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United States v. Powell

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 3, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
QUINNE POWELL, Defendant.

          ORDER AND RULING ON FIRST STEP ACT MOTION FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE OR RESENTENCING

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Quinne Powell (“Defendant”) moves for his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the recently-enacted First Step Act. See Motion for Relief Under the Retroactive First Step Act, dated Jan. 4, 2019 (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 2473; see also Memorandum in Support of First Step Act Motion, dated June 28, 2019 (“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 2525. Currently, Mr. Powell is serving five concurrent life sentences of imprisonment, see Judgment as to Quinne Powell, dated June 6, 2005 (“Judgment”), ECF No. 2002, and is incarcerated at FCI Hazelton in Bruceton Mills, West Virginia. See First Step Act of 2018 Addendum to the Presentence Report, dated May 17, 2019 (“First Step Supp. PSR”), ECF No. 2502 at 4.

         The United States of America (the “Government”) opposes Mr. Powell's motion. Government's Opposition to Def.'s Mot., dated Aug. 9, 2019 (“Gov't Opp.”), ECF No. 2550.

         On September 10, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion. Minute Entry, dated Sept. 9, 2019, ECF No. 2577.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court (1) GRANTS the motion for relief under the First Step Act; (2) ORDERS that Mr. Powell's sentence of incarceration be REDUCED to TIME SERVED; (3) RE-IMPOSES a term of supervised release of FIVE (5) YEARS. The Bureau of Prisons is authorized to delay execution of this Order for up to ten (10) days after its issuance so that the Bureau may make necessary arrangements related to Mr. Powell's release. The Bureau of Prisons is directed to proceed as expeditiously as possible so as to avoid any unnecessary delay.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Because of his involvement with and leadership of an extensive and violent drug trafficking enterprise in Bridgeport, CT, see Gov't Opp. at 1, Mr. Powell has been in federal custody for about nineteen years.

         On October 16, 2003, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Powell and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise on various conspiracy charges and racketeering acts. See Seventh Superseding Indictment, dated Oct. 16, 2003, ECF No. 1560.

         On June 3, 2005, after a month-long trial in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut before the Honorable Alan H. Nevas, a jury convicted Mr. Powell of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), Racketeering in Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”) (Count One); 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), RICO Conspiracy (Count Two); 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(A), and 846, Conspiracy to Possess With Intent to Distribute 50 Grams or More of Cocaine Base (Counts Three, Four, and Six); 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3), Obstruction of Justice and Witness Tampering (Counts Nine and Twelve); and 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1), Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering (Count Thirteen). Jury Verdict, dated June 6, 2005, ECF No. 1860.

         The jury found Mr. Powell guilty of various racketeering acts underlying Count One: several different drug conspiracies, conspiracy to murder the Trumbull Gardens Terrace (“the Terrace”) crew members and associates, and obstruction and witness tampering. Jury Verdict at 1-3. They did not find him guilty of conspiracy to murder or the attempted murder of Jermaine Jenkins under Racketeering Act 2, nor they find him guilty of Racketeering Act 4, which was the murder of Kevin Guiles and the attempted murders of Brian Matthews or Kendall Willis. Id. at 2-3. Additionally, the jury agreed that the defendant was guilty of possessing 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, but they did not agree on a specific quantity. Id. at 4 (handwritten “unable to agree” next to the quantity indicators).

         On December 21, 2005, Judge Nevas sentenced Mr. Powell to the maximum of life imprisonment on Counts One, Two, Three, Four and Six; ten years imprisonment on Counts Nine and Twelve; and twenty years imprisonment on Count Thirteen. See Judgment. The terms of imprisonment were to all run concurrently with each other. Id. Judge Nevas also imposed a fine of $100, 000. Id.

         On January 9, 2006, Mr. Powell appealed his conviction and sentence. Notice of Appeal, dated Jan. 9, 2006, ECF No. 2006. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, but remanded the case back to the District Court in order to clarify the basis for imposing a fine on Mr. Powell. United States v. Walker, 262 Fed.Appx. 303, 309 (2d Cir. 2008) (finding that the District Court erred in imposing the fine without explaining the reasons for the fine or why it found that Mr. Powell had the ability to pay the fine).

