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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 7, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LYLE JONES, Defendant. 28

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

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Lyle Jones (“Defendant”) moves for his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the recently-enacted First Step Act. See First Step Act Motion for Immediate Release or Resentencing, dated May 29, 2019 (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 2508; see also Memorandum in Support of Def.'s Mot., dated July 3, 2019 (“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 2527. Mr. Jones is currently serving three concurrent life sentences. He has most recently been incarcerated at Gilmer Federal Correctional Institution in Glenville, West Virginia. See Def.'s Mem. at 9, 26.

         The United States of America (the “Government”) has opposed Mr. Jones's motion. Government's Opposition to Def.'s Mot., dated Aug. 9, 2019 (“Gov't Opp.”), ECF No. 2552.

         On September 4, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the motion. Minute Entry, dated Sept. 4, 2019, ECF No. 2572.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court (1) GRANTS the motion; (2) ORDERS that Mr. Jones'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. Jones'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

         For nearly the last twenty years, Mr. Jones has been in prison for 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); see also United States v. Luke Jones, 482 F.3d 60, 63-66 (2d Cir. 2006) (detailing evidence as to the conspiracy introduced at trial against Mr. Jones's uncle, 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 Mr. Jones).

         On 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 No. 1.

         On February 3, 2000, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment against the three originally-named defendants, Lyle Jones, and ten other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Superseding Indictment, dated Feb. 3, 2000, ECF No. 36. The superseding indictment charged Lyle Jones 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.

         On March 9, 2000, Mr. Jones appeared before U.S Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons for his arraignment on the superseding indictment and pleaded not guilty to the drug conspiracy charge. See Docket Entry, dated Mar. 9, 2000, ECF No. 88.

         On November 7, 2000, a federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment against Mr. Jones and the other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Second Superseding Indictment, dated Nov. 7, 2000, ECF No. 455; On January 5, 2001, a federal grand jury returned a third superseding indictment against Mr. Jones and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Third Superseding Indictment, dated Jan. 5, 2001, ECF No. 538. This indictment also charged Mr. Jones with violent crimes in aid of racketeering activity, including: (1) conspiracy to murder Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy) and 53a-54a (murder), and 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder), id. at Count Five; (2) attempted murder of Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-49(a) (attempt) and 53a-54a (murder), 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Six; and (3) knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Seven.

         On January 12, 2001, Mr. Jones appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Fitzsimmons to be arraigned again and pleaded not guilty to Counts One, Five, Six, and Seven in the third superseding indictment. See Minute Entry, dated Jan. 12, 2001, ECF No. 543.

         On April 19, 2001, a federal grand jury returned a fourth superseding indictment against Mr. Jones and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Fourth Superseding Indictment, dated Apr. 19, 2001, ECF No. 694. This indictment charged Mr. Jones with the following racketeering acts in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c): (1) conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base in the “Middle Court” area of the P.T. Barnum Housing Project, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, id. at Count One, Racketeering Act 1-A, ¶¶ 14-15; (2) conspiracy to murder members and associates of a rival gang known as “the Foundation, ” in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy) and 53a-54a (murder), id. at Count One, Racketeering Act 4, ¶ 21; and (3) attempted murder and conspiracy to murder Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy), 53a-49(a) (attempt), and 53a-54a (murder), id. at Count One, Racketeering Acts 5, 5-A, and 5-B, ¶¶ 22-24.

         The Fourth Superseding Indictment also charged him with the following crimes: (1) RICO conspiracy to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the Enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), id. at Count Two; (2) 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 February 24, 2000, id. at Count Three; (3) conspiracy to murder Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy) and 53a-54a (murder), and 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder), id. at Count Ten; (4) attempted murder of Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-49(a) (attempt) and 53a-54a (murder), 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Eleven; (5) and knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to the attempted murder of Lawson Day, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Twelve.

         On May 16, 2001, Mr. Jones appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Fitzsimmons for another arraignment and pleaded not guilty to Counts One, Two, Three, Ten, Eleven, and Twelve of the fourth superseding indictment.

