United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING FIRST STEP ACT
J. QUIST UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
to the Court's August 6, 2019, Order (ECF No. 327),
Defendant, Oreanda Hall, through his appointed counsel, has
filed a supplemental brief in support of his motion for
modification or reduction of his sentence pursuant to Section
404 of the First Step Act (FSA). (ECF No. 329.) The
Government has filed a response to Hall's supplemental
brief (ECF No. 333), and Hall has submitted character
reference letters (ECF Nos. 332, 335). The Court has read and
considered all of the foregoing submissions in deciding
whether to grant Hall a sentence reduction.
March of 2003, Hall was charged in a single count of a
multi-count indictment with conspiracy to distribute more
than 50 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and 846. (ECF No.
1 at PageID.1213.) On February 10, 2005, Hall pled guilty to
the conspiracy charge, which at the time carried a statutory
mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and up to a maximum of
life in prison pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(A)(iii). (ECF No. 122.) Hall's Presentence
Report calculated a base offense level of 36, added two
points for possession of a firearm, four points for his role
as a leader/organizer, and two points for obstruction of
justice, and subtracted two points for acceptance of
responsibility, resulting in a total offense level of 41.
(ECF No. 314 at PageID.1197-98.) At a criminal history
category of V, the resulting guideline sentencing range was
360 months to life in prison. On June 15, 2005, the Court
sentenced Hall to 360 months in prison. (ECF No. 173.) Hall
appealed his sentence, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. (ECF
No. 182 at PageID.790.)
has twice moved for a sentence modification pursuant to 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on United States Sentencing
Guideline Amendments 750 and 782. (ECF Nos. 236, 304.) In
both instances, the Court denied a reduction because
Hall's guideline range did not change. (ECF Nos. 268,
311.) Hall appealed the latter denial of a sentence
modification, and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. (ECF No. 321 at
First Step Act of 2018
to Section 404(b) of the FSA, “[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.” A
“‘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.” First Step Act of 1018, Pub. L.
115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, § 404(a). This Court has
previously indicated that it agrees with Judge Jonker's
analysis of the First Step Act in United States v.
Boulding, 379 F.Supp. 646 (W.D. Mich. 2019)-and that of
“[n]early every district court considering the issue,
” United States v. Cole, No. 1:09 CR 118, 2019
WL 3406872, at *3 (N.D. Ind. July 29, 2019)-that it is the
statute of conviction, and not actual conduct, that controls
whether a defendant is eligible for relief under the FSA.
on the foregoing, the Court concludes that Hall is eligible
for relief under the FSA because Hall was sentenced for
violating a federal criminal statute as to which Section 2 of
the Fair Sentencing Act increased the drug amounts that
trigger the mandatory minimums for crack offenses from 5
grams to 28 grams for the 5-year minimum and from 50 grams to
280 grams for the 10-year minimum. See Dorsey v. United
States, 567 U.S. 260, 269, 132 S.Ct. 2321, 2329 (2012).
But eligibility is only the threshold issue. The decision
whether to grant discretionary relief to an eligible
defendant depends on a constellation of factors, including
“a guideline comparison between the guidelines as they
existed during the original sentencing and the guidelines as
they exist today, as well as . . . any other information the
parties present or the Court wishes to consider.”
Boulding, 379 F.Supp.3d at 654.
Government argues that Hall is not entitled to relief
because, even after the Fair Sentencing Act and the First
Step Act, Hall's guideline range remains the same and his
sentence is unaffected by the reduced statutory penalty
range. (ECF No. 334 at PageID.1360.) Hall does not dispute
this fact. (ECF No. 329 at PageID.1304 (Hall acknowledging
that his argument “is academic . . . because the use of
present-day guidelines will result in a four-level reduction
in offense level but no reduction in the ultimate guideline
range”).) Even so, courts have held that relief under
the First Step Act is not dependent on a reduction in the
guideline range. As one court observed, “[i]f Congress
had intended to limit eligibility under § 404 only to
cases in which the guideline range had been lowered, . . . it
could have said so, but the First Step Act contains no such
limiting language and we shall not read such a limitation
into the statute.” United States v. Garrett,
No. 1:03-cr-62-SEB-DML, 2019 WL 2603531, at *3 (S.D. Ind.
June 25, 2019); see also United States v. Robinson,
Crim. No. PJM 02-0227, 2019 WL 3867042, at *4 (D. Md. Aug.
15, 2019) (stating that “the statutory language of the
First Step Act does not mention the limitations of Section
3582(c)(2) at all, nor does it condition eligibility for a
sentence reduction under Section 404 on a reduced guideline
range”); United States v. Shelton, Cr. No.
3:07-329, 2019 WL 1598921, at *2-3 (D.S.C. Apr. 15, 2019)
(noting that “nothing in the First Step Act conditions
eligibility for a reduced sentence on a lowered guideline
range, ” and stating that “in determining whether
to impose a reduced sentence of incarceration, the court will
consider the reduced statutory range, the guideline range,
the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors and any evidence of
Court sentenced Hall when he was 32 years old. Hall's
criminal history was driven primarily by two felony drug
convictions that occurred when he was 17 years old. (ECF No.
1199-1200.) In concluding that a within-guideline range was
appropriate, the Court cited not only Hall's leadership
role and manipulation of others to participate in the
conspiracy and his possession of firearms in conducting the
conspiracy, but also the fact that Hall injured others as he
tried to escape in a vehicle to avoid apprehension by police
officers. (ECF No. 179 at PageID.776-778.) The Court found
that a long sentence would protect society from Hall until he
was unable to resume drug-dealing. (Id. at
PageID.776.) Hall is now 46 years old and has served
approximately 172 months of his sentence.
on its review of the record, the Court will exercise its
discretion to reduce Hall's sentence. The guideline
range, which remains unchanged, has no bearing on the
Court's determination. As for the reduced statutory
mandatory minimum and maximum sentence that would apply to
Hall if the Fair Sentencing Act were in effect at the time
the offense was committed, the Court will consider this
factor pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(3), even though
it did not impact Hall's original sentence. See
United States v. McCloud, 730 F.3d 600, 610 (6th Cir.
2013) (explaining that “the kinds of sentences”
factor “necessarily includes the statutory minimum and
maximum ranges”). Finally, the Court may consider
Hall's post-sentencing conduct. See Pepper v. United
States, 562 U.S. 476, 490-91, 131 S.Ct. 1229, 1241-42
(2011) (holding that post-sentencing rehabilitation may be
“highly relevant” to the § 3553(a) factors);
United States v. Bean, No. 1:09-CR-143, 2019 WL
2537435, at *6 (W.D. Mich. June 20, 2019) (considering as
part of post-sentencing behavior the defendant's minimal
disciplinary infractions and completed educational programs).
Here, Hall has submitted evidence of his substantial
participation in both self-improvement and vocational
education and training programs. (ECF No. 329-1.) Among the
character reference letters Hall has submitted is a letter
from the “Rzero Team” (Recidivism Zero) at
FCI-Gilmer, stating their belief that “Hall will become
one of our success stories and a valued member of his family
and community.” (ECF No. 332.) The Court has also
reviewed a report from the Bureau of Prisons that the
probation office has provided. The report shows that while
Hall does have a disciplinary record, he has not had any
disciplinary infractions since 2013.
light of the foregoing, the Court will vary downward and
reduce Hall's sentence to 300 months' imprisonment.
All of the other terms of the original sentence remain
Defendant's Motion for Modification or Reduction of
Sentence Under the First Step Act (ECF No. 325) is
GRANTED and his term of imprisonment reduced
to a total term of 300 months imprisonment. All other terms
of the original ...