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United States v. Thompson

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

July 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ROBERT LEE THOMPSON, JR. (01)

          HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          RULING

          ROBERT G. JAMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Imposition of a Reduce Sentence Pursuant to Section 404 of the First Step Act, filed by Defendant Robert Lee Thompson, Jr. [Doc. No. 51] The government opposes the motion, arguing Thompson is ineligible for relief. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds Defendant is eligible for relief under the First Step Act.

         I.

         Background

         On September 26, 2007, Thompson was charged in an indictment with two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base (“crack cocaine”) in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1). [Doc. No. 6]. Count 1 charged that on or about June 6, 2007, Thompson “did knowingly and willfully possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base, ” and Count 2 charged that on or about August 23, 2007, Thompson “did knowingly and willfully possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base.” Id. at 1-2. The government filed an information of prior conviction against Thompson pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, asserting he was subject to an enhanced penalty under 21 U.S.C. § 841. [Doc. No. 17]. With the § 851 enhancement, under the version of § 841(b)(1)(A) in effect at that time, Thompson's statutory penalty based upon the “50 grams or more” alleged in the indictment was a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years (240 months) or more than life. 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) and 851 (2008).

         On June 25, 2008, Thompson pleaded guilty pursuant to a written plea agreement to count two of the indictment. [Doc. No. 27]. The factual basis for the guilty plea provided that Thompson was accountable for “4 ½ ounces of crack cocaine” and “989.5 grams of crack cocaine.” Id. The PSR attributed 1, 195 net grams of cocaine base to Thompson for purposes of the Sentencing Guideline calculations. PSR at ¶ 20. With a total offense level of 31 and his Criminal History Category of II, the guideline imprisonment range was 121 to 151 months. Id. at ¶ 61. However, because the statutory minimum sentence exceeded the guidelines range, the guideline range became 240 months. Id. Thompson was sentenced to 240 months imprisonment on October 6, 2008, which was both the statutory minimum and a guideline sentence. [Doc. No. 34]. Thompson has been in custody since 2007 and has a projected release date of February 12, 2026.

         II.

         Applicable Law

         At the time Thompson was sentenced, distribution of 50 grams or more of cocaine base carried a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment; however, if the offender had a prior felony drug conviction, his mandatory minimum sentence increased to twenty years. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). If an offense involved more than 5 grams of cocaine base, the offender was subject to a mandatory minimum term of five years imprisonment and a maximum term of forty years; however, if the offender had a prior felony drug conviction, his mandatory minimum sentence increased to ten years, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Id. at § 841(b)(1)(B).

         In 2010, after more than two decades of substantial criticism from the Sentencing Commission and others in the law enforcement community that the harsh treatment of crack cocaine offenses was fundamentally unfair when compared to offenses involving powder cocaine, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act. Dorsey v. United States, 567 U.S. 260, 268 (2012). Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act increased the drug quantities triggering the mandatory minimum for crack offenses “from 5 grams to 28 grams in respect to the 5-year minimum and from 50 grams to 280 grams in respect to the 10-year minimum.” Id. at 269. While the Act did not entirely eliminate the disparity between powder and crack cocaine, it did lower the 100-to-1 crack-to-powder ratio to 18-to-1.[1] Id. The Fair Sentencing Act took effect on August 3, 2010 but applied only to sentences imposed thereafter. Id. at 264.

         In 2018, Congress passed the First Step Act, which made the revised crack cocaine minimums established by the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive. The First Step Act provides in relevant part:

(a) DEFINITION OF COVERED OFFENSE.-In this section, the term “covered offense” means a violation of a Federal criminal statute, the statutory penalties for which were modified by section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . ., that was committed before August 3, 2010.
(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 . . . were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed.
(c) LIMITATIONS.-No court shall entertain a motion made under this section to reduce a sentence if the sentence was previously imposed or previously reduced in accordance with the amendments made by sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . . or if a previous motion made under this section to reduce the sentence was, after the date of enactment of this Act, denied after a complete review of the motion on the merits. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require a court to reduce any sentence pursuant to this section.

FIRST STEP ACT OF 2018, PL 115-391, December 21, 2018, 132 Stat 5194. In this matter, the government contends Thompson did not commit a “covered offense” and therefore is ineligible for ...


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