         On December 20, 2001, a federal grand jury returned a fifth superseding indictment against Mr. Jones and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise. Fifth Superseding Indictment, dated Dec. 20, 2001, ECF No. 813. This indictment charged Mr. Jones with the following racketeering acts, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c): (1) conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base in the “Middle Court” area of the P.T. Barnum Housing Project, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, id. at Count One, Racketeering Act 1-C, ¶ 24; (2) conspiracy to murder members and associates of a rival gang known as “the Foundation, ” in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy) and 53a-54a (murder), id. at Count One, Racketeering Act 9, ¶ 41; (3) attempted murder and conspiracy to murder Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy), 53a-49(a) (attempt), and 53a-54a (murder), id. at Count One, Racketeering Acts 10, 10-A, and 10-B, ¶¶ 42-44; and (4) obstruction/tampering with a witness, Person #3, on May 17, 2001, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(3), id. at Count One, Racketeering Act 15, ¶ 51.

         It also charged him with the following crimes: (1) RICO conspiracy to conduct and participate, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the Enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), id. at Count Two; (2) 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 February 24, 2000, id. at Count Five; (3) conspiracy to murder Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-48(a) (conspiracy) and 53a-54a (murder), and 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder), id. at Count Eighteen; (4) attempted murder of Lawson Day, in violation of Connecticut General Statutes §§ 53a-49(a) (attempt) and 53a-54a (murder), 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5) (attempting or conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping), and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Nineteen; (5) and knowingly using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to the attempted murder of Lawson Day, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 (aiding and abetting commission of offense against United States punishable as principal), id. at Count Twenty; and (6) knowingly attempting to intimidate, threaten, and use physical force against Person #3 with intent to cause and induce them to withhold testimony from the grand jury and the court, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(2)(A) and (i), id. at Count Twenty-Nine.

         On January 25, 2002, Mr. Jones appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Fitzsimmons for another arraignment and pleaded not guilty to Counts One, Two, Five, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, and Twenty-Nine of the fifth superseding indictment.

         From February 24, 2000 until his trial, Mr. Jones remained in pre-trial detention.

         On October 10, 2002, United States District Judge Alan H. Nevas granted the Government's motion to dismiss Count Twenty-Nine and Racketeering Act 15, charging Mr. Jones with obstruction/tampering with a witness. See Docket Entries, dated Oct. 10, 2002.

         On November 20, 2002, after a twenty-day jury trial, Judge Nevas declared a mistrial. See Docket Entry, dated Nov. 20, 2002, ECF No. 1259.

         On December 3, 2002, Mr. Jones's case was transferred to United States District Judge Peter C. Dorsey. Order of Transfer, dated Dec. 3, 2002, ECF No. 1263.

         On April 24, 2003, after a thirty-day jury trial spanning seven weeks before Judge Dorsey, a jury convicted Mr. Jones of Count One (RICO Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)), finding that the Government had proven his involvement in Racketeering Act 1-C, the Middle Court drug conspiracy, and Racketeering Act 9, conspiracy to murder Foundation members and associates. The jury did not reach agreement, however, as to whether the Government had proven Racketeering Acts 10-A (conspiracy to murder Lawson Day) and 10-B (attempted murder of Lawson Day). See Verdict Form, filed Apr. 24, 2003, ECF No. 1408, at 1-4.

         The jury also convicted Mr. Jones of Count Two (RICO Conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d)) and Count Five (conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base). Id. at 5-6. With respect to quantity, the jury found that Mr. Jones's agreement to possess with intent to distribute involved 1, 000 grams or more of heroin and 50 grams or more of cocaine base, but only a mixture or substance containing a “detectable amount” of cocaine. Id. at 6-7.

         The jury did not reach agreement as to Mr. Jones's guilt for Counts Eighteen (conspiracy to murder Lawson Day) and Nineteen (attempted murder of Lawson Day). Id. at 21-22. The jury acquitted Mr. Jones of Count Twenty (use of a firearm in relation to the attempted murder of Lawson Day). Id. at 22. Judge Dorsey declared a mistrial as to Mr. Jones for Counts Eighteen and Nineteen. Docket Entry, dated Apr. 24, 2003.

