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Jones v. United States

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 26, 2018

LONNIE JONES, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          RULING DENYING PETITIONER'S MOTION TO REDUCE SENTENCE

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On December 20, 2001, the Honorable Alan H. Nevas, Senior Judge for the District of Connecticut, sentenced Lonnie Jones (“Petitioner”) to life imprisonment and five years of supervised release following his conviction by jury trial of conspiracy to possess heroin, cocaine and cocaine base as well as distribution of the same, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and (b)(1)(A). J. as to Lonnie Jones, ECF No. 804.

         Mr. Jones also pled guilty to aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §922(k), and received a sentence of five years imprisonment and three years of supervised release, to run concurrently with his life sentence. Id.

         On remand, after the U.S. Supreme Court decided United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, (2005), declaring the United States Sentencing Guidelines as advisory, [1] Judge Nevas re-sentenced Mr. Jones to a non-Guidelines sentence of 324 months imprisonment with five years of supervised release for the drug offenses and 60 months imprisonment with three years of supervised release for the gun offense, to run concurrently. Re-Sentencing J. as to Lonnie Jones, ECF No. 2140, at 1.

         The Second Circuit affirmed this sentence and also indicated that Mr. Jones was not eligible under the Guidelines, as amended at the time, for a reduction in his sentence. United States v. Jones, 294 Fed.Appx. 624, 627-28 (2d Cir. 2008). The Court of Appeals reasoned that the applicable amendment Mr. Jones sought to invoke addressed crack cocaine but that the large quantity of heroin for which Mr. Jones was responsible would still trigger the same offense level, making the crack-to-powder cocaine ratio irrelevant. Id. (citations omitted).[2]

         Mr. Jones now moves, pro se, under Title 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) for retroactive application of Amendments 750 and 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Mot. to Reduce Sent., ECF No. 2427. In his motion, Mr. Jones seeks to reduce his prison sentence to 210 months. Id. at 6.

         For the following reasons, Mr. Jones' motion to reduce his sentence is DENIED.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Under section 3582(c)(2) of Title 18 of the United States Code, “a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission” may move for a reduction in his sentence. Upon such motion, a district court must follow a “two-step approach.” Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 826-27 (2010).

At step one, the court must consider whether the defendant is eligible for a reduction by calculating the Guidelines range that would have been applicable had the amended Guidelines been in place at the time the defendant originally was sentenced . . . . At step two . . ., § 3582(c)(2) instructs a court to consider any applicable § 3553(a) factors and determine whether, in its discretion, the reduction . . . is warranted in whole or in part under the particular circumstances of the case.

United States v. Bethea, 735 F.3d 86, 87 (2d Cir. 2013) (alterations in original) (citations omitted). The decision to reduce a sentence under an amended Guidelines provision, as well as to what extent, is at the discretion of the sentencing court. See United States v. Thomas, 361 Fed.Appx. 174, 175 (2d Cir. 2010) (“Where a defendant was sentenced based on a Guidelines sentencing range that a subsequent guideline amendment lowered, a district court has discretion pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) to reduce that defendant's term of imprisonment.”).

         II. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Jones first contends that he is eligible for a reduction in his sentence under Amendment 750 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Mot. to Reduce Sent. at 5.[3]Amendment 750 reduced the base offense level for certain quantities of crack cocaine, effective November 1, 2011. United States v. Erskine, 717 F.3d 131, 133 (2d Cir. 2013). Probation and the Government both argue that Mr. Jones is not eligible for a reduction in his sentence under this amendment. Retro-Crack Addendum to the Presentence Report 2, ECF No. 2371; Gov't. Memo. 1, ECF No. 2387. Mr. Jones also contends, and the Probation Office agrees, that he is eligible for a reduction under section 3582(c)(2) based on Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Mot. to Reduce Sent at 5, ECF No. 2427; Presentence Investigation Report, ECF No. 2428. The Court disagrees.

         Amendment 782, effective November 1, 2014, reduced by two levels the offense levels assigned to the quantities of controlled substances that trigger the statutory mandatory minimum penalties in U.S.S.G. section 2D1.1 and made parallel changes to section 2D1.11. United States v. Vargas, 74 F.Supp.3d 601, 602 (S.D.N.Y. 2015). The Government argues that Mr. Jones is not eligible for a reduction in his sentence because applying Amendment 782 does not lower ...


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