United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON FIRST STEP ACT MOTION
R. Underhill United States District Judge
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
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.
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.
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,  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.
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.
Eligibility for Relief
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. §
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.
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.
Scope of Relief
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 ...