United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Charlotte Division
D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Jacqueline Yvette
Springs' (“Springs”) Motion for Amended
Judgment under The First Step Act of 2018. (Doc. No. 55).
Springs, through counsel, asks the Court to reduce her
current sentence of 180 months to time served. The government
asserts that Springs is ineligible for consideration of a
reduction in her sentence, and in the alternative, that if
she is eligible for consideration, a further reduction of her
sentence is not warranted. For the reasons stated below, the
Court GRANTS in part Springs' motion as to her
eligibility for consideration of a sentence reduction under
the First Step Act and DEFERS in part Springs' motion as
to the modification of her sentence pending a sentencing
hearing before the undersigned.
February 2005, Springs was indicted on four charges: (1)
violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) by conspiring to
possess 5 or more grams of cocaine base with the intent to
distribute (Count One); (2) violating 21 U.S.C. §
841(b)(1)(B) by possessing 5 or more grams of cocaine base
with the intent to distribute (Count Two); (3) violating 18
U.S.C. § 924(c) by possessing a firearm in furtherance
of a drug trafficking offense (Count Three); and (4)
violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) by possessing a firearm
after a felony conviction (Count Four). (Doc. No. 3). On July
6, 2006, Springs entered into a plea agreement with the
United States where she pleaded guilty to Counts One and
Three. (Doc. No. 23). In her plea agreement, Springs
stipulated that more than 20 grams and less than 35 grams of
crack cocaine were reasonably foreseeable to Springs.
Id. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(B)
and 851, Springs faced a statutory sentencing range of 10
years to life. (Doc. No. 43, p. 14). Under the sentencing
guidelines, her base offense level was 28. Id. at 5.
She received a 3-point decrease for acceptance of
responsibility for a total offense level of 25. Id.
at 6. Coupled with a criminal history category of III, her
guideline range was 70-87 months for Count One. Id.
at 15. However, because the statutory mandatory minimum for
Count One was greater than the maximum of the guideline
range, Springs faced a statutory minimum sentence of 120
months on Count One, plus a mandatory consecutive sentence of
not less than 60 months for Count Three and a required
supervised release term of at least 8 years. (Docs. No. 27,
10, 2007, Springs was sentenced to a term of 120 months for
the drug-trafficking offense and a consecutive term of 60
months in prison for the firearm offense, plus a required
supervised release term of at least 8 years. (Doc. No. 28).
Springs has served approximately 167 months and her projected
release date is May 13, 2020. See BOP Inmate
seeks relief under the First Step Act, arguing that she is
eligible for relief and that this Court has discretion to
reduce her sentence to time served. A. First Step Act
Eligibility When Springs was sentenced, a violation of §
841(b)(1)(B) carried a penalty range of 5 to 40 years if the
offense involved more than 5 grams of cocaine base. 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(B) (2006). In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act
was passed, and Section 2 of the Act reduced penalties for
offenses involving cocaine base by increasing the threshold
drug quantities required to trigger mandatory minimum
sentences under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1). Fair Sentencing
Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, § 2, 124 Stat. 2372
(2010). Now, in order to trigger the 5-to-40-year sentencing
range, the offense must involve more than 28 grams of cocaine
First Step Act (the “Act”) was passed on December
21, 2018. Section 404 of the Act permits a court, upon motion
of the defendant or Government, or upon its own motion, to
impose a reduced sentence for certain offenses in accordance
with the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, if such a reduction was
not previously granted. Covered offenses eligible for a
sentence reduction are those committed before August 3, 2010
and carry the statutory penalties which were modified by
Section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. First Step
Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-015, 132 Stat. 015 (2018).
Government contends that even though Springs committed her
offense before August 3, 2010, and even though her offenses
carry the statutory penalties that were modified by Section 2
of the Fair Sentencing Act, that she does not qualify for a
sentence reduction. The Government argues that it is the drug
weight for which defendant was held responsible and not the
drug weight for which she was indicted and convicted that
determines eligibility for First Step Act relief and that
Springs' drug quantity in the Presentence Investigation
Report (“PSR”) makes her ineligible for relief.
(Doc. No. 56, pp. 4-5). Because Springs was found responsible
for 32.24 grams of cocaine base, which would make her subject
to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B) penalties, the Government
contends that she is not entitled to relief under the First
Step Act. Id. at 5. Springs, however, argues that
drug weight is an element of the offense and that any fact
that increases a mandatory minimum penalty is an element that
must be charged in an indictment and proved to a jury beyond
a reasonable doubt. (Doc. No. 55, pp. 5-6).
