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United States v. Mosley

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division

September 25, 2017




         Defendant Shedrick Mosley is before the court for sentencing on a revocation petition. The court is confronted with a defendant who appears to have a drug addiction that significantly contributed to the underlying conduct at issue and for whom previous attempts at treatment failed.

         This is an outline of the general approach the court deems appropriate to follow in cases such as this. Given the current psychiatric understanding that drug addiction is a disease, albeit a mental one, the court believes that a defendant who suffers from a drug addiction should be properly treated as having a mental disease or illness. Accordingly, where there is a reasonable basis to believe that a defendant's drug addiction contributed to the conduct underlying his conviction, the court should order a mental-health evaluation, especially where one has not been done previously. Such an evaluation is necessary to aid the court in fashioning an appropriate sentence, by helping to determine (1) how a defendant's substance-abuse disorder may affect his or her culpability for the offense conduct; and (2) what type of treatment, if any, the defendant should receive during supervised release.

         The bottom line is that, in meting out appropriate punishment, the court should make a good-faith attempt to ensure that the defendant is not inappropriately punished for having a disease, and, to the extent appropriate, receives rehabilitative treatment. The mental-health recommendation should focus on these dual, albeit overlapping issues of culpability and treatment: the role, if any, defendant's mental illness played in his charged conduct, and what treatment is recommended for defendant's illness in light of his individual characteristics and history. Of course, where there have already been unsuccessful efforts at treatment, the recommendation should include what to do in the face of these efforts, such as whether any special treatment or social supports would be beneficial.

         For these reasons, and based on the additional factors discussed below, the court will order defendant Mosley committed to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for a mental-health evaluation pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b) for the purpose of assisting the court in fashioning an appropriate sentence for him.


         It appears that Mosley has a serious substance-abuse disorder. He began abusing marijuana at 12 and cocaine two or three years later, and has continued using them in the over 20 years since then. Over the years, he has repeatedly been convicted of drug possession and has served much of the last 20 years in state prison as a result of these offenses. While in state prison, he attended two drug-treatment programs but reportedly continued to use illegal drugs.

         In 2010, he pled guilty in this court to one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); the encounter leading to this conviction involved an altercation over a box of cocaine. This court sentenced him to 63 months and 23 days in custody, to be followed by three years' supervised release.

         Mosley was released from prison in 2015 and placed on supervised release. Early the following year, he admitted to abusing illegal drugs during his supervision and was referred to substance-abuse treatment. He attended an outpatient program but did not complete it due to active abuse of cocaine. Inpatient treatment was then recommended. While he completed a month-long inpatient program, his sobriety did not last long: about two weeks after finishing the program, in October 2016, he again tested positive for cocaine. He then failed to appear for scheduled drug tests on two consecutive days, thereby also violating the orders of his probation officer. He was jailed for several weeks on three violations, and pled guilty to them. The court put off sentencing on the violations to allow him to attend long-term residential drug treatment.

         Mosley completed that program successfully, performed well at his job during the program, and even got married to a person he had met before the program. However, about few weeks after completion of the program and return to his home town, he faced a challenge in his personal life and went back on cocaine. He then was stopped by police and swallowed cocaine immediately before the traffic stop. Police found a personal use amount of crack cocaine in his car and charged him with cocaine possession. A week later, he tested positive for cocaine. The court found him guilty of these three additional violations.


         In fashioning an appropriate sentence for these violations, the court is bound to impose a sentence that is reasonable. United States v. Crawford, 407 F.3d 1174, 1179 (11th Cir. 2005). The factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) guide the court's determination of the reasonableness of a sentence. First, the court's sentence must be “sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the [following] purposes”: the need for the sentence imposed to punish the offender, protect the public from the defendant, rehabilitate the defendant, deter others, and provide educational or vocational training and medical care. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) & (a)(2). In addition, the court must consider: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense; (2) the history and characteristics of the defendant; (3) the kinds of sentences available; (4) the sentencing range established by the Sentencing Guidelines[1]; (5) any pertinent policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission; (6) the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct; and (7) the need for restitution. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) & (3)-(7).

         The court may order a “study of the defendant” if it “desires more information than is otherwise available to it as a basis for determining the sentence to be imposed;” the order must “specify the additional information that the court needs before determining the sentence to be imposed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3552(b). While a presentence study ordinarily “shall be conducted in the local community by qualified consultants, ” the statute authorizes the court to order that the study be done by the BOP upon the finding “that there is a compelling reason for the study to be done by the Bureau of Prisons or there are no adequate professional resources available in the local community to perform the study.” Id. At the conclusion of the study period, the BOP “shall provide ...

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