United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
K. DuBOSE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action is before the Court on Defendant Nathaniel Doneil
Vanzant's Motion for Sentence Reduction pursuant to the
First Step Act of 2018, the United States' response, and
Vanzant's reply (docs. 60, 66, 69). Upon consideration
and for the reasons set forth herein, Vanzant's motion is
GRANTED, and his sentence is reduced to 235 months.
Vanzant was indicted on June 26, 2008. He was charged with
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a
“quantity of crack cocaine” that “exceeded
50 grams” (Count One); possession with intent to
distribute a “quantity of cocaine” that
“exceeded 5 kilograms” (Count Two), possession
with intent to distribute “3.8 grams of a mixture and
substances containing a detectable amount of . . . cocaine
base” (Count Three), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1) and § 846, and forfeiture (Count Four).
pled guilty to Count One and was sentenced July 13, 2009. His
third motion to continue sentencing based upon ongoing
cooperation was denied. At sentencing, Vanzant was held
accountable for 4.5 kilograms of crack cocaine (doc. 62, p.
15, p. 51). The sentencing court adopted the Presentence
Report and found that Vanzant's total offense level was
37, his criminal history category was VI, and his advisory
Guideline range was 360 months to life. His statutory
sentence was 10 years to life. Applying the factors in 18
U.S.C. § 3553(a), the sentencing court sentenced Vanzant
to a below-Guideline sentence of 320 months with five years
of supervised release.
2016, Vanzant moved for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(2) and Amendments 750 and 782 of the
Sentencing Guidelines. On September 19, 2016, the sentencing
court, citing 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) & (2)(C),
denied the motion based on Vanzant's lengthy criminal
history and post-incarceration conduct (doc. 57). Between
October 7, 2011 and January 28, 2015, Vanzant had incurred
three disciplinary infractions, including possession of a
dangerous weapon. The sentencing court found that his
“post-sentencing conduct indicates a continued
disregard for authority.” Id.
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 lowered the minimum and maximum
mandatory penalties triggered by certain quantities of crack
cocaine with respect to defendants who had not been sentenced
as of August 3, 2010, the effective date of the Act. However,
the Fair Sentencing Act was not applied retroactively.
See United States v. Berry, 701 F.3d 374, 376 (11th
Cir. 2012). The First Step Act of 2018 authorizes the
district courts to exercise their discretion and resentence a
defendant who was sentenced before August 3, 2010, “as
if” the Fair Sentencing Act's lower threshold
quantities had been in place at sentencing. In relevant part,
the Act sets forth as follows:
(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.
Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5221.
“In essence, the First Step Act retroactively applies
the Fair Sentencing Act's lower statutory sentencing
ranges and allows the Court to bring past sentences into line
with the lower ranges.” United States v.
Copple, No. 17-CR-40011-JPG-009, 2019 WL 486440, at *1
(S.D. Ill. Feb. 7, 2019). Also, “[n]ow that the First
Step Act has expressly provide additional authority to modify
a term of imprisonment, it can serve as a basis for relief
under [18 U.S.C.] § 3582(c)(1)(B).” United
States v. Wooters, No. 09-CR-40013-JPG, 2019 WL 1897085,
at *3 (S.D. Ill. Apr. 29, 2019); 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 or by Rule 35
of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure”).
was sentenced before August 3, 2010. He was indicted and
plead guilty to the offense of conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute crack cocaine in excess of 50 grams.
Relevant to Vanzant, Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act
increased the 50 grams or more threshold in 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(A) to 280 grams or more and increased the 5 grams
or more threshold in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) to 28
grams or more. He is now subject to the provisions of 21
U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) and his statutory sentence is
reduced from 10 years to life to 5 to 40 years. Vanzant's
crack cocaine offense constitutes a “covered
offense” as defined in § 404(a) of the First Step
Act. Further, none of the limitations of §
argues that he is eligible for a reduction under the First
Step Act. He has calculated his reduced Guidelines range as
235 to 293 months. Applying a comparable downward variance,
Vanzant asserts that his sentence could be reduced to 195
months. Vanzant argues that because the First Step Act
provides a broader grant of authority to impose a reduced
sentence, the policy limitations of the now advisory
Sentencing Guidelines found in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10 do not
apply and the Court's discretion is limited only by the
statutory minimum and maximum of 5 to 40 years.
also points out that Congress knew that the First Step Act
would result in resentencing defendants with a history of
significant criminal conduct but did not make that a
disqualifying factor. Vanzant accepts that he cannot change
his criminal history and asks the Court to consider his
history of abuse and neglect and his improved conduct in
prison. He points out that he has not obtained a disciplinary
infraction since January 2015,  over four years ago, and provides
his prison record which shows the classes he has taken and
completed, his work assignments, and overall conduct (doc.
United States argues that Vanzant should not receive a
reduction because of his significant criminal history. The
United States also argues that there is no compelling reason
for this Court to deviate from the sentencing court's
prior denial of Vanzant's 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)
motion or to provide a comparable 40-month downward variance
to that received at sentencing. The United States argues that
if the Court decides to ...