Apprendi, the Supreme Court held that the Sixth
Amendment to the Constitution requires that any fact that
increases the penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed
statutory maximum, other than the fact of a prior conviction,
must be submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable
doubt. 530 U.S. at 490. In Alleyne v. United States,
the Supreme Court applied Apprendi to the federal
mandatory minimum and maximum sentencing scheme and held that
because mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for
a crime, any fact that increases the mandatory minimum is an
element of the crime that must be submitted to the jury. 570
U.S. 99, 116 (2013) (overruling Harris v. United
States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002)).
Government appears to assert, correctly, that neither
Apprendi nor Alleyne are retroactively
applicable on collateral review. (Doc. No. 56, pp. 5-7);
see United States v. Sanders, 247 F.3d 139, 146 (4th
Cir. 2001) (joining other circuits in finding that
Apprendi does not apply retroactively to cases on
collateral review); United States v. Stewart, 540
Fed.Appx. 171 (4th Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (noting that
Alleyne has not been made retroactively applicable
to cases on collateral review). Specifically, the Government
argues that “[a]fter Apprendi was decided,
including before passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, the jury
ordinarily made a finding regarding the threshold quantity
stated in the statute for purposes of establishing the
statutory-maximum penalty, but the sentencing court could and
did impose statutory-minimum penalties regardless of any jury
finding[, ]” a practice authorized by Harris v.
United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002). (Doc. No. 56, p. 6).
The Government contends that nothing in the First Step Act
suggests that Congress intended to adopt a different
methodology, and that the Act only directs a court to examine
a sentence as if Sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act
were in effect at the time, and did not change the manner of
determining quantity. Id. The Court finds that the
Government is essentially asking the Court to apply the
holding in Harris and disregard Alleyne,
which the Court declines to do. E.g., United
States v. Welch, No. 7:10-CR-0054-008, 2019 WL 2092580,
at *3 (W.D. Va. May 13, 2019) (rejecting similar arguments
made by the Government).
this Court found Springs guilty of conspiracy to possess with
intent to distribute at least five grams crack cocaine and
possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking
offense. (Doc. No. 43, p. 1). Under Alleyne, this
Court is not free to ignore that finding and impose a penalty
based on the 32.24 grams of cocaine base reference in the
PSR. Thus, while the Court acknowledges that
Apprendi and Alleyne are not retroactively
applicable on collateral review, the Court joins other
courts, including courts in this circuit, in finding that
Apprendi and Alleyne apply to the First
Step Act. See United States v. Ancrum, No.
5:02-CR-30020, 2019 WL 2110589, at *3 (W.D. Va. May 14, 2019)
(citing Alleyne and finding that the amount the
defendant pleaded guilty to, not the PSR finding, controls
the defendant's eligibility under the First Step Act);
Welch, 2019 WL 2092580, at *3 (same); United
States v. Smith, No. 7:04-CR-0072-4, 2019 WL 2092581, at
*3 (W.D. Va. May 13, 2019) (same); United States v.
Stanback, No. 5:02-CR-30020-1, 2019 WL 1976445, at *3
(W.D. Va. May 2, 2019) (same); United States v.
Simons, No. 07-CR-00874, 2019 WL 1760840 at *6 (E.D.N.Y.
Apr. 22, 2019) (citing Alleyne and finding that
statutory penalties are determined by facts submitted to a
grand jury, trial jury, or established by a guilty plea while
findings by a judge may be used to determine a sentence
within the statutory penalties and cannot change “the
mandatory minimum sentence now applicable”); United
States v. Dodd, No. 3:03-CR-18-3, 2019 WL 1529516 (S.D.
Iowa Apr. 9, 2019) (finding in a First Step Act case that
“[b]oth Apprendi and Alleyne are
binding on this Court for sentencings held today.”);
United States v. Davis, No. 07-CR-245(S)(1), 2019 WL
1054554 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 6, 2019), appeal
docketed, No. 19-874 (2nd Cir. Apr. 5, 2019)
(“[I]t is the statute of conviction, not actual
conduct, that controls eligibility under the First Step
Act.”); see also United States v. Laguerre,
No. 5:02-CR-30098-3, 2019 WL 861417 (W.D. Va. Feb. 22, 2019)
(relying without discussion on charged drug weight rather
than PSR weight to find defendant eligible for relief).
Accordingly, the Court finds that Springs is eligible for
relief under the First Step Act.
found that Springs is eligible for relief, the court must
determine what relief, if any, to award. The First Step Act
provides, “A court that imposed a sentence for a
covered offense may . . . impose a reduced sentence as if
sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 . . .
were in effect at the time the covered offense was
committed.” Pub. L. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, §
404(b) (2018). Here, Springs requests that the Court reduce
her sentence to time served or, in the alternative, vacate
her sentence and conduct a de novo resentencing. The Court
hereby sets a ...