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United States v. Hudson

September 5, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
GERARD HUDSON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Gleeson, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

On January 17, 2006, Gerard Hudson pleaded guilty to possessing 47 grams of cocaine base ("crack") with intent to distribute. When he was sentenced on March 31, 2006, his advisory Sentencing Guidelines range was 57 to 71 months. I sentenced him to a term of imprisonment of 57 months. In Amendment 706 to the Guidelines, which became effective on November 1, 2007, the Sentencing Commission adjusted downward the base offense levels, and ultimately the sentencing ranges, for many drug offenses involving crack. In Amendment 713, which became effective on March 3, 2008, the Commission made the reduced crack sentences retroactive by adding Amendment 706 (as amended by Amendment 711) to the list of amendments in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c). Sentenced defendants whose Guidelines ranges are lowered by such amendments are eligible for reductions in sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c).

Under the amended guideline, Hudson's Guidelines range is 46 to 57 months. He therefore sought a reduced term of imprisonment. He understandably wanted to be released on March 3, the moment the new guideline became retroactive, and thus he sought a sentence of time served, which would have amounted to a prison term of about 22 months.

On February 29, 2008, I issued an amended judgment reducing Hudson's sentence to 46 months, concluding that I had no authority to afford him greater relief. This memorandum sets forth the reasons for that decision.*fn1

BACKGROUND

A. The Sentencing Commission's Statutory Authority to Authorize Sentence Reductions And to Control the Amount of an Authorized Reduction

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (the "SRA") established the Sentencing Commission and gave it the responsibility of formulating the Guidelines that would "avoid[] unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar criminal conduct." 28 U.S.C. § 994(b)(1)(B). The statute requires the Commission to periodically review and revise the Guidelines, and to suggest changes that appear warranted. 28 U.S.C. § 994(o). When an amendment to the Guidelines lowers the sentencing range for a particular offense, the Commission is expressly authorized by the SRA to decide whether and to what extent previously-sentenced offenders may benefit from the change:

If the Commission reduces the term of imprisonment recommended in the guidelines applicable to a particular offense or category of offenses, it shall specify in what circumstances and by what amount the sentences of prisoners serving terms of imprisonment for the offense may be reduced.

28 U.S.C. 994(u).

B. The Sentencing Court's Power to Modify Sentences

As a general matter, sentencing courts are not authorized to modify sentences after they are imposed. That rule is set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3582, which also carves out the exception at issue here:

(c) Modification of an imposed term of imprisonment.--The court may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed except that-- . . .

(2) in the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o), ... the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.

18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) (emphasis added).*fn2

The italicized language dovetails with the statutory authority ...


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