United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING AND ORDER ON FIRST STEP ACT MOTION FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE OR RESENTENCING
A. BOLDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Richardson (“Defendant”) has moved for his
immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the
recently-enacted First Step Act. See Amended First
Step Act Motion for Immediate Release or Resentencing, dated
Apr. 16, 2019 (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 2494;
see also Memorandum in Support of Def.'s Mot.,
dated May 21, 2019 (“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No.
2504. He is currently serving a life sentence.
United States of America (the “Government”) has
opposed Mr. Richardson's motion. Government's
Opposition to Def.'s Mot., dated Jun. 18, 2019
(“Gov't Opp.”), ECF No. 2523.
September 6, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion.
Minute Entry, dated Sept. 6, 2019, ECF No. 2575.
reasons explained below, the Court (1)
GRANTS the motion; (2)
ORDERS that Mr. Richardson's sentence of
incarceration be REDUCED to TIME
SERVED; (3) 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.
Richardson's release. The Bureau of Prisons is directed
to proceed as expeditiously as possible so as to avoid any
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Richardson has been in federal custody for the last nineteen
years because of his role in “an extensive drug
trafficking enterprise in Bridgeport, Connecticut, ” in
the P.T. Barnum Housing Project in the late 1990s. United
States v. Jones, 294 Fed.Appx. 624, 626 (2d Cir. 2008)
(summary order). The factual background of that enterprise
has been described in multiple opinions rendered in this
District and by the Second Circuit. See, e.g.,
United States v. Luke Jones, 482 F.3d 60, 63-66 (2d
Cir. 2006) (detailing evidence as to the conspiracy
introduced at trial against Luke Jones, in light most
favorable to the Government); Lyle Jones v. United
States, No. 3:12-cv-601 (EBB), 2014 WL 6871198, at *4-5
(D. Conn. Dec. 5, 2014) (detailing evidence as to the
enterprise introduced at trial against Lyle Jones).
November 16, 1999, a federal grand jury returned a sealed,
multi-count indictment against Luke Jones, Lonnie Jones, and
Lance T. Jones. Sealed Indictment, dated Nov. 16, 1999, ECF
February 3, 2000, a federal grand jury returned a Superseding
Indictment against the three originally-named defendants, Mr.
Richardson, and ten other alleged members of the drug
trafficking enterprise. Superseding Indictment, dated Feb. 3,
2000, ECF No. 36. The superseding indictment charged Mr.
Richardson with knowingly and intentionally conspiring to
possess with intent to distribute and to distribute heroin,
cocaine, and cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 846, from January 1997 to December
1999 (Count One). Id.
23, 2000, Mr. Richardson was arraigned before Magistrate
Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons on the Superseding Indictment and
pleaded not guilty to the drug conspiracy charge.
See Docket Entries, dated May 23, 2000. Judge
Fitzsimmons ordered Mr. Richardson to be detained pending
trial. See id.
November 7, 2000, a federal grand jury returned a Second
Superseding Indictment against Mr. Richardson and the other
alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Second
Superseding Indictment, dated Nov. 7, 2000, ECF No. 455.
same day, Mr. Richardson was arraigned before Magistrate
Judge Fitzsimmons on the Second Superseding Indictment and
pleaded not guilty to the drug conspiracy charge. Minute
Entries, dated Nov. 7, 2000.
December 4, 2000, after a thirteen-day trial before United
States District Judge Alan H. Nevas, a jury convicted Mr.
Richardson of conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin,
cocaine, and cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A). Verdict Form,
dated Dec. 4, 2000, at 4. The jury found, as to quantity,
that Mr. Richardson's agreement to possess with intent to
distribute narcotics involved 1, 000 grams or more of a
mixture or substance containing heroin, 5, 000 grams or more
of a mixture or substance containing cocaine, and 50 grams or
more of a mixture or substance containing cocaine base.
See Id. at 4-6.
