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United States v. Borden

April 17, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES BORDEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Defendant appeals from a final order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Denise Cote, Judge), in which the District Court declined to reduce Borden's sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). We hold that the appropriate standard of review to apply to a district court's ruling on a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) is abuse of discretion, and we conclude that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in declining to reduce defendant's sentence.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOSÉ A. Cabranes, Circuit Judge

Argued: April 2, 2009

Amended: April 22, 2009

Before: CABRANES and HALL, Circuit Judges, and SWEET,*fn1 District Judge.

Defendant James Borden appeals from a final order of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Denise Cote, Judge), in which the District Court declined to reduce Borden's sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).*fn2 We write for the purpose of stating that abuse of discretion is the appropriate standard of review to apply to a district court's ruling on a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). In this case, we conclude that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in declining to reduce Borden's sentence, and accordingly affirm the final order of the District Court.

BACKGROUND

On January 30, 2003, Borden was convicted, after a jury trial, of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 2.58 grams of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and possessing with intent to distribute the same drugs, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(C). At the sentencing hearing on July 25, 2003, the District Court noted Borden's "[e]leven convictions from adolescence through the entirety of his adult life," before sentencing him principally to a term of ninety-six months imprisonment-the upper end of the range provided for by the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G." or "Guidelines"). Appellant's App. at 46-47. The District Court then stated that it was imposing such a sentence "because of [its] concern about recidivism and the need to protect the public." Id. at 47. On direct appeal, another panel of this Court affirmed Borden's conviction and sentence. See United States v. Hepburn (Borden), 86 Fed. App'x 475 (2d Cir. 2004).

On April 12, 2004, Borden filed a motion in the Court of Appeals to recall the mandate from the District Court, so that he could file a late petition for panel rehearing. Relying on the Supreme Court's then-recent decision in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), Borden argued that he was denied his right to confront and cross-examine one of his co-defendants. On May 25, 2004, a panel of this Court granted Borden's motion to recall the mandate and subsequently remanded the case to the District Court to determine whether Borden was entitled to a new trial. See Order of May 25, 2004, United States v. Hepburn (Borden), No. 03-1459 (2d Cir. May 25, 2004); Order of August 3, 2004, United States v. Hepburn (Borden), No. 03-1459 (2d Cir. Aug. 3, 2004). On January 5, 2005, the District Court denied Borden's motion for a new trial. Record on Appeal ("ROA") doc. 56. Borden filed a timely notice of appeal. A panel of this Court affirmed the District Court's denial of Borden's motion for a new trial, and it remanded the case to the District Court to determine whether Borden should be resentenced pursuant to this Court's then-recent decision in United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005). See United States v. Borden, 170 Fed. App'x 755 (2d Cir. 2006). On June 9, 2006, the District Court filed a Memorandum and Opinion in which it declined to resentence Borden. ROA doc. 63.

Effective November 1, 2007, the United States Sentencing Commission ("Commission") lowered the base offense level for crack cocaine offenses. See Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines for the United States Courts, 72 Fed. Reg. 28,571 - 28,572 (2007). On December 11, 2007, the Commission voted to apply this amendment retroactively, which meant that defendants sentenced under the former crack cocaine Guidelines would be eligible for a sentence reduction. See United States v. Jones, 531 F.3d 163, 179 (2d Cir. 2008); United States v. Regalado, 518 F.3d 143, 150 (2d Cir. 2008); U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c) (indicating the application of this provision to amendment 706, as modified by 711). On February 28, 2008, the United States Probation Office ("USPO") issued a supplement to Borden's Presentence Report, in which it concluded that Borden was eligible for a sentence reduction under the newly amended Guidelines, and that the applicable amended Guidelines range was sixty-three to seventy-eight months. Appellant's App. at 53. The supplement also stated that, according to a progress report of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), Borden was a "good inmate," and that his BOP caseworker had determined that he was not a public safety concern. Id.

In an order of March 4, 2008, the District Court instructed Borden and the government to submit their views on whether Borden's sentence should be modified in light of the newly-amended Guidelines and the USPO's supplemental report. Id. at 25-26. The government submitted a letter brief on March 5, 2008, stating that Borden was eligible for a sentence reduction based on a revised Guidelines range of sixty-three to seventy-eight months imprisonment, and did not object to a reduction within that range. On March 11, 2008, Borden's court-appointed counsel requested a reduction to sixty-three months imprisonment. On March 14, the District Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order, in which it declined to reduce Borden's sentence. See United States v. Borden, No. 02-cr-929 (DLC), 2008 WL 705957 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 2008). The District Court noted at the outset that "[t]his is not the first occasion on which the Court has had to consider a re-sentencing of this defendant," id. at *1, and then explained its earlier decision not to resentence Borden pursuant to Crosby, 397 F.3d 103:

In that Order, the Court noted that a sentence at the top of the guidelines range, which is unusual, "was intended as a clear signal that Borden deserved a lengthy sentence, and specifically a sentence of 96 months. As described at the sentence, the Court was influenced by Borden's 'consistent' and 'constant' violation of the law, and the need to protect society, among other things."

Borden, 2008 WL 705957, at *1. The District Court then stated that it had "considered the factors set out in 18 U.S.C. ยง 3553(a) and the danger that the defendant poses to the community" and concluded that "in an exercise of the Court's discretion, the defendant's term of ...


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