United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION REGARDING DEFENDANT MAZE'S FIRST STEP ACT
J. JONKER CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
November 2007, a jury convicted Defendant Maze of possession
with intent to distribute at least five grams of crack
cocaine. The government had a Section 851 Notice on file
reporting four prior felony drug offense convictions. At the
time of Defendant Maze's sentencing in December of 2008,
 this exposed
him to a statutory penalty range of ten years to life in
prison. He was twenty-five years old at the time.
matter before the Court is Defendant Maze'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. 69). The Court appointed
counsel to assist Defendant Maze with his First Step motion.
Both sides have filed briefs. The government responds that
Defendant Maze is eligible for a reduced sentence, but it
contends that a reduction is not warranted here because the
recalculated guideline range is still above the sentence
Defendant Maze is currently serving. (ECF No. 76). The
defense argues that nothing within the First Step Act
precludes a further reduction to take into account the
Court's earlier variance as applied to the reduced
guideline range. (ECF No. 77).
Court finds that Defendant Maze 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 Court can and does
exercise its discretion under the First Step Act to relieve
Defendant Maze of the mandatory-minimum sentence originally
applicable to his crack cocaine offense, and to reduce
Defendant Maze's sentence as provided in this Opinion and
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Defendant Maze's Charge & Conviction
21, 2007, two officers with the Grand Rapids Police
Department made contact with Defendant outside of the Wealthy
Street Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When an officer stepped
out of the patrol car to question Defendant, Defendant ran
and ignored the officer's command to stop. A pursuit
ensued, during which the officer observed a clear plastic bag
fall to the ground. Other officers then caught up to
Defendant and placed him under arrest. The clear plastic bag
was found near where Defendant was arrested, and the pursuing
officer confirmed this was the bag he had seen fall to the
ground while chasing Defendant. The bag contained
approximately 7.53 grams of crack cocaine.
Jury charged Defendant Maze with possession with intent to
distribute five grams or more of crack cocaine in violation
of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1); (b)(1)(B)(iii) on July
11, 2007. (ECF No. 1). On November 1, 2007, a jury found
Defendant Maze guilty of the charge, specifically finding
that the quantity of crack cocaine involved in the offense
was at least five grams of crack cocaine, the highest
quantity determination the verdict form asked the jury to
reach. (ECF No. 29).
PSR & Sentencing
Final Presentence Report (PSR) prepared by the probation
officer found that Defendant Maze was responsible for 7.53
grams of crack cocaine. (PSR ¶ 24). The quantity
triggered an initial base offense level of 24 which was also
the total drug offense level. (PSR ¶¶ 24, 31).
determined, however, that Defendant Maze qualified as a
career offender because he committed the offense of
conviction after sustaining two prior felony convictions for
a controlled substance offense. (PSR ¶ 32). Since the
statutory maximum penalty for the offense of conviction with
a prior conviction for a felony drug offense was life
imprisonment under Section 841(b)(1)(B)(iii), the guidelines
called for a career offender offense level of 37.
See U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b)(A) (2009). Level 37
being higher than the offense level calculated under Section
2D1.1, the career offender offense level took precedence and
became Defendant Maze's total offense level. (PSR ¶
officer then scored Defendant's criminal history at
fourteen points, resulting in a criminal history category of
¶ 57). The guideline range for the conviction, based on
a career offender total offense level of 37 and criminal
history category of VI was 360 months to life on the chart.
(PSR ¶ 96). At the sentencing hearing, the Court
varied downward and imposed a sentence of 240 months custody.
The Court found this to be an appropriate sentence based on a
variety of considerations, including the Section 3353
I'm not prepared to say that this is a case for the
mandatory minimum of 120 months. I don't think that would
be sufficient. But I'm not prepared to say that this is
an appropriate case for 30 years or 360 months either. The
Court believes that this is a situation that calls for a
sentence somewhere between those two, and the Court's
intended sentence for terms of incarceration is 240 months,
which is 20 years. Still a very lengthy sentence in the
Court's view given the overall circumstances of this
offense. I think that 240 months reflects fairly and justly
the overall range of what happened here, both what was
specifically the offense of conviction, the significant
criminal history that I see . . . and still reflects room to
allow that career offender guideline to function, and even
more severe levels when the person involved and in the front
of the Court has what I would call added culpability factors
such as those that I noted that were absent in this case.
(ECF No. 56, PageID.228). Judgment entered on December 22,
2008. (ECF No. 54).
Post Sentencing Matters
Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's
conviction and sentence on June 25, 2010. United States
v. Maze, No. 09-1051 (6th Cir. June 25, 2010). This
Court then denied Defendant Maze's motion to vacate, set
aside, or correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.
Maze v. United States, No. 1:11-cv-1007 (W.D. Mich.
May 21, 2012). The Court subsequently transferred a second or
successive Section 2255 motion to the Court of Appeals on
June 7, 2016. Maze v. United States, No. 1:16-cv-568
(W.D. Mich. June 7, 2016). On October 5, 2016, the Court of
Appeals denied Defendant Maze's motion for authorization
to file a second or successive ...