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United States v. Diggins

May 8, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL DIGGINS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wood, U.S.D.J.

Opinion & Order

By motion dated March 20, 2008, Defendant Michael Diggins ("Diggins") asks the Court to reduce his sentence from 90 to 84 months imprisonment, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 706 to the Sentencing Guidelines ("Guidelines"). Section 3582(c)(2) permits a court to reduce a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission ("Commission"); Amendment 706 lowers the base offense level, and thus the applicable Guidelines sentencing range, for certain offenses involving cocaine base ("crack cocaine").*fn1 The Government agrees that Diggins is eligible for this sentence reduction, but argues that the reduction is not warranted because Diggins poses a "serious danger to the community." The Court disagrees.

For the reasons stated below, the Court reduces Diggins's total sentence from 90 months to 84 months imprisonment.

I. Background

A. Conviction and Original Sentence On August 20, 2003, Diggins pled guilty to (1) possession and distribution of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 812, 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1) (the "drug count"); and (2) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (the "gun count").

Pursuant to the Act, a drug trafficker dealing in crack cocaine is subject to the same mandatory minimum as one dealing in 100 times more powder cocaine. See Kimbrough v. United States, 128 S.Ct. 558, 566-67 (2007).

The Commission then incorporated this drug quantity ratio into the Guidelines. As a result, Guidelines sentences for crack cocaine offenses prior to Amendment 706 were three to six times longer than those for powder cocaine offenses involving the same drug weight. See id.

The Commission has since concluded, however, that these disparities significantly undermine important sentencing objectives. According to the Commission, the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio is problematic in many ways, including, inter alia, that it is based on faulty assumptions about the relative harmfulness of crack and powder cocaine; it often results in greater punishments for street level sellers than for importers and major traffickers; and it fosters disrespect for the criminal justice system because of its racial impact. See id. at 568.

Amendment 706 modestly reduces sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine offenses throughout the Guidelines.

On February 6, 2004, the Court sentenced Diggins.*fn2 The Court found that a Guidelines range of 30 to 37 months applied to the drug count,*fn3 and that a statutory mandatory minimum of 60 months, to be served consecutively, applied to the gun count. The Court sentenced Diggins to 30 months on the drug count and 60 months on the gun count, for a total sentence of 90 months imprisonment.

B. Amendment 706

Amendment 706 became effective on November 1, 2007, and on March 3, 2008, the Commission authorized courts to retroactively reduce sentences in accordance with the amendment.

Pursuant to Amendment 706, the Guidelines range now applicable to Diggins's drug count is 24 to 30 months;*fn4 the mandatory minimum of 60 months applicable to the gun count remains unchanged. The parties agree that Diggins is eligible, pursuant to § 3582(c)(2) and Amendment 706, for a sentence reduction of up to six months on the drug count, which would reduce accordingly his total sentence from 90 months to 84 months imprisonment.

On March 20, 2008, Diggins moved this Court for a sentence reduction. In response, the Government argues that although Diggins is eligible for a sentence reduction, the Court should deny his motion because of the public safety considerations raised by the nature of his offense, his criminal history, and his post-sentencing conduct.

On August 26, 2008, after reviewing the parties' submissions, the Court ruled that it would delay consideration of Diggins's motion until April 2009 so that it could review more of Diggins's ...


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