United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
VIRGINIA M. HERNANDEZ COVINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court pursuant to Defendant Quentin
Cephus's Motion for Reconsideration (Doc. # 108), which
was filed on March 30, 2017. The Government filed a Response
in Opposition to the Motion (Doc. # 112) on April 4, 2017.
The Court denies the Motion as outlined herein.
March 29, 2016, indictment charges that Cephus “did
forcibly assault, resist, and intimidate an officer of the
United States while engaged in and on account of the
performance of official duties and such acts did involve
physical contact with the victim of that assault and did
inflict bodily injury.” (Doc. # 1). After several
motions to continue trial, the Court set a jury trial for the
October 2016 trial term. (Doc. # 47).
notified the Court of his intention to assert the insanity
defense on September 30, 2016. (Doc. # 48). The Court held a
status conference on October 13, 2016, and continued the case
to the December 2016 trial term based on the complexities of
obtaining expert examinations and other issues attendant to
Cephus's intent to assert the insanity defense. (Doc. ##
the benefit of an expert report and extensive briefing from
the parties, the Court precluded Cephus from presenting the
insanity defense. On the morning of his criminal trial on
December 19, 2016, Cephus ultimately entered a guilty plea.
(Doc. # 84). On March 16, 2017, the Court sentenced Cephus to
41 months imprisonment to be followed by a three year period
of supervised release. (Doc. # 106). At the time of
sentencing, the Court considered, but ultimately rejected,
Cephus's request for a downward departure based on
acceptance of responsibility.
Motion for Reconsideration
juncture, Cephus states that a paragraph contained in his
Presentence Investigation Report is no longer accurate. At
the time of sentencing, the Presentence Investigation Report
contained a notation that on February 28, 2017, Cephus
assaulted another inmate at the recreational breezeway of the
Citrus County Detention Facility. However, on March 14, 2017,
unknown at the time of sentencing, Cephus's appeal
regarding the February 28, 2017, incident was resolved in his
favor and jail correspondence states: “Your appeal has
been approved based on a technical violation.” (Doc. #
108-1). Cephus states that the allegation regarding the
February 28, 2017 incident “appeared to color the
Court's opinion of Mr. Cephus and appeared to impact the
Court's decision regarding a reduction for acceptance of
responsibility pursuant to USSG § 3E1.1.” (Doc. #
108 at 1).
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do not specifically
authorize motions for reconsideration, but the Eleventh
Circuit authorizes such motions when the circumstances so
warrant. See, e.g., Serrano v. United
States, 411 Fed.Appx. 253, 255 (11th Cir. 2011);
United States v. Erland, 352 Fed.Appx. 363, 365
(11th Cir. 2009).
Cephus has successfully appealed the February 28, 2017,
incident, the Court finds that reconsideration of the denial
of a downward departure is not warranted. “A district
court is in a unique position to evaluate whether a defendant
sufficiently demonstrates acceptance of responsibility;
therefore, the determination of the sentencing judge is
entitled to great deference on review.” United
States v. Frank, 247 F.3d 1257, 1261 (11th Cir.
2001)(denying request for sentence reduction based on
acceptance of responsibility in a car jacking case when
defendant went to trial and asserted the insanity defense).
the Court denies the Motion for Reconsideration because the
Court did not deny the sentence reduction based on the
February 18, 2017, altercation. Rather, the Court's
primary reason for finding a lack of acceptance of
responsibility is that Cephus did not plead guilty until the
morning of trial. Cephus's successful appeal of the
February 28, 2017, incident has no bearing on the fact of his
untimely plea. Notably, in an Order dated November 18, 2016,
the Court notified Cephus that his case was set for a
December 19, 2016, jury trial and “Guilty pleas are to
be held before the Magistrate Judge on or before Wednesday,
November 30, 2016.” (Doc. # 71 at 1-2).
than entering a timely plea, Cephus held out until the
morning of trial such that the Government utilized its
limited resources preparing for trial. For instance, the
Government filed a verdict form, voir dire, and jury
instructions on December 9, 2016. (Doc. ## 72-74). In
addition, the Government represents that
“Defendant's untimely plea required witnesses to
cancel holiday travel plans and/or rearrange travel schedules
for purposes of testifying.” (Doc. # 112 at 4).
routinely determine that a guilty plea offered on the morning
of trial serves as a basis for the denial of credit for
acceptance of responsibility. See, e.g.,
United States v. Montero, 336 Fed.Appx. 941, 942
(11th Cir. 2009)(affirming denial of acceptance of
responsibility because defendant “did not offer his
plea until the morning his trial was to begin, thus
necessitating significant trial preparation by the government
and the transportation of witnesses from across the
state.”); United States v. Gamez-Cruz, 293
Fed.Appx. 729 (11th Cir. 2008)(affirming 63 month prison
sentence for inflicting injury on a federal agent where
defendant did not ...