         On September 3, 2003, under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines, Judge Dorsey sentenced Mr. Jones to (1) life imprisonment without parole on Count One (RICO Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), for the racketeering acts of the Middle Court drug conspiracy and the conspiracy to murder Foundation members and associates); (2) life imprisonment without parole on Count Two (RICO Conspiracy in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d), for participating, directly and indirectly, in the conduct of the affairs of the Enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity); and (3) life imprisonment without parole on Count Five (conspiracy to distribute and distribution of more than 1, 000 grams of heroin and 50 grams of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A), and 846. Judgment, dated Sept. 3, 2003, ECF No. 1491; see also Transcript of Proceedings, filed Oct. 10, 2003 (“Sentencing Tr.”), ECF No. 1517, at 23:2-19. All three sentences were to run concurrently with one another. See id. Judge Dorsey also assessed a $300 special assessment and ordered Mr. Jones ineligible for benefits in accordance with 21 U.S.C. § 862. Sentencing Tr. 23:20-24:4.

         In imposing this sentence, Judge Dorsey said the following to Mr. Jones:

Life is a long sentence, ‘'m fully aware of that, and I am not entirely content and at ease with a dead end sentence that you face, but as I said to Mr. Leonard Jones, if you in some way can establish through your conduct, in the meantime, your eligibility under a possibility of some kind of other relief in the form of a pardon or commutation of your sentence, you have the power to qualify yourself in that respect by virtue of your conduct in the meantime.
Whether you do that or not is up to you, but I just point that out as something that you might keep in mind. That doesn't give you any guarantees 'cause I don't make the decision, but on the other hand, it is not something that is beyond the realm of possibilities, and if you want a copy of the regulation, Mr. Bashir, that that is discussed in, Mr. Lopez has a copy of it and he can make it available to you.

Sentencing Tr. at 26:4-21.

         Mr. Jones subsequently appealed, challenging the sufficiency of evidence underlying his conviction on the murder conspiracy charge. On October 20, 2008, the Second Circuit rejected his challenges, affirming the judgment of conviction. See United States v. Jones, 296 Fed.Appx. 179, 181-82 (2d Cir. 2008) (“[T]he jury's finding that Lyle Jones and Nunley conspired to murder members of a rival gang known as the “Foundation” in an effort to protect the Jones organization's narcotics distribution business is also supported by the evidence presented at trial.”). The Second Circuit also rejected his arguments challenging the “methodology set forth in the pre-sentence report (“PSR”) and adopted by the District Court for determining the quantities of crack and heroin distributed by the Jones organization, ” finding that because those arguments were not raised in the District Court, they were effectively waived. Id. at 183.

         But because Mr. Jones's sentence was imposed under the mandatory Sentencing Guidelines before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), the Second Circuit remanded his case back to Judge Dorsey for consideration of whether they should be resentenced, consistent with its decision in United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005). Id. at 184.

         On April 13, 2009, Judge Dorsey ordered the Government and Mr. Jones to show cause “as to whether this Court should impose new sentences pursuant to Crosby and as to whether a hearing for re-sentencing should be held” in Mr. Jones's presence. Order to Show Cause, dated Apr. 13, 2009, ECF No. 2287.

         On June 2, 2009, Mr. Jones filed a memorandum in response to the Order to Show Cause, arguing that he should be re-sentenced under Booker and Crosby. See Memorandum in Support of Re-Sentencing, dated June 2, 2009, ECF No. 2296. Mr. Jones argued that his life sentence was imposed “largely because of a PSR guesstimate that he was responsible for 140.4 kilograms of cocaine base that purportedly were distributed between 1996 and 1999, ” id. at 7, and that multiple factors-including the fact that many of his co-conspirators had received post-Booker sentence reductions-weighed in favor of re-sentencing, see Id. at 8-25. He also requested the opportunity to address the Court personally at a re-sentencing so he could “demonstrate that he fully has accepted responsibility for his involvement in the conspiracy, and that he continues to work diligently to make something positive of his life.” Id. at 25-26.