         Subsequently, on April 10, 2008, Judge Nevas amended the judgment and eliminated the $100, 000 fine. See Amended Judgment, dated April 10, 2008, ECF No. 2135.

         Over the years, Mr. Powell has pursued various forms of relief in the civil and criminal justice systems, all of which were unsuccessful. See Ruling on Petitioner's Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence, dated June 2, 2011, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF No. 21; Consolidated Ruling, dated Aug. 30, 2012, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF. No. 36; Order Denying Motion for Intervening Authority, dated Jan. 6, 2014, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF No. 41; Ruling Denying Motion to Alter Judgment and Amend Judgment, dated Jan. 8, 2014; Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF. No. 42; Order and Ruling Denying Motion for Reconsideration and Denying Motion for Hearing, dated Oct. 10, 2014, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF No. 45; Order Denying Motion for Certificate of Appealability, dated Dec. 29, 2014, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF No. 51; Mandate of USCA, dated May 20, 2015, Powell v. United States, No. 9-cv-2141, ECF No. 53.

         On December 21, 2018, Congress passed, and the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, signed into law, the First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (hereafter, the “First Step Act”), which “made retroactive some provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act [of 2010, Pub. L. 111-220; 124 Stat. 2372].” United States v. Bobby Medina, No. 3:05-cr-58, 2019 WL 3769598, at *2 (D. Conn. July 17, 2019).

         On January 4, 2019, Mr. Powell moved for his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step Act. See Def.'s Mot.

         On May 17, 2019, the U.S. Probation Office filed a supplemental Pre-Sentencing Report, and took the position that Mr. Jones was not entitled to relief under the First Step Act. See First Step Supp. PSR.

         On June 28, 2019, Mr. Powell filed a memorandum in support of his motion. Def.'s Mem.

         On August 9, 2019, the Government opposed Mr. Powell's motion. Gov't Opp.

         On August 23, 2019, Mr. Powell filed a reply in further support of his motion. Reply Memorandum in Further Support of First Step Act Motion, dated Aug. 23, 2019 (“Def.'s Reply”), ECF No. 2557.

         During his period of incarceration, Mr. Powell has participated in and received certificates indicating the completion of thirty-eight programs. See Def.'s Reply at 16 (referring to Exhibit 3's Bureau of Prisons Progress Report and Exhibit 4, which includes the different certificates). He also has not received a single disciplinary citation. Def.'s Mem. at 1, 6.

         On September 10, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion. Minute Entry, dated Sept. 9, 2019, ECF No. 2577.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Enacted in 2018, “Section 404 of the First Step Act authorizes retroactive application of Sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act to defendants who were sentenced for crack cocaine offenses committed prior to August 3, 2010.” United States v. Jamel Williams (“J. Williams”), No. 03-CR-795, 2019 WL 3842597, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 15, 2019). The Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 “‘reduced [future] statutory penalties for cocaine base[] offenses' in order to ‘alleviate the severe sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.'” Medina, 2019 WL 3769598, at *3 (quoting U.S. v. Sampson, 360 F.Supp.3d 168, 169 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2019)); see also Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 220; 124 Stat. 2372.

         “Specifically, section 404 of the First Step Act permits ‘a court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense' to ‘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.'” United States v. Lawrence Williams (“L. Williams”), No. 03-CR-1334, 2019 WL 2865226, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 3, 2019) (quoting First Step Act § 404).

         “The First Step Act does not mandate sentence reductions for defendants” who are eligible for relief. United States v. Glore, 371 F.Supp.3d 524, 527 (E.D. Wis. Mar. 6, 2019). Instead, “it leaves to the court's discretion whether to reduce their sentences.” Id.; see also UnitedStates v. Rose, 379 F.Supp.3d 223, 233 (S.D.N.Y. May 24, 2019) (“Congress clearly intended relief under § 404 of the First Step Act to be discretionary, as the Act specifically provides that ‘[n]othing in this ...


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