United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
TERRENCE W. BOYLE, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause is before the Court on defendant's motion for
compassionate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(A). [DE 49]. The government opposes release. [DE
56]. A hearing on the matter was held before the undersigned
on May 30, 2019, at Raleigh, North Carolina. For the reasons
that follow, defendant's motion is granted.
Peterson, is currently serving a term of 132 months'
imprisonment after pleading guilty to possession with intent
to distribute a quantity of cocaine base and discharging a
firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense in
violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841 and 18 U.S.C. §
924(c). [DE 45]. Peterson was sentenced on November 27, 2013,
and his current projected release date is May 1, 2022.
See https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/ (last visited May
31, 2019). Peterson has served approximately ninety-one
months of his sentence, including good time credit. [DE 49].
is now eighty years old and, the parties agree, has multiple
medical conditions, which include dementia, leg amputation
below the right knee, chronic pain, glaucoma, gout, coronary
artery disease, and aortic aneurysm. See [DE 56-1];
[DE 49-1]. Peterson is confined to a wheelchair, and,
according to the Bureau of Prisons, he "is considered to
be experiencing deteriorating mental and physical health that
substantially diminishes his ability to function in a
correctional facility ...." [DE 56-1].
to few exceptions, a sentence that has been imposed may not
be modified. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). One exception to this
general rule applies where a defendant qualifies for a
reduction in his sentence due to certain age or health
factors, often referred to as compassionate release. 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Prior to the passage of the
First Step Act on December 21, 2018,  the discretion to file a
motion for compassionate release under § 3582(c)(1)(A)
rested entirely with the Director of the Bureau of Prisons.
Section 603 of the First Step Act amended 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(A) to provide that a defendant may request
compassionate release from the sentencing court after
exhausting his administrative remedies. Peterson's most
recent request to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons for
compassionate release was denied on May 1, 2019, and there is
no dispute that Peterson has exhausted his administrative
remedies as required.
release may be available to defendants where (1)
extraordinary and compelling circumstances warrant a
reduction in sentence or (2) a defendant who is serving a
life sentenced imposed under 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c) is at
least seventy years old and has served at least thirty years
in prison. 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582(c)(1)(A)(i)-(ii). A
reduction under either section must be consistent with
applicable policy statements issued by the United States
Sentencing Commission. Id. at (c)(1)(A). Because
Peterson is not serving a sentence imposed under §
3559(c), he must demonstrate that extraordinary and
compelling circumstances support his release.
commentary to section IB 1.13 of the United States Sentencing
Commission's Guidelines Manuel provides specific
criteria for determining whether extraordinary and compelling
circumstances are present. U.S.S.G. § IB 1.13, comment,
n.l. These criteria generally concern the age, medical
condition, or family circumstances of the defendant. In
addition to considering whether extraordinary and compelling
circumstances are present, in order to determine that a
reduction in sentence is warranted a court must further
consider the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors to the extent
they are applicable and determine whether the defendant is a
danger to the safety of another person or the community as
provided in 18U.S.C. § 3142(g). U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13.
case, there is no genuine dispute that Peterson's age,
medical conditions, and the amount of time he has served
would satisfy the criteria for demonstrating extraordinary
and compelling circumstances. See U.S.S.G. §
1B1.13 comment. n.l(A)(ii)(III) & n.l(B); see
also Bureau of Prisons Program Statement 5050.50 §
4(b); [DE 49-1; 56; 56-1]. The dispute in this case concerns
whether the § 3553(a) and § 3142(g) factors support
a reduction in Peterson's sentence. To this end, the
government offered the testimony of two Sampson County
Sheriffs Deputies at the May 30, 2019, hearing, both of whom
testified about the circumstances of Peterson's
underlying offense conduct and their opinions that Peterson
would be a danger to the community if released. Peterson was
also present at the hearing and made a statement to the
Court has considered the relevant factors, as well as the
testimony and statement offered at the hearing, and finds
that a reduction in Peterson's sentence is appropriate.
At the outset, the Court recognizes that Peterson was
seventy-four years old at the time of sentencing, that his
underlying offenses include a serious crime of violence, and
that several of Peterson's current medical ailments were
present at the time of sentencing. But see U.S.S.G.
§ 1B1.13 comment, n. 2.
current state, however, presents a slight, if any, threat of
dangerousness to any other person or the community. Peterson
is now confined to a wheelchair or bed and suffers from
worsening dementia in addition to his numerous other health
problems, including chronic pain. Having observed him at the
hearing, the toll that almost seven years of incarceration
has taken on Peterson, now eighty years old, is plain. There
is no suggestion that Peterson maintains any ties to the drug
community in which he previously operated. Peterson proffered
that he will be living with his daughter upon his release
from prison and that the United States Probation Office has
approved her residence as suitable. Peterson will also serve
a term of three years of supervised release; Peterson's
supervised release conditions expressly prohibit him from
possessing a firearm and he will be closely monitored by a
United States Probation Officer during his term of
other words, the nature and circumstances of Peterson's
offense conduct, though serious, are mitigated by the
characteristics of Peterson as he now comes before the Court.
Peterson has demonstrated that his sentence served to date is
sufficient in light of his age and medical conditions to
deter him from further criminal conduct, protect the public,
and promote respect for the ...