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United States v. White

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

July 17, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
JAMES ROY WHITE,

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Lee H. Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge

         In 2000, James Roy White received a mandatory life sentence based on his conviction for, among other offenses, aiding and abetting to possess and conspiring to possess at least 50 grams of crack cocaine, and based on his prior convictions for two serious drug felonies. He now moves for resentencing based on § 404 of the First Step Act. (Docket Entry No. 271). The government responded, and White replied. (Docket Entry Nos. 272, 273).

         Based on the applicable law and the motion, response, and reply, the court grants White's motion for resentencing. (Docket Entry No. 271). An addendum to the presentencing report is due by August 9, 2019, and a hearing is set for August 16, 2019, at 8:30 a.m., in courtroom 11-B.

         I. Background

         An October 1999 indictment alleged that White had conspired to possess and aided and abetted the possession of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute at least 50 grams, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii), and 846, and 18 U.S.C. § 2. (Docket Entry No. 1). A jury convicted White on both of these counts in March 2000. (Docket Entry No. 89). Before trial, the government filed a notice under 21 U.S.C. § 851 of White's two prior drug felony convictions.

         At sentencing, the court found that the government had proven the prior felony convictions disclosed on the § 851 enhancement. That finding mandated a life sentence for each of the possession counts. (See Docket Entry No. 271 at 2). The court adopted the presentence report's finding that White was accountable for 510.3 grams of crack cocaine with an average role and a criminal history category of V. (Id.). His Guidelines range 292 to 365 months. (Id.). But because the court concluded that White's prior convictions made him a career offender, raising the Guidelines range to 360 months to life imprisonment, the Court imposed the mandatory life sentence for both counts. (Docket Entry No. 142).

         White argues that he is eligible under the First Step Act's retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act for resentencing to a lower sentence for his § 841(b)(1)(B) convictions-10 years to life with a Guidelines range of 151 to 188 months. (Docket Entry No. 271 at 5; see Docket Entry No. 272 at 2). The government argues that White is not eligible under the First Step Act because his relevant conduct mad him accountable for 510.3 grams of crack cocaine, which is above the amended amount of more than 280 grams required for a violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A)(iii). (Docket Entry No. 272 at 2).

         II. The First Step Act

         The First Step Act, enacted in December 2018, allows, but does not require, a court to reduce a previously imposed sentence under narrow circumstances. Section 404(b) of the Act states:

A court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may, on motion of the defendant . . . impose a reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372) were in effect at the time the covered offense was committed.

         Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, § 404(b). A “covered offense” is “a violation of a Federal criminal statute, the statutory penalties for which were modified by section 2 or 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010” and “was committed before August 3, 2010.” Id. § 404(a).

         The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was intended to “reduc[ed] the crack-to-powder cocaine disparity from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1.” Dorsey v. United States, 567 U.S. 260, 264 (2012). The Fair Sentencing Act increased the crack-cocaine quantities triggering a mandatory minimum, including shifting from 5 grams to 28 grams to trigger the 5-year minimum and from 50 grams to 280 grams to trigger the 10-year minimum. Fair Sentencing Act, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372, § 2(a); see also 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).

         The issue is how the First Step Act applies to a defendant's pre-2010 conviction under § 841(b)(1)(B) for over 50 grams of crack cocaine, if, after 2010, that defendant could have been charged for over 280 grams of crack cocaine based on the amount attributed to the defendant in the presentence report.

         III. ...


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