March 30, 2001, Judge Nevas sentenced Mr. Richardson to a
term of life imprisonment for conspiring to possess heroin,
cocaine, and cocaine base as well as distribution of the
same. Judgment, dated Mar. 30, 2001, ECF No. 639; see
also Transcript of Proceedings, dated Mar. 30, 2001
(“Sentencing Tr.”), ECF No. 683.
Richardson subsequently appealed his conspiracy conviction
and sentence on a number of grounds-all of which were
rejected by the Second Circuit on October 5, 2004. See
United States v. Jones, 111 Fed.Appx. 52, 56-57 (2d Cir.
2004) (rejecting juror disqualification, Eighth Amendment,
and ineffective assistance of counsel challenges to
conviction and sentence); see also United States v.
Lewis, 386 F.3d 475, 123 (2d Cir. 2004). But the Second
Circuit decided to withhold issuing a mandate until the
United States Supreme Court had heard and decided United
States v. Booker and United States v. Fanfan,
Nos. 04-104 & 04-105, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), both of which
were set to be argued in the fall of 2004. See
Lewis, 386 F.3d at 123- 24.
January 12, 2005, the Supreme Court decided Booker
and Fanfan, holding, in relevant part, that the
“provision of the federal sentencing statute that makes
the [United States Sentencing] Guidelines mandatory”
was incompatible with the Sixth Amendment and must be
severed-thereby rendering the guidelines “effectively
advisory.” Booker, 543 U.S. at 245.
February 2, 2005, the Second Circuit decided United
States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005),
establishing a process for implementing Booker by
providing that in cases “in which a sentencing judge,
prior to Booker/Fanfan, has committed a procedural
error in imposing a sentence, a remand to afford the judge an
opportunity to determine whether the original sentence would
have been nontrivially different under the
post-Booker/Fanfan regime will normally be necessary
to determine whether the error is harmless, or, if not
properly preserved, is available for review under plain error
analysis.” Crosby, 397 F.3d at 119.
February 16, 2005, the Government moved for summary
affirmance of Mr. Richardson's “sentence to a
mandatory minimum term of imprisonment” notwithstanding
Crosby. See Docket Entry, No. 01-1242 (CON)
(2d Cir. Feb. 16, 2005).
March 4, 2005, Mr. Richardson moved, pro se, for
appointment of counsel and remand under Crosby.
See Docket Entries, No. 01-1215 (L) (2d Cir. Mar. 7,
2005) (the motion was not received and entered on the docket
until March 7, 2005) See id.
March 7, 2005, the Second Circuit granted the
Government's motion for summary affirmance of Mr.
Richardson's sentence. Order, No. 01-1242 (2d Cir. Mar.
March 23, 2005, the Second Circuit granted Mr.
Richardson's motions, appointing counsel for the
“limited purpose of filing a letter brief, which is to
be single-spaced and no more than five pages, on the issue of
whether the sentence should be remanded under
[Booker] and [Crosby].” Order, Nos.
01-1215 (L) & 01-1242 (2d Cir. Mar. 23, 2005).
April 27, 2005, Mr. Richardson filed a letter brief, in which
his court-appointed counsel argued that a remand should issue
because Judge Nevas had not followed the correct procedure
under 21 U.S.C. § 851(b), in that he failed to conduct
any inquiry into whether Mr. Richardson has affirmed or
denied the Government's allegations in its career
offender notice filed under 21 U.S.C. § 851.
See Letter Brief, No. 01-1215 (L) (2d Cir. Apr. 27,
2005). Counsel noted, however, that Mr. Richardson's
challenge to the basis for those convictions “entails
circumstances that are beyond the scope of the present Record
on Appeal and will require further investigation and
presentation of facts in the district court.”
Id. at 4 n.3. Counsel explained that conducting such
an investigation went beyond the scope of his limited
August 16, 2005, the Second Circuit denied Mr.
