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United States v. Daniels

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 4, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
RICHARD DANIELS

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S PETITION FOR RELIEF PURSUANT TO FIRST STEP ACT

          JANET BOND ARTERTON, JUDGE

         Defendant Richard Daniels petitions for modification of his sentence under the First Step Act, (Def.'s Pet. [Doc. # 871]), which the Government opposes, (Govt. Resp. [Doc. # 872]). For the reasons that follow, Defendant's petition is denied without prejudice.

         I. Background

         On August 29, 2012, Defendant Richard Daniels was convicted by jury of Counts One and Two of the Third Superseding Indictment, which charged him with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute narcotics, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, and conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises within 1000 feet of a school and a housing facility, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 860. (Jury Verdict [Doc. # 544]; Third Superseding Indictment [Doc. # 349].)

         Defendant was initially sentenced to be imprisoned for 228 months on both counts, running concurrently, and to 120 months of supervised release on both counts, running concurrently. (Judgment [Doc. # 727].) Mr. Daniels moved to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial attorney. (Mot. to Vacate Sentence, Daniels v. United States of America, No. 3:15cvl551(JBA) (D. Conn. Oct. 26, 2015).) Mr. Daniels and the Government reached an agreement to resolve that proceeding which recognized that the "judgment and sentence in this case is open to collateral attack" because there was "an insufficient record to establish that the ramifications of rejecting a plea agreement and proceeding to trial were fully explained to and/or understood by Daniels." (Stip. for Re-Sentencing [Doc. # 844] at 2.) The parties agreed that the Court should vacate the judgment in this case and resentence Mr. Daniels, that at re-sentencing the applicable guidelines range should be 120 to 135 months' imprisonment, and that Mr. Daniels would be subject to a statutory mandatory minimum sentence often years' imprisonment. (Id. at 4-5.) On June 24, 2016, Mr. Daniels was re-sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment on both counts, running concurrently, and to 60 months of supervised release on Count One and 120 months of supervised release on Count Two, running concurrently. (Amended Judgment [Doc. # 847-1].)

         The First Step Act of 2018 amends 18 U.S.C. § 3624(b) to alter the method by which the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) must calculate a prisoner's "good conduct time credits." (Govt. Resp. at 1.) Prior to the First Step Act, calculation of good time credit by the BOP was based on the sentence an inmate actually serves, making 47 days per year the maximum amount of good time credit a prisoner could earn. (Id. at 1-2; Def. Pet. at 2-3.) Pursuant lo the First Step Act, good time credit will be calculated based on the sentence imposed, not on the sentence an inmate actually serves, making 54 days per year the maximum amount of good time credit a prisoner could earn. FIRST STEP ACT OF 2018, PL 115-391, December 21, 2018, 132 Stat 5194. (See also Govt. Resp. at 1-2; Def. Pet. at 2-3.)

         Mr. Daniels argues that this amendment by the First Step Act to the method of calculating good time became effective immediately upon signature by the President and therefore requires recalculation of his good time credit earned. (Def. Pet. at 2.) The Government argues that this portion of the First Step Act is not yet in effect and therefore does not impact the current calculation of Mr. Daniels' good time credit. (Govt. Resp. at 1-2.)

         Based on the method of calculation of good time credit in place prior to the First Step Act, Mr. Daniels' projected release date is currently September 21, 2019. (Def.'s Pet. at 1; Federal Bureau of Prisons, Find an inmate., https://www.bop.gov/inmateloc/.) Mr. Daniels believes that if the new method of calculation of good time credit is used, his projected release date is July 12, 2019 and his "Home Confinement Date" is February 2019. (Id.)

         II. Discussion

         Section 101(a) of the First Step Act amends 18 U.S.C. § 229 to direct the Attorney General to review and develop prisoner risk and needs assessment systems and programs. FIRST STEP ACT OF 2018, PL 115-391, December 21, 2018, 132 Stat 5194. It then directs the Attorney General to "develop and release publicly on the Department of Justice website a risk and needs assessment system" "[n]ot later than 210 days after the enactment of this subchapter." Id.

         Section 102(b)(1)(A) amends 18 U.S.C. § 3624 in the following way:

in subsection (b)(1)-
(i) by striking ", beyond the time served, of up to 54 days at the end of each year of the prisoner's term of imprisonment, beginning at the end of the first year of the term," and inserting "of up to 54 days for each year of the prisoner's sentence imposed by the court, "; and
(ii) by striking "credit for the last year or portion of a year of the term of imprisonment shall be prorated and credited within the last six weeks of the sentence" and inserting "credit for the last year of a term of imprisonment shall be credited on the first day of the ...

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