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United States v. Samuel

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 20, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WALTER SAMUEL (01)

          HORNSBY, MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a “Joint Motion Agreeing to Eligibility for Imposition of a Reduced Sentence Pursuant to Section 404 of the First Step Act.” [Doc. No. 90]. Pursuant to the motion, both Defendant Walter Samuel and the United States of America agree Samuel is eligible for a reduced term of imprisonment pursuant to the First Step Act. However, whereas Samuel moves the Court to reduce his sentence of imprisonment to 172 months, or time served, the government argues no reduction of Samuel's term of incarceration is appropriate after consideration of the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). [Doc. No. 99 at 6] The parties do agree Samuel's term of supervised release should be reduced from five years to four.

         I.

         Background

         On June 24, 2004, Samuel was indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine base (Count I), a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); two counts of distribution of 5 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine base (Count II and Count III), a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); one count of distribution of 50 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine base (Count IV), a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and one count of possession with the intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine hydrochloride (Count V), a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

         On October 27, 2004, a jury found Samuel guilty of all counts in the indictment. Based on the alleged amount of cocaine base in Counts I and IV, the minimum term of imprisonment was 10 years and the maximum term of imprisonment was life imprisonment. Based on the alleged amount of cocaine base in Counts II and III, the minimum term of imprisonment was 5 years and the maximum term of imprisonment was 40 years. Based on the alleged amount of cocaine base, the advisory guideline range would have been 168 to 210 months. However, due to Samuel's prior criminal convictions, he was classified as a Career Offender. Based on his base offense level of 37 and his Criminal History Category of VI, the guideline imprisonment range was 360 months to life.

         At sentencing, the court first stated that in his opinion, the sentencing range without application of the career offender enhancement “more accurately depicts the crime of his offense.” [Doc. No. 98-1 at 4]. For his crack-cocaine convictions (Counts I-IV), Samuel was sentenced to serve 240 months, which was a sentence 34% below the bottom of his guideline range. For his powder cocaine conviction (Count V), Samuel was sentenced to serve 60-months imprisonment concurrent with the sentence for his crack cocaine convictions. Thereafter, the Court issued supplemental reasons in support of his sentence, stating in part as follows:

The Court had, of course, reviewed the pre-sentence report and particularly the letter from the defendants [sic] fellow prisoners, both white and black, commenting upon his concern for the well being of his fellow inmates. Jail house conversions are not beyond my ken, but I was impressed with the obvious sincerity of the letters having never, in twenty years, received anything like these. . . . When the defendant was given a chance to plead for a lesser sentence, he did not, saying: “Well, Your Honor, I can't really change the past, you know. I guess nobody really can.” He addressed his sorry record: “…. I can't really change where I've come from, but I have a great deal of control over where I'm going and the direction I'm going in.” Principally, the Defendant plead for his nephew, whom he had “led” astray. In eight years as the United States Attorney for this district, and twenty years on the bench, I have heard many last minute conversions and view them with some skepticism, but, listening to this one, I was convinced it was sincere.

         [Doc. No. 98-2 (citations omitted)].

         II.

         Discussion

         A. First Step Act

         Samuel seeks relief under Section 404 of the First Step Act of 2018. 132 Stat. 5194 (enacted Dec. 21, 2018). Section 404 allows, but does not require, district courts to reduce the sentence of certain defendants sentenced prior to August 3, 2010, the effective date of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. If the court elects to reduce a sentence, it may resentence the defendant as if the sections of the Fair ...


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