants. Ultimately Defendant Ingram and his co-defendant were indicted on September 27, 2007 with conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of cocaine base (“crack cocaine”) in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(A)(iii). (ECF No. 1). Defendant Ingram was arrested on October 3, 2007.

         2. Plea

         On May 16, 2008, Defendant Ingram pleaded guilty before the Honorable Robert Holmes Bell to Count 1 of the Indictment under the terms of a written plea agreement. (ECF Nos. 34 and 38). As part of the agreement, Defendant Ingram admitted that he was responsible for more than 50 grams of crack cocaine in relation to the charged conspiracy. (ECF No. 34, PageID.292). This triggered a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison. In exchange for his plea, the government agreed not to file a notice of sentence enhancement under 21 U.S.C. § 851 that would have increased the mandatory minimum penalties applicable to Defendant.

         3. PSR & Sentencing

         The PSR calculated an initial offense level of 34 under U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1 based on the quantity of narcotics attributable to Defendant’s criminal activity.[1] (PSR ¶ 60). The officer then added two levels for possession of a dangerous weapon (PSR ¶ 61) and four levels for Defendant Ingram’s role as a leader in the offense (PSR ¶ 63). Three levels were then deducted for Defendant Ingram’s acceptance of responsibility. (PSR ¶¶ 66 and 67). The resulting total offense level was 37. (PSR ¶ 68). Defendant Ingram’s career offender status then elevated his criminal history category from IV to VI. (PSR ¶¶ 84-85). On the chart, this resulted in a guideline range of 360 months to life imprisonment. (PSR ¶ 114).

         At the October 10, 2008 sentencing, Judge Bell adopted the PSR in all respects except that the court reduced Defendant’s leadership role enhancement from four levels to three. (ECF No. 80, PageID.448). The resulting guideline range was 324 to 405 months based on a Total Offense Level of 36 and Criminal History Category of VI. The court then granted a downward variance and imposed a sentence of 240 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. (ECF No. 55). Defendant did not appeal his conviction or sentence.

         4. Post ...


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