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United States v. Anderson

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama

June 19, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KELVIN DEWAYNE ANDERSON

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MYRON H. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Kelvin Dewayne Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. He was sentenced to 135 months of imprisonment and five years of supervised release. The question before the court is whether his sentence should be reduced based on Amendments 782 and 788 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Anderson seeks a reduction to 108 months. For the reasons that follow, the court holds that Anderson is eligible for a reduction, but to only 120 months, not 108 months.

         I. The parties submitted and the court accepted a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement (“Type-C agreement”), which permits the parties to “agree that a specific sentence or sentencing range is the appropriate disposition of the case” and “binds the court once the court accepts the plea agreement.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 11. See Plea Agreement (doc. no. 241) at 2; Court Minutes (doc. no. 393).

         In the Type-C agreement, the parties agreed to a possible total offense level of 31. To calculate this total offense level, the parties started with an original base offense level of 32 pursuant to United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual § 2D1.1(c)(4) (Nov. 2011) (USSG) and added a two-level enhancement pursuant to USSG § 3C1.2 due to reckless endangerment during flight from law enforcement. See Plea Agreement (doc. no. 241) at 3. They also agreed, pursuant to USSG § 3E1.1, to a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility if Anderson “does not obstruct justice or otherwise fail to accept responsibility.” Id. at 2-3. With his criminal history of III and with a three-level reduction pursuant to Guideline 3E1.1, Anderson's Guidelines range would be 135 to 168 months. The parties agreed that a sentence of imprisonment of 135 months, which fell within the Guidelines range, was “appropriate.” Id. at 3. The government also left open the option of moving at sentencing for a downward departure pursuant to USSG § 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) to reflect Anderson's substantial assistance. See id.

         During the sentencing hearing, the court calculated Anderson's Guidelines sentence. In calculating the total offense level, the court, while viewing the evidence independently, essentially mimed the calculations in the plea agreement. It began with a base offense level of 32 and added a two-level enhancement pursuant to USSG § 3C1.2 due to reckless endangerment during flight from law enforcement. The court then granted the government's motion for a three-level downward adjustment for acceptance of responsibility pursuant to USSG §§ 3E1.1(a) and (b). The government did not move at sentencing for a departure based on substantial assistance. After the enhancement and downward adjustment, Anderson's total offense level was 31. See Sentencing Tr. (doc. no. 626) at 29; see also Statement of Reasons (doc. no. 407) at 1. Anderson's criminal history category was III. The applicable Guidelines range was 135 to 168 months. See Sentencing Tr. (doc. no. 626) at 29.

         At sentencing, the government advocated for a bottom-of-the-guidelines range, which was now 135 months. See Id. at 24. The court did not discuss the ten-year mandatory minimum when calculating Anderson's sentence. Rather, the government requested and the court imposed a 135-month sentence based on the Guidelines range. See Id. at 29. The 135-month sentence was therefore the direct product of a Guidelines-driven range.

         II.

         With Amendment 782 in 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission revised the Sentencing Guidelines applicable to the drug-trafficking offense for which this court sentenced Anderson. The Commission simultaneously promulgated Amendment 788, which made Amendment 782 retroactive. This court established a Retroactivity Screening Panel to determine whether defendants such as Anderson might be eligible for a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Anderson's case was submitted for review, but the Panel was unable to reach a unanimous recommendation due to a disagreement over the applicable law.

         Anderson is eligible for a sentence reduction now if he was sentenced “based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) (emphasis added). The court finds that Anderson's sentence was “based on” a sentencing range later lowered by the Sentencing Commission.

         According to Hughes v. United States, “a sentence imposed pursuant to a Type-C agreement is ‘based on' the defendant's Guidelines range so long as that range was part of the framework the district court relied on in imposing the sentence or accepting the agreement.” 138 S.Ct. 1765, 1775 (2018). Under this approach, as a “general rule [], in most cases, a defendant's sentence will be ‘based on' his Guidelines, ” because “in the usual case the court's acceptance of a Type-C agreement and the sentence to be imposed pursuant to that agreement are ‘based on' the defendant's Guidelines range.” Id. at 1776. Indeed, because “the Guidelines are a district court's starting point, [] when the Commission lowers a defendant's Guidelines range the defendant will be eligible for relief under § 3582(c)(2) absent clear demonstration, based on the record as a whole, that the court would have imposed the same sentence regardless of the Guidelines.” Id.

         Anderson has surmounted the Hughes hurdle. As explained earlier, the parties in arriving at their agreed-upon sentence, and the court in deciding whether to accept that sentence, went through identical Guidelines calculations and reached the same result. The parties and the court added a two-level enhancement and then departed downward from the initial Guidelines range by three offense levels to arrive at a lower Guidelines range of 135 to 168 months. The court then sentenced Anderson, as per the government's request, to a Guidelines sentence of 135 months. See Sentencing Tr. (doc. no. 626) at 24. That Anderson's sentence was based on, that is, within, a Guidelines range that was “part of the framework the district court relied on in imposing the sentence or accepting the agreement, ” Hughes, 138 S.Ct. at 1775, is incontestable.

         However, the Hughes hurdle is not the only hurdle Anderson must surmount.

         III.

         The second hurdle is determining whether Anderson was sentenced based on the Guidelines range even though he was subject to a mandatory-minimum sentence of ten years. In Koons v. United States, the Supreme Court held that, where five defendants were subject to mandatory-minimum sentences that exceeded their otherwise-applicable Guidelines ranges, and where the district court “scrapped the ranges in favor of the mandatory minimums and never considered the ranges again, ” that the sentences were not “based on” the otherwise-applicable Guidelines ranges. 138 S.Ct. 1783, 1786 (2018). Specifically, the sentencing court in Koons stated that the mandatory minimums had “discarded” or “scrapped” the initial Guidelines range; framed the entire sentencing discussion in terms of the appropriate percentage of ...


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