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United States v. Vargas

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 10, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CAONABO VARGAS, Defendant

For USA, Plaintiff: Harry Sandick, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jenner & Block LLP (LA), Los Angeles, CA; Todd Blanche, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, SDNY (St Andw's), New York, NY.

Page 602

DECISION AND ORDER

Victor Marrero, United States District Judge.

On April 13, 2007, a jury found defendant Caonabo Vargas (" Vargas" ) guilty of one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute narcotics, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sections 846, and one count of conspiracy to commit Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 1951. (See Dkt. Minute Entry for 4/13/2007; Dkt. No. 131.) On January 11, 2008, this Court sentenced Vargas to one hundred and fifty one (151) months imprisonment, followed by five (5) years supervised release. (Dkt. No. 131.)

Effective November 1, 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission (" Sentencing Commission" ) adopted Amendment 782, which modified Section 2D1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (" Sentencing Guidelines" ) to lower the Sentencing Guidelines' sentencing range for certain categories of drug-related offenses (" Amendment 782" ). The Sentencing Commission then adopted Amendment 788 (" Amendment 788" ), also effective November 1, 2014, which authorized retroactive application of Amendment 782 to those sentenced before its effective date. Amendment 788 also specifies that no incarcerated defendant can be released pursuant to Amendment 788 prior to November 1, 2015. Furthermore, the " court shall not order a reduced term of imprisonment based on Amendment 782 unless the effective date of the court's order is November 1, 2015, or later." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(e)(1).

The Probation Department made a submission to the Court and the parties, indicating

Page 603

its assessment that Vargas is eligible for a sentencing reduction under Amendments 782 and 788.

Vargas filed motions (Dkt. Nos. 251, 255) for a sentence reduction pursuant to Amendments 782 and 788 on November 10, 2014, and December 30, 2014 asking that Vargas's sentence be reduced from 151 to 121 months. On January 26, 2015, Vargas submitted an additional letter including exhibits to demonstrate his extensive participation and completion of programs while in custody. (Dkt. No. 260.) The Government responded on February 3, 2015, acknowledging Vargas's eligibility for a sentence reduction and expressing that the Government does not object to such a reduction within the amended Sentencing Guidelines range of 121-151 months. (Dkt. No. 259.)

STANDARD

Under Section 3582(c)(2) of Title 18 (" Section 3582(c) (2)" ), United States Code, when a defendant has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that is subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission, the Court may act upon motion of the defendant or the Director of the Bureaus of Prisons, or upon its own motion, to reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment. A court may grant a sentence reduction only after considering the factors set forth in Section 3553(a) of Title 18 (" Section 3553(a)" ) and upon a finding that such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. See id.

Here, when considering a sentence reduction under the two-step inquiry laid out in Dillon v. United States, the Court must first decide whether Vargas is eligible for a sentence modification and then determine the " extent of the reduction authorized." 560 U.S. 817, 827, 130 S.Ct. 2683, 177 L.Ed.2d 271 (2010). In reviewing eligibility, " the court shall determine the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant if the amendment(s) to the guidelines . . . had been in effect at the time the defendant was sentenced." U.S.S.G. § . 1B1.10(b). As a threshold matter, the amended Sentencing Guidelines range must be lower than the range that was applied at sentencing in order for a defendant to be eligible for a reduction.

With regard to the extent of the reduction authorized, Section 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) of the Sentencing Guidelines provides that " the [C]ourt shall not reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and this policy statement to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guideline range." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A). The only exception to this rule applies if the defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment below the Sentencing Guidelines range pursuant to a government motion " to reflect the defendant's substantial assistance to authorities," in which case the Court is authorized to grant a reduction comparably less than the amended Sentencing Guidelines range. Id. However, in the absence of a sentencing departure based on substantial assistance, the Court is not permitted to " re-impos[e] departures or variances imposed at the defendant's original sentencing hearing." U.S. v. Erskine, 717 F.3d 131, 137 (2d Cir. 2013). Furthermore, " [i]n no event may the reduced term of imprisonment be less than the term of imprisonment the defendant has already served." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(C).

If the defendant is eligible for a sentencing reduction, the Court proceeds to the second step of the Dillon analysis, in which it must decide -- in light of the Section 3553(a) factors -- whether to grant a reduction. ...


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