from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 1:00-cr-00001-JAL-3
HULL, MARCUS, and CLEVENGER, [*] Circuit Judges.
Caraballo-Martinez ("Caraballo") appeals the
district court's denial of his renewed motion for a
sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Upon
review of the record and the parties' briefs, and with
the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that the district
court had authority to entertain Caraballo's renewed
§ 3582(c)(2) motion but did not err in denying it. Thus,
December 13, 1999, Caraballo and two codefendants carried out
a violent abduction and ransom scheme, kidnapping a mother
and her two young children. Caraballo, a native of Venezuela,
first entered the United States in 1995 and was in this
country illegally at the time of the crimes.
Caraballo and the two other men abducted Wilma Christine
Aragao, her nine-year-old son Alceau, and her one-year-old
son Alexander from the parking garage at the condominium
building where the family lived. The men used a stun gun to incapacitate
Mrs. Aragao and Alceau. The violent struggle caused Mrs.
Aragao to drop her infant son onto the parking garage's
concrete floor, causing him to suffer bruises and lacerations
on his face.
and a codefendant then viciously beat Mrs. Aragao. According
to medical records, Mrs. Aragao's cheekbone was fractured
in three places, her jaw bone was pushed into her face so as
to become painful and difficult to move, and her right eye
socket was completely shattered, causing an internal
hemorrhage in that area of her face. Mrs. Aragao also
suffered nerve damage in her right eye socket, resulting in a
lack of sensation to this part of her face and an inability
to fully open her right eye. She suffered multiple additional
lacerations to her face during the beating and
"countless" burn marks and bruises to her upper
torso from repeated application of the stun gun.
and the two other assailants then took Mrs. Aragao and her
two young sons to a rented house, where the mother was
separated from her sons. The assailants tied Mrs. Aragao to a
lawn chair, blindfolded her, stuffed a piece of cloth in her
mouth, and put her in a bedroom closet. The men restrained
the nine-year-old, Alceau, in a similar fashion and put him
in another bedroom closet. While tied up in the dark closet,
Mrs. Aragao could hear her two young children crying.
assailants forced Mrs. Aragao to write a letter to her
husband requesting a $70, 000 ransom. She also called her
husband multiple times, at the kidnappers' instruction,
to convey instructions from them. Law enforcement officers
eventually traced these calls to the rented house where the
victims were being kept and rescued them on December 17,
1999, after being held hostage for four days. Caraballo was
arrested during the rescue.
2, 2000, after a 16-day trial, a jury convicted Caraballo and
his two codefendants of: (1) conspiracy to commit hostage
taking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1203(a) (Count 1);
(2) hostage taking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1203(a)
(Count 2); (3) conspiracy to commit carjacking, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 2119 (Count 3); (4)
carjacking, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2119(2) (Count
4); and (5) using and carrying a firearm during and in
relation to a crime of violence, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c) (Count 5).
presentence investigation report ("PSI") assigned
Caraballo a total offense level of 43 and a criminal history
category of I, resulting in an advisory Guidelines sentence
of life imprisonment. The total offense level of 43 included
a base offense level of 24 and these increases: (1) six
levels because a ransom demand was made, under U.S.S.G.
§ 2A4.1(b)(1); (2) four levels because the victim (Mrs.
Aragao) sustained permanent or life-threatening bodily
injury, under § 2A4.1(b)(2); (3) two levels because a
dangerous weapon was used, under § 2A4.1(b)(3); (4) two
levels because the defendant knew or should have known that
the victim was vulnerable, under § 3A1.1(b)(1); (5) two
levels for obstruction of justice, under § 3C1.1; and
(6) three levels under the multiple-count adjustment.
made written objections to the PSI, including objections to
the enhancements for demanding a ransom, victim injury, and
sentencing hearing, conducted jointly with his codefendants,
began on August 29, 2000, and took place over three days. The
district court heard argument on, and ultimately overruled,
each of Caraballo's written objections. One of
Caraballo's codefendants raised a new objection-that the
two-level enhancement for the use of a dangerous weapon under
U.S.S.G. § 2A4.1(b)(3) was inappropriate in light of the
five-year consecutive sentence for the 18 U.S.C. §
924(c) firearm conviction. The district court overruled the
objection, finding that the § 2A4.1(b)(3) enhancement
was "appropriate" as to all three codefendants.
district court adopted the PSI's factual findings and
Guidelines calculations with respect to Caraballo. It then
determined that Caraballo's Guidelines sentence was life
imprisonment. The district court stated that it had
considered the parties' statements, the PSI, the
victims' statements, and the evidence presented at the
sentencing hearing. The district court then sentenced
Caraballo to life imprisonment on Counts 1 and 2, 60 months
on Count 3, 300 months on Count 4, all to run concurrently,
and 60 months on Count 5, to run consecutively.
direct appeal in 2001, this Court affirmed Caraballo's
and his codefendants' convictions and sentences.
United States v. Ferreira, 275 F.3d 1020, 1030 (11th
Cir. 2001). On appeal, Caraballo challenged certain aspects
of his sentence (e.g., the six-level increase for a ransom
demand), but he did not challenge the two-level increase for
use of a dangerous weapon under U.S.S.G. § 2A4.1(b)(3).
See id. at 1022 & n.1. The United States Supreme
Court denied Caraballo's petition for a writ of
certiorari. Caraballo-Martinez v. United States, 537
U.S. 926, 123 S.Ct. 321 (2002).
