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United States v. Collins

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

September 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOHN LEE COLLINS

          ORDER

          James D. Whittemore, United States District Judge.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendant's Motion to Reduce Sentence Pursuant to the First Step Act (Dkt. 213) and the United States' Amended Response (Dkt. 217). Upon consideration, Defendant's motion is DENIED, except that his term of supervised release on Count One is reduced to 8 years.

         The First Step Act

         The First Step Act authorizes 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.” First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404(b). Under Section 404(a), 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 ... that was committed before August 3, 2010.” Defendant stands convicted of distribution of cocaine base (Count One) and distribution of heroin (Count Two) (Dkt. 104). On May 26, 2000, his sentence was enhanced under 21 U.S.C. § 851(b) and he was sentenced as a career offender to concurrent 360 month terms, with concurrent 10 (Count One) and 6 (Count Two) year terms of supervised release (Id.). His sentence was affirmed (Dkt. 123).

         Defendant's conviction on Count One for distribution of cocaine base is a “covered offense” as defined by Section 404 of the First Step Act, and he is therefore eligible for a sentence reduction. But his conviction on Count Two for distribution of heroin is not a “covered offense.”[1] The United States acknowledges that Section 404 of the First Step Act lowered Defendant's statutory penalty on Count One from 20 years to life to 10 years to life, but notes that the statutory penalty on Count Two remains the same, up to 30 years. It agrees that the statutory change on Count One “gives this Court authority to reduce his sentence . . .”, but opposes a sentence reduction.[2]

         The United States relies on Probation's assessment, pointing out that Defendant's guideline range today remains the same as it was when he was sentenced in 2000.[3] Specifically, it contends that “[t]he First Step Act modifies Collins's statutory penalty provision as to Count One, but it does not modify his amended guidelines range which remains 360 months to life imprisonment.” (Dkt. 217). The United States contends that the only change is that retroactive application of the FSA lowers the statutory minimum penalty on Count One from 20 to 10 years, and that no other factor considered by the court at sentencing is altered. According to the United States: “Nothing suggests that Collins's 360 months sentence is now inappropriate because of a reduction in his statutory minimum penalties, when those penalties did not bear on the sentence that was imposed.” (Dkt. 216 at p. 6).

         Discussion

         Essentially, the United States argues that retroactive application of the FSA has no impact on Defendant's sentence. I agree. Applying the FSA retroactively, the minimum penalty on Count One is lowered, but the minimum penalty had no bearing on his sentence. Even if the FSA was in effect when his offenses were committed, his sentence would be the same. Moreover, the penalty on Count Two is unaffected, and his guideline range remains the same. Regardless, after considering the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), particularly the seriousness of the offenses, and the need to promote respect for the law and deterrence, I find that a sentence reduction is not warranted, notwithstanding his eligibility.

         The United States is correct that Defendant is not entitled to a plenary resentencing. Nothing in Section 404(b) of the First Step Act of 2018 authorizes a full resentencing based on current law. And while there is no Circuit precedent addressing whether a defendant seeking a sentence reduction under the First Step Act is entitled to a full sentencing hearing, there is precedent limiting the scope of sentence modification proceedings under § 3582(c)(2), which I find to be analogous. See United States v. Bravo, 203 F.3d 778, 781 (11th Cir. 2000) (“This Circuit has been very clear in holding that a sentencing adjustment undertaken pursuant to Section 3582(c)(2) does not constitute a de novo resentencing.”). And in the context of a Section 3582(c)(2) proceeding, “all original sentencing determinations remain unchanged with the sole exception of the guideline range that has been amended since the original sentencing.” Id.[4]

         I find the reasoning in Bravo applicable to a modification proceeding under § 3582(c)(1)(B) based on the First Step Act.[5] Defendant's request for a hearing is accordingly denied.

         Conclusion

          Section 404(c) of the First Step Act expressly provides that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to require a court to reduce any sentence pursuant to this section.” Considering the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), as well as Defendant's submissions, I find that a sentence reduction is not warranted, except for a reduction in the term of supervised release on Count One to 8 years.

         DONE ...


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