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United States v. Martinez

July 13, 2009

UNITED STATES, APPELLEE,
v.
MARTIN P. MARTINEZ, ALSO KNOWN AS MARTIN ORTEGA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Defendant-appellant Martin P. Martinez appeals from the June 26, 2008 final order of the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard M. Berman, Judge) denying his motion for sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). We agree with the District Court that, because Martinez was sentenced as a career offender, his sentence was not "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered," 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). He is, therefore, ineligible for sentence reduction. The judgment of the District Court is therefore affirmed.

Per curiam.

Argued: June 18, 2009

Before: MINER, CABRANES, and HALL, Circuit Judges.

Defendant-appellant Martin P. Martinez was convicted in 2001, following a plea of guilty, of one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (also known as "crack"), in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. As part of his plea agreement, Martinez stipulated that he was a career offender under § 4B1.1 of the Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines"), and that the applicable Guidelines range was thus 151 to 188 months. J.A. 7. At Martinez's April 30, 2001 sentencing hearing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Richard M. Berman, Judge), the Court adopted the findings of fact and Guidelines calculations set forth in the Presentence Investigation Report of the United States Probation Office ("USPO"), including Martinez's designation as a career offender. The District Court noted Martinez's long criminal history and difficult personal circumstances and, as recommended by the USPO and urged by defense counsel, imposed a sentence of 151 months' imprisonment, the lowest sentence within the applicable Guidelines range. J.A. 13.

In March 2008, Amendment 706 to the Guidelines, which reduced offense levels under § 2D1.1-applicable to crack cocaine offenses-by two levels, was made retroactive by Amendment 713 (collectively, the "'crack' cocaine amendments").*fn1 On June 5, 2008, Martinez moved for sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which provides that a defendant whose original sentence was "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission" may be eligible for a reduced sentence. Martinez argued that, although he was sentenced under the career offender guideline range, the "base offense level" for his sentence was calculated under the crack cocaine guideline. He further argued that this base-level calculation meant his sentence was "based on" the now-amended § 2D1.1, and so he should be eligible for a reduced sentence. J.A. 26. The USPO and the government both disagreed with Martinez, arguing that his sentence was based on the career offender range, which remains unaltered by the crack cocaine amendments. They argued that Martinez's sentence was not "based on" § 2D1.1, and was therefore not based on "a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission. " 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Accordingly, the government argues Martinez is not eligible for a reduction.*fn2 In a June 26, 2008 hearing, the District Court ruled that Martinez was not eligible for a sentence reduction "because the so-called crack cocaine amendments do not change the career offender provisions in the United States Sentencing Guidelines," and it denied the defendant's motion in an order entered on that date. J.A. 36-38.

DISCUSSION

The only issue on appeal is whether Martinez is eligible for a sentence reduction under the crack cocaine amendments, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), having been sentenced as a career offender under § 4B1.1 of the Guidelines. The determination of whether "an original sentence was based on a sentencing range that was subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission," 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), is a matter of statutory interpretation and is thus reviewed de novo. United States v. Williams, 551 F.3d 182, 185 (2d Cir. 2009).

"A district court may not generally modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed." Cortorreal v. United States, 486 F.3d 742, 744 (2d Cir. 2007). However, in limited circumstances a sentence reduction may be authorized by Congress and the Sentencing Commission. See id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 994(o)).Specifically, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) authorizes a district court to reduce a defendant's sentence "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 . . . if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Accordingly, reducing a defendant's sentence pursuant to § 3582(c)(2) is only appropriate if (a) the defendant was sentenced "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission" and (b) the reduction is "consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." Id.

A. Based on a Subsequently Lowered Guidelines Range

Reducing Martinez's sentence is not appropriate because his sentence was not based on a Guidelines range that has been "subsequently . . . lowered" by the Sentencing Commission. Amendment 706 to the Sentencing Guidelines generally reduced by two levels the offense levels under § 2D1.1 applicable to crack cocaine offenses. Martinez, however, was sentenced under the career offender guideline, § 4B1.1, which remains unaffected by the crack cocaine amendments.*fn3

In United States v. McGee, 553 F.3d 225, 227 (2d Cir. 2009), we held that a defendant who was designated a career offender but was then granted a downward departure below the career offender range qualified for a reduced sentence. We permitted reduction of McGee's sentence because "the district court explicitly stated that it was departing from the career offender sentencing range to the level that the defendant would have been in absent the career offender status calculationand consideration," and it was thus effectively sentencing him under the crack cocaine guideline. McGee, 553 F.3d at 227 (emphasis added and internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, McGee could have been sentenced under § 4B1.1 but was in fact sentenced under § 2D1.1. Because his career offender designation did not determine his sentence, § 2D1.1 applied for purposes of sentence reduction, rather than § 4B1.1.

By contrast, Martinez's original sentence in the instant case was "based on" the career offender guideline, and not the crack cocaine guideline. The fact that, but for his career offender designation, Martinez's sentence would have been based on the now-amended crack cocaine guideline is of no relevance for purposes of a sentence reduction. The simple fact is that Martinez was indeed sentenced under § 4B1.1, which remains unamended.

In Williams we held that, once a mandatory minimum subsuming and displacing an otherwise applicable guideline range applies, a defendant's sentence is no longer "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." 551 F.3d at 185 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)). Here, as in Williams, the District Court first calculated the applicable Guidelines range under § 2D1.1, but that range "had no bearing on Martinez's ultimate] sentence." Id. Rather, Martinez's career offender designation and § 4B1.1 "subsumed and displaced" § 2D1.1, the "otherwise ...


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