Richardson's motion to reconsider its summary affirmance
of his sentence because (1) Mr. Richardson had failed to
raise his § 851(b) objection at sentencing, and it was
therefore reviewable only for plain error under Federal Rule
of Criminal Procedure 52(b); and (2) Mr. Richardson could not
demonstrate plain error because he has “not adduced any
evidence suggesting that he can dispute his prior
convictions” and therefore could not show that Judge
Nevas's error affected his substantial rights. Order,
Nos. 01-1215 (L) & 01-1242 (CON) (2d Cir. Aug. 16, 2005).
August 7, 2006, Mr. Richardson petitioned, pro se,
to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence under 28 U.S.C.
§ 2255, renewing the procedural error arguments made
with respect to the Government's career offender notice.
Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence (2255), dated
Jan. 27, 2010, No. 3:10-cv-130 (PCD), ECF No. 1.
March 21, 2007, the judge assigned to the petition, United
States District Judge Ellen Bree Burns, denied Mr.
Richardson's petition, finding, inter alia, that
his 1997 conviction was properly construed as a prior
conviction for purposes of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A).
See Ruling, dated Mar. 21, 2007, No. 3:16-cv-1227
(EBB), ECF No. 18 at 4-7. Judge Burns declined to issue a
certificate of appealability, finding that Mr. Richardson had
not demonstrated the denial of a constitutional right.
Id. at 12.
Richardson appealed, pro se, the denial of a
certificate of appealability. Notice of Appeal, dated July
27, 2007, No. 3:16-cv-1227 (EBB), ECF No. 21. On February 25,
2009, the Second Circuit denied that appeal. Mandate, dated
Feb. 25, 2009, No. 3:16-cv-1227 (EBB), ECF No. 24.
19, 2008, Mr. Richardson moved, pro se, for a
reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2),
arguing that he was sentenced based on a sentencing range
that was subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission
through Amendment 706 to the Sentencing Guidelines. Motion to
Reduce Sentence, dated Jun. 19, 2008, ECF No. 2249.
November 25, 2009, Judge Burns denied Mr. Richardson's
motion for a reduction of sentence, finding that he was not
eligible for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(2) because “[e]ven if Richardson's
guideline sentencing range was lowered by virtue of Amendment
706, Richardson would not be eligible for relief under 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) because the entire term of his
sentence represents a statutory mandatory minimum.”
United States v. Richardson, No. 99-cr-264 (EBB),
2009 WL 10711651, at *2 (D. Conn. Nov. 25, 2009).
Richardson appealed Judge Burns's decision; the Second
Circuit denied his appeal on November 30, 2010. United
States v. Jones, 408 Fed.Appx. 416, 419-20 (2d Cir.
December 17, 2010, Mr. Richardson moved, pro se, for
a reduction of his sentence under 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(B), arguing that his sentence “was imposed
in violation of law because: (1) the sentencing court did not
comply with the procedural requirements of § 851; (2)
the government did not adequately prove that his prior
convictions qualified under § 851; (3) one of his prior
convictions did not qualify as a prior conviction for
purposes of an enhancement under § 851; and (4) the
Second Circuit's decision in Savage v. United
States, 542 F.3d 959 (2d Cir. 2008) should be applied
retroactively to his sentence.” Motion to Reduce
Sentence, dated Dec. 17, 2010, ECF No. 2341.
February 10, 2012, Judge Burns denied that motion in light of
the Second Circuit's 2010 holding. United States v.
Richardson, No. 99-cr-264 (EBB), 2012 WL 13128202, at *2
(D. Conn. Feb. 10, 2012) (citing Jones, 408
Fed.Appx. at 419-20).
Richardson appealed Judge Burns's decision; the Second
Circuit denied his appeal on October 26, 2012. See
Mandate, filed Feb. 20, 2013, ECF No. 2397.
December 21, 2018, Congress passed, and the President 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. Medina, No.
3:05-cr-58 (SRU), 2019 WL 3769598, at *2 (D. Conn. July 17,
February 13, 2019, Mr. Richardson moved, pro se, for
his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of
the First Step Act. See First Step Act Motion for