         On June 17, 2009, the Government filed a memorandum opposing re-sentencing. See Government's Memorandum in Aid of Post-Crosby Proceedings on Remand, dated June 17, 2009, ECF No. 2301, at 8-9 (“In light of the district court's careful consideration of all of the applicable sentencing issues raised by the defendant, and its having presided over a seven-week trial and reviewed the record evidence in its determination that the Guidelines were appropriately calculated at life - including the consideration that even without several of the adjustments the defendant's Guidelines did not change - there is simply no compelling reason to revisit the Court's sentence with a resentencing. The record is devoid of any express comment or suggestion by the Court that it was somehow constrained by the Guidelines, or that it would have reached different conclusions or arrived at a different sentence if the Court were not constrained by the then-mandatory nature of the Sentencing Guidelines.”).

         On August 11, 2009, Judge Dorsey issued a short order declining to re-sentence Mr. Jones:

Defendant's motion for re-sentencing is denied.
Though the sentencing guidelines are now required to be considered and are not mandatory as at the time of the original sentencing, upon full review of the record of this case and the pending motion, the factors in the record as rated at the original sentencing remain to be considered now and after consideration there is no basis found from imposing any different sentence even though the guidelines are now only advisory. Accordingly the sentence originally imposed will not be reduced.

         Order re: Reduction of Sentence re: Crack Cocaine Offense, dated Aug. 11, 2009, ECF No.

         On August 19, 2009, Mr. Jones appealed Judge Dorsey's refusal to re-sentence him. Notice of Appeal, dated Aug. 19, 2001, ECF No. 2310.

         On November 30, 2010, the Second Circuit affirmed his sentence, rejecting Mr. Jones's various arguments that Judge Dorsey's decision was procedurally or substantively unreasonable:

Jones first claims that the district court erred on remand in failing to resolve objections raised at his original sentencing hearing to certain aspects of his Presentence Report. Specifically, he objected to (1) the two-level increase in his offense level for Obstruction of Justice pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1; (2) the two-level increase in his offense level for the “Use of a Minor” pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3(a)(1)(A) & (B) and § 3B1.4; (3) the three criminal history points added pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 4A1.1(d) and 4A1.1(e) because he committed the charged offense while on parole and within two years of release from a previous term of incarceration; and (4) the three criminal history points added for a 1995 state narcotics conviction that he argued should have been considered part of the conduct of conviction. While these objections were raised at the original sentencing hearing, the district court's failure to resolve them was not challenged on appeal. As a result, Jones is precluded by the law of the case doctrine from raising them now.
The district judge, having presided over the original sentencing in this case, was well aware of the “nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant.” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1). He indicated that he was aware that the Guidelines were now advisory and that he had fully reviewed the record and the parties' submissions in deciding that there was no reason presented to impose a different sentence in this case. As the district judge said in explaining his decision not to resentence, “the factors in the record as rated at the original sentencing remain to be considered now and after consideration there is no basis found [for] imposing any different sentence.”
Moreover, we find no indication that the district court inadequately considered any of Jones's arguments for resentencing. While Jones argues that a single comment in the government's submission to the district court may have misled the court into believing it could not take into account his age upon release in assessing his risk of recidivism, there is no evidence in the record that the district court was misled. Jones's argument that a lower sentence was necessary to avoid sentencing disparities among his co-defendants both need not be considered by the district court, and was undermined in any case here by the affirmation of life sentences for others of his co-conspirators.
Jones attempts to recast as an argument grounded in ยง 3553(a)'s sentencing factors the claim that the time he spent incarcerated while the conspiracy was ongoing warranted a reduction in the drug quantity attributed to him, a mitigating role adjustment or a downward departure. Even so construed, however, the record is clear that the district court was fully aware of both Jones's role in the conspiracy and his ...

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