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United States v. Edwards

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

August 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
NOLAN NATHANIEL EDWARDS

          ORDER

          JAMES D. WHITTEMORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018 (Dkt. 235) and the United States' response (Dkt. 238).[1] Defendant's motion is GRANTED.[2]

         Defendant was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base (Count One) and possession of cocaine base with intent to distribute (Count Two) (Dkt. 65). He was sentenced to concurrent life terms (Dkt. 112). A term of supervised release was not imposed. According to the sentencing judge: “Supervised release inapplicable in this case, not eligible for release.” (Dkt. 192-1).[3]

         Section 404 of the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, made retroactive the reduction in statutory penalties modified by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Sta. 2372 (2010). See First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404(b), 132 Stat. 5194 (2018).

         The First Step Act authorizes a court to “impose a reduced sentence:”

(b) Defendants Previously Sentenced. 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.

Id. at 5222. Since the First Step Act expressly authorizes a court to modify a term of imprisonment, it serves as a basis for relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B) (“The court may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed except that ... the court may modify an imposed term of imprisonment to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by statute . . . ”).

         Defendant's offenses of conviction are “covered offenses, ” as defined in Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018, and he is therefore eligible for a reduced sentence. The parties agree that his sentence should be reduced from life to 262 months or time served, whichever is greater, on each count. The only dispute is whether a term of supervised release may be imposed, since a term of supervised release was not imposed originally (Dkt. 95, 112). That dispute is readily resolved.

         Retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act reduces the statutory penalties Defendant faces, and requires imposition of an 8 year term of supervised release. As the United States correctly asserts, “[t]he First Step Act requires the Court to ‘impose a reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . . were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed.'” (Dkt. 238 at p. 1) (quoting First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404(b) (2018)). It follows that if the Fair Sentencing Act had been in effect when Defendant was sentenced, it would have required a sentence of 10 years to life, and “a term of supervised release of at least 8 years in addition to such term of imprisonment.” See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B).

         By its plain language, the First Step Act only authorizes a reduction in a defendant's term of imprisonment. And Section 3582(c)(1)(B) authorizes a court to “modify an imposed term of imprisonment to the extent otherwise expressly permitted by statute ....” (emphasis added).[4]

         Notwithstanding, retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act requires imposition of a term of supervised release. Moreover, established precedent and statutory authority authorize imposition of a term of supervised release as part of a sentence.

         This Circuit recognizes that a term of supervised release is “‘a separate part' of, or in addition to, his term of imprisonment.'” United States v. West, 898 F.2d 1493, 1504 (11th Cir. 1990). But supervised release is a component of a sentence. United States v. English, 589 F.3d 1373, 1376 (11th Cir. 2009) cert. denied 559 U.S. 984 (2010) (“. . . [F]ederal policy dictates that the term of a defendant's supervised release is ‘an independent part of the defendant's sentence.'” (citation omitted). As the Supreme Court has observed:

Today, we merely acknowledge that an accused's final sentence includes any supervised release sentence he may receive. Nor in saying that do we say anything new: This Court has already recognized that supervised release punishments arise from and are “treat[ed] ... as part of the penalty for the initial offense.” (citation omitted) The defendant receives a term of supervised release thanks to his initial offense, . . . [and] it constitutes a part of the final sentence for his crime.

United States v. Haymond, 139 S.Ct. 2369, 2379-80 (2019). Finally, Section 3683(a) “empowers a sentencing court to include a term of supervised release as part of a sentence.” See United Statesv. Cruz, ...


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