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United States v. Main

August 27, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER MAIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Defendant-Appellant Christopher Main appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Murtha, J.) denying his motion for a reduction of sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and United States Sentencing Guidelines § 1B1.10, pursuant to which the sentencing ranges applicable to crack cocaine offenses were retroactively reduced.

Main had pled guilty under a plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C).

We AFFIRM the district court's judgment.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Walker, Jr., Circuit Judge:

Argued: May 11, 2009

Before WALKER and WALLACE,*fn1 Circuit Judges.*fn2

Defendant-Appellant Christopher Main appeals from a July 9, 2008 order of the United States District Court for the District of Vermont (Murtha, J.) denying his motion for a reduction of sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.") § 1B1.10, pursuant to which the sentencing ranges applicable to crack cocaine offenses were retroactively reduced. We hold that the district court was without authority to reduce Main's sentence under section 3582(c) because the sentence was dictated by his plea agreement pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), and not the Guidelines related to crack cocaine. Accordingly, we affirm the district court's denial of Main's motion.

BACKGROUND

The facts of Main's crime are set forth fully in our prior published decision vacating Main's first judgment of conviction and sentence because the district court had inaccurately described the range of penalties to which Main could be subjected as a result of his guilty plea. See United States v. Harrington, 354 F.3d 178, 180--86 (2d Cir. 2004).

On remand, Main again pled guilty, pursuant to a plea agreement, to distributing and conspiring to distribute five or more grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. The agreement specified that Main and the government had agreed, "pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C)*fn3," that "the appropriate sentence to be imposed, with regard to imprisonment, is a term of not more than eight (8) years." (Plea Agreement ¶ 3.) The agreement further stated that Main "reserve[d] the right to argue for a downward departure." (Plea Agreement ¶ 3.) The district court accepted Main's guilty plea.

At the subsequent sentencing hearing in February 2005, the district court determined that Main's total offense level was 26, that his Criminal History Category was VI, and that the applicable Guideline range therefore was 120 to 150 months, and found that "the parties have agreed in accordance with [Rule 11(c)(1)(C)] that the appropriate sentence to be imposed is a term of imprisonment of not more than eight years[,] which is 96 months." (Sentencing Tr. 28:24-29:2, Feb. 23, 2005.) The district court then granted Main's request for downward departures, reducing Main's sentence by seven months for "extraordinary rehabilitation... while in prison" and by five months for certain time Main served. (Sentencing Tr. 30:24-31:10.) The district court sentenced Main to 84 months' imprisonment.

On May 14, 2008, Main moved to reduce his sentence pursuant to section 3582(c)(2), which allows such motions by any "defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Main argued that he was eligible for a reduced sentence under U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10, effective March 3, 2008, which retroactively reduced by two levels the base offense level for crack cocaine offenses covered by U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1. See U.S.S.G. supp. to app. C, amend. 706 (2007) (amending the drug quantity table for U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1); U.S.S.G. supp. to app. C, amend. 713 (2007) (retroactively applying § 2D1.1). The district court denied Main's motion on the basis that the court lacked authority to modify the sentence under section 3582(c)(2), because Main had been sentenced pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement and not pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1. After granting Main's motion to reconsider the denial of resentencing, the district court affirmed its decision. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

The only issue on appeal is whether Main is eligible for a reduction in sentence under the crack cocaine amendments, pursuant to section 3582(c)(2). We review de novo the determination of whether his sentence was "based on a sentencing range that was subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission," because this determination is a matter ...


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