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United States v. Adams

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 20, 2019

UNITED STATES
v.
GARRY ADAMS

          RULING ON FIRST STEP ACT MOTION

          Stefan R. Underhill United States District Judge

         The defendant, Garry Adams, pled guilty on October 29, 2004 to a two-count indictment charging him with (1) possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base and (2) possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. On May 2, 2005, Adams was sentenced to 210 months' imprisonment on each count, with the terms to run concurrently. He now seeks relief under the First Step Act and requests to be immediately released or, in the alternative, to be resentenced. See First Step Act Motion (“FSA Mot.”), Doc. No. 68. The government opposes the motion, arguing that Adams' sentence on Count Two is not a “covered offense” within the meaning of the First Step Act. See Opp. to FSA Mot., Doc. No. 73. For the reasons that follow, Adams' motion is granted, and he is granted immediate release.

         I. Background

         On October 29, 2004, Adams pled guilty to Count One and Count Two of a two-count indictment. See Minute Entry, Doc. No. 40. He was charged in Count One with possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(B). See Judgment, Doc. No. 61. In Count Two, he was charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e). Id. In the plea agreement, the parties stipulated to a quantity of 14.9 grams of cocaine base, known as “crack cocaine.” See Plea Agreement, Doc. No. 41 at 10.

         The parties agreed that on June 30, 2004, Adams knowingly and intentionally possessed five grams or more of crack cocaine, with the intent to distribute the narcotics in question. Id. at 1-2. The parties also agreed that prior to June 30, 2004, Adams had been convicted of a felony, and that on or about that date he knowingly possessed a firearm and ammunition that had traveled in interstate or foreign commerce. Id. at 2. The plea agreement provided that if Adams accepted responsibility for the offenses, the government would recommend a two-point downward adjustment. Id. at 5. In addition, the government agreed not to file a second-offender notice regarding Count One, which would have increased the statutory mandatory minimum penalty from 5 to 10 years' imprisonment and the maximum penalty from 40 years' imprisonment to life. See Opp. to FSA Mot. at 3. The parties stipulated that Adams was a career offender on Count One and an armed career criminal on Count Two. See Plea Agreement at 5-6.

         Adams appeared before me for sentencing on May 2, 2005. See Minute Entry, Doc. No. 60. I adopted the guideline range set forth in the presentence report, predicated on a base offense level of 26, with two levels added for the possession of a firearm on the narcotics offense. Sentencing Tr., Doc. No. 64 at 7. The base offense level increased to 34 because Adams was both a career offender and armed career criminal, resulting in a guideline range of 210 to 262 months' imprisonment. Id. I accepted the binding plea agreement and sentenced Adams to 210 months' imprisonment on each count, to run concurrently, followed by five years of supervised release. Id. at 36. Adams has served approximately 181 months of his sentence, [1] which is one month more than the 15-year mandatory minimum on Count Two. See Mem. in Supp. FSA Mot., Doc. No. 72 at 2.

         On April 5, 2019, Adams filed a motion to reduce his sentence under the recently passed First Step Act. He seeks immediate release or a resentencing hearing. FSA Mot. at 1. On April 18, 2019, the U.S. Probation Office filed a supplemental addendum to the Presentence Investigative Report regarding Adams' eligibility for First Step Act relief. See PSR Addendum, Doc. No. 69. The government filed its opposition to Adams' motion on June 5, 2019. See Opp. to FSA Mot.

         II. Discussion

         A. Eligibility for Relief

         After Adams' sentencing, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. Law 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372, which “‘reduced the statutory penalties for cocaine base [] offenses' in order to ‘alleviate the severe sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.'” United States v. Sampson, 360 F.2d 168, 169 (W.D.N.Y. 2019) (quoting United States v. Peters, 843 F.3d 572, 575 (4th Cir. 2016)). In 2018, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194. Section 404 of the First Step Act made retroactive some provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act. Id. First Step Act relief is available to those convicted of a “covered offense, ” which Section 404 defines as “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 …, that was committed before August 3, 2010.” First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 § 404(a). Section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act changed the penalty structure for crack cocaine offenses, under both 21 U.S.C. § 841(b) and 21 U.S.C. § 960(b).

         Relevant to Adams' case, the Fair Sentencing Act modified the penalties for a crime involving less than 28 grams of crack cocaine. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b); PL 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372. Adams was charged with a drug offense involving five grams or more of crack cocaine, and the parties stipulated that the offense conduct involved 14.9 grams of crack cocaine. See Plea Agreement at 10. I adopted that quantity stipulation at sentencing. See Sentencing Tr. at 2- 4. If the statutory penalties for a five-gram crack offense had been in effect at the time Adams committed his crime, he would have been subject to the 0 to 20-year statutory penalties of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C), rather than the 5 to 40-year range of 21 U.S.C.§ 841(b)(1)(B). Both parties agree that Adams is eligible for a reduced sentence on Count One because it is a covered offense under the First Step Act.

         Accordingly, Adams is eligible for relief because he was convicted of a covered offense that was committed before August 3, 2010. His conviction on Count One was based on his violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B), the statutory penalties for which were reduced by section 2 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. See Judgment, Doc. No. 61.

         B. Scope of Relief

         The First Step Act contains a broad grant of authority to “impose a reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 were in effect” at the time of the commission of the offense. First Step Act § 404(b). The court has discretion in granting relief under the First Step Act. See First Step Act § 404(c) (“Nothing in this ...


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