Retroactive Application of Amendment 599
November 1, 2000, the United States Sentencing Commission
adopted Amendment 599 to the Sentencing Guidelines. U.S.S.G.
App. C, Vol. II, Amend. 599. Amendment 599 changed the
language in the application note for U.S.S.G. § 2K2.4,
the relevant Sentencing Guideline for convictions under 18
U.S.C. § 924(c). Id. The amended language
clarified that when a defendant is convicted and sentenced
under § 924(c), the defendant cannot also receive a
Guideline enhancement for use of a weapon during the
commission of the underlying offense. Id. ("If
a sentence under this guideline is imposed in conjunction
with a sentence for an underlying offense, do not apply any
specific offense characteristic for possession, brandishing,
use, or discharge of . . . [a] firearm when determining the
sentence for the underlying offense."); see also
United States v. Brown, 332 F.3d 1341, 1344-45 (11th
Cir. 2003) (acknowledging and explaining Amendment 599).
Amendment 599 was made to apply retroactively. U.S.S.G.
October 10, 2014, Caraballo filed a pro se motion
for sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)
based on the retroactive application of Amendment 599.
Caraballo pointed out that the application of Amendment 599
would reduce his total offense level from 43 to 41, resulting
in an advisory Guidelines range of 324 to 405 months'
imprisonment, instead of life, on Counts 1 and 2.
July 10, 2015 Order Denying First § 3582(c)(2)
July 10, 2015 order, the district court concluded that
Caraballo was eligible for relief under Amendment 599 and
that it had discretion to reduce Caraballo's sentence.
The district court then decided that, in its discretion, the
18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors did not warrant a sentence
reduction, and it denied Caraballo's § 3582(c)(2)
district court pointed out that Caraballo had
"participated in a heinous and brutal crime that
involved serious physical violence against a mother and two
of her children." The district court determined that
Caraballo's life sentence "is necessary to reflect
the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the
law, . . . to provide just punishment . . . [, and] to
adequately deter similar criminal conduct and to protect the
public." The district court took Caraballo's post-
conviction good conduct into consideration but found it
"wholly insufficient to justify a reduction in
sentence" given that Caraballo "continues to evade
any substantial responsibility for the horrific crime and
continues to express little remorse for the harm that he
did not appeal the denial of his initial § 3582(c)(2)
October 20, 2015 Renewed § 3582(c)(2) Motion
October 20, 2015, three months after the denial of his first
§ 3582(c)(2) motion, Caraballo, through counsel, filed a
"renewed" motion for sentence reduction based on
Amendment 599. Caraballo included a signed personal statement
expressing his remorse and accepting responsibility for his
actions. Caraballo asked for an evidentiary hearing to
"properly determine the sincerity of his remorse."
government opposed Caraballo's renewed § 3582(c)(2)
motion, arguing that it (1) was barred by the law-of-the-case
doctrine and (2) was filed more than three months after the
district court denied his first § 3582(c)(2) motion and
was thus untimely under the 14-day time limit in Federal Rule
of Criminal Procedure 35 ("Rule 35(a)").
April 11, 2016, the district court denied Caraballo's
renewed § 3582(c)(2) motion. The district court reasoned
(1) that its July 10, 2015 denial of Caraballo's first
§ 3582(c)(2) motion was a decision on the merits, (2)
that the order therefore constituted a "resentencing,
" (3) that Rule 35(a)'s 14-day time limit applied,
and (4) that Caraballo's renewed challenge to the
sentence was procedurally barred under Rule 35(a) and this
Circuit's precedent in United States v.
Phillips, 597 F.3d 1190 (11th Cir. 2010) and United
States v. Anderson, 772 F.3d 662 (11th Cir. 2014).
Because Caraballo's renewed motion was filed 102 days,
not 14 days, after the first § 3582(c)(2) order, the
district court concluded it lacked the authority to consider
the district court held that, even if it did have the
authority to consider Caraballo's renewed §
3582(c)(2) motion, and even after considering Caraballo's
newly raised expressions of remorse, it would impose the same
sentence of life imprisonment for the reasons detailed in its
July 10, 2015 order. The district court reasoned, in part:
Having considered Defendant's expression of remorse -
which relates to his history and characteristics - and having
weighed all of the remaining § 3553(a) factors, the
Court finds that Defendant's sentence of life is
sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to reflect the
seriousness of the offense (which was heinous), promote
respect for the law, provide just punishment of the offense,
afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct, protect the
public from further crimes of the defendant and provide the
defendant with needed educational or vocational, training,
medical care or other correctional treatment.
Caraballo timely appealed.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
a § 3582(c)(2) proceeding, we review de novo
the district court's legal conclusions regarding the
scope of its authority under the Sentencing Guidelines. We
review de novo questions of statutory
interpretation." Phillips, 597 F.3d at 1194 n.9
(quoting United States v. Moore, 541 F.3d 1323, 1326
(11th Cir. 2008)). If § 3582(c)(2) applies, we review a
district court's decision to grant or deny a sentence
reduction only for abuse of discretion. United States v.
Hamilton, 715 F.3d 328, 337 n.8 (11th Cir. 2013).
background, we first discuss § 3582(c) in general and
the limits of a § 3582(c)(2) proceeding. As explained in
Phillips, § 3582(c) provides that a federal
court "may not modify a term of imprisonment once it ...