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United States of America v. Terrence Steele

May 9, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
TERRENCE STEELE, ALSO KNOWN AS TEE-FUR, ALSO KNOWN AS T, ALSO KNOWN AS T-FUR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT, CHRISTOPHER GOINS, ALSO KNOWN AS MAD BALL, DEFENDANT.*FN1



Per curiam.

12-1072-cr

United States v. Steele

Submitted: May 6, 2013

Before: CABRANES, WESLEY, and WALLACE,*fn2 Circuit Judges.

If a criminal defendant is sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines") that is subsequently amended by the Sentencing Commission, a federal sentencing court may, in some circumstances, reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment based on the amended Guidelines provision. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The question presented in this appeal is whether a sentencing court exercising this authority may give a defendant the additional benefit of a downward departure previously awarded in the original sentencing. We hold that the provisions of § 1B1.10 of the Guidelines, as incorporated by § 3582(c)(2), require a resentencing court to apply the amended Guidelines range that would have been applicable to the defendant under the retroactive amendment, without applying any previously-granted departure, except for a departure granted upon an appropriate motion by the government based on the defendant's substantial assistance. In other words, § 1B1.10 and § 3582(c)(2) together do not permit a resentencing court to downwardly depart from the amended Guidelines range, even if a downward departure was granted in the original sentencing, absent a government motion for a departure based on substantial assistance. Accordingly, the amended judgment of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Ellen Bree Burns, Judge) is affirmed.

Affirmed.

If a criminal defendant is sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines") that is subsequently amended by the Sentencing Commission, a federal sentencing court may, in some circumstances, reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment based on the amended Guidelines provision. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The question presented in this appeal is whether a sentencing court exercising this authority may give a defendant the additional benefit of a downward departure previously awarded in the original sentencing. We hold that the provisions of § 1B1.10 of the Guidelines, as incorporated by § 3582(c)(2), require a resentencing court to apply the amended Guidelines range that would have been applicable to the defendant under the retroactive amendment, without applying any previously-granted departure, except for a departure granted upon an appropriate motion by the government based on the defendant's substantial assistance to authorities. In other words, § 1B1.10 and § 3582(c)(2) together do not permit a resentencing court to downwardly depart from the amended Guidelines range, even if a downward departure was granted in the original sentencing, absent a government motion for a departure based on substantial assistance.

BACKGROUND

On December 11, 2006, a jury found defendant-appellant Terrence Steele guilty of (1) conspiring to possess with the intent to distribute, and to distribute, fifty grams or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846; and (2) possessing with the intent to distribute fifty grams or more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A). At sentencing, the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Ellen Bree Burns, Judge) determined, as relevant here, that Steele's criminal history points and career offender designation corresponded to a criminal history category of VI. In his sentencing memorandum, however, Steele argued that this designation overstated his criminal history. The Court agreed to downwardly depart from this criminal history category and sentenced Steele based on a criminal history category of V. Following an initial appeal not relevant here, the District Court resentenced Steele, after downwardly departing to a criminal history category of V, to 151 months' imprisonment, and that sentence was affirmed on Steele's second appeal.*fn3

After Steele's resentencing, the Sentencing Commission promulgated Amendment 750, which retroactively lowered the base offense levels for crack-cocaine offenses pursuant to the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372 (2010). Steele then moved in the District Court for yet another reduction in his sentence based on retroactive application of the new crack-cocaine sentencing rules in § 2D1.1 of the Guidelines. See U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual("U.S.S.G.") § 1B1.10(c) (2012) (making retroactive the relevant part of Amendment 750). The government agreed that Steele was eligible for resentencing, see id. § 1B1.10(a), and should be resentenced based on a lower offense level. However, the government argued that the District Court must apply the sentencing range that would apply without departing from Steele's original criminal history category of VI, as it had done previously.

The District Court agreed with the government and therefore resentenced Steele based on a pre-departure Guidelines range of 140 to 175 months' imprisonment. The Court lowered Steele's prison sentence from 151 months to 140 months. See note 1, ante. Steele then brought the instant appeal (his third), arguing that the District Court miscalculated the relevant Guidelines range by not lowering his criminal history category from VI to V, as it had in the earlier sentencings.

DISCUSSION

Having reviewed de novo the legal questions presented in this appeal, see United States v. Williams, 551 F.3d 182, 185 (2d Cir. 2009), we hold that the provisions of § 1B1.10 of the Guidelines, as incorporated by § 3582(c)(2), require a resentencing court to apply the amended Guidelines range that would have been applicable to a defendant, without applying any departures other than one granted upon appropriate motion by the government based on a defendant's substantial assistance.

Our holding follows from the plain language of 18 U.S.C. ยง 3582(c)(2) and the relevant provisions of the Guidelines. Section 3582(c)(2) provides statutory ...


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