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United States v. Jones

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 19, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LEONARD JONES, Defendant.

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

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Leonard Jones (“Defendant”) moves for his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the recently-enacted First Step Act. See First Step Act Mot. for Immediate Release or Resentencing, ECF No. 2573 (Sept. 5, 2019) (“Def.'s Mot.”); see also Mem. in Support of Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 2597 (Oct. 7, 2019) (“Def.'s Mem.”). Mr. Jones is currently serving three concurrent life sentences.

         The United States of America (the “Government”) has opposed Mr. Jones's motion. Government's Response to Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 2618 (Nov. 20, 2019) (“Gov't Opp.”).

         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 upon arrival at MDC Brooklyn on December 23, 2019; and (3) IMPOSES a term of supervised release of FIVE (5) YEARS.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Because of his involvement with a violent drug trafficking enterprise in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the late 1990s, Mr. Jones has been in federal custody since January 2002. See Docket Entries (Jan. 15, 2002); 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 brother, Luke Jones, in light most favorable to the Government).

         On December 20, 2001, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Jones and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise on various conspiracy charges and racketeering acts. See Fifth Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 813 (Dec. 20, 2001).

         On November 20, 2002, the Honorable Alan H. Nevas of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (this “District”) declared a mistrial in the Government's case against Mr. Jones and other co-defendants. Jury Trial - Mistrial Declared, ECF No. 1259 (Nov. 20, 2002).

         On December 3, 2002, the case was transferred to the Honorable Peter C. Dorsey. Order of Transfer, ECF No. 1263 (Dec. 3, 2002).

         On April 24, 2003, after a month-long trial before Judge Dorsey, a jury convicted Mr. Jones 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 Distribute and Distribution of More Than 1000 Grams of Heroin and 50 Grams of Cocaine Base (Count Six); 18 U.S.C. § 1959(a)(5), Conspiracy to Murder Anthony Scott (Count Twenty-One). Jury Verdict, ECF No. 1408 (Apr. 24, 2003). The underlying racketeering acts for Count One's RICO charges were Racketeering Act 1-D (the “D-Top” Drug Conspiracy), Racketeering Act 9 (Conspiracy to Murder Foundation Members and Associates), and Racketeering Act 11-A (Conspiracy to Murder Anthony Scott)[1]. Id. at 2-4. As to the drug conspiracy charges in Count Six, the jury assigned to Mr. Jones a quantity of 1000 grams or more of heroin, id. at 18; at least 1000 grams but less than 5000 grams of cocaine, id. at 19; and at 50 grams or more of cocaine base, id.

         On September 3, 2003, Judge Dorsey sentenced Mr. Jones to the maximum of life imprisonment with no prospect of parole on Counts One, Two, and Six; ten years imprisonment on Count Twenty-One; and a special assessment of $400. Judgment, ECF No. 1493 (Sept. 3, 2003). The terms of imprisonment were to all run concurrently with each other. Id. Judge Dorsey also listed the special conditions of supervised release for Count Twenty-One. Id.

         On September 22, 2003, Mr. Jones appealed his conviction and sentence. Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 1507 (Sept. 22, 2003).

         On June 2, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (the “Second Circuit”) first dismissed the appeal for failure to prosecute, Mandate of USCA, ECF No. 2065 (June 9, 2006), but then sua sponte reinstated the appeal and ordered new counsel be appointed under the Criminal Justice Act, Order of USCA, ECF No. 2066 (June 9, 2006). The Second Circuit later dismissed the appeal again for failure to prosecute. Mandate of USCA, ECF No. 2187 (Apr. 16, 2007).

         On October 20, 2008, ruling on an appeal filed by Mr. Jones's co-defendant and nephew, Lyle Jones, the Second Circuit affirmed the judgments of conviction, but remanded the cases of Lyle Jones and Leonard Jones for resentencing consistent with United States v. Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005). United States v. Jones, 296 Fed.Appx. 179, 184 (2d Cir. 2008); see also Mandate of USCA, ECF No. 2270 (Dec. 29, 2008).

         On February 3, 2009, Judge Dorsey issued an order to show cause in which he ordered both Mr. Jones and the Government to show cause as to whether Mr. Jones “should be brought before this Court for the purposes of re-sentencing or whether reconsideration without [his] presence shall be deemed adequate.” Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 2274 (Feb. 3, 2009). There was no response from either the Government or Mr. Jones's attorney. See Docket Entries.

         On April 13, 2009, Judge Dorsey issued another order to show cause and extended to deadline for either side to respond to June 1, 2009. Order to Show Cause, ECF No. 2287) Apr. 13, 2009).

         On June 4, 2009, the Government moved for an extension of time from June 1, 2009, to June 17, 2009, which the Court granted, but the Government did not file a memorandum. See Docket Entries.

         On August 4, 2009, without moving for an extension of time or explaining the untimeliness of the submission, Mr. Jones's attorney submitted two pages of text in support of re-sentencing, arguing that Mr. Jones should be re-sentenced in light of his age (already over age fifty at the time) and “to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities[.]”Memorandum, ECF No. 2308 at 1-2 (Aug. 4, 2009). His attorney[2] also waived Mr. Jones's presence at a resentencing hearing. Id. at 2 (“[I]n the event that the court decides to reconsider Leonard's sentence and re-sentence him; such reconsideration and re-sentencing will not require his presence in court.”).

         On October 5, 2009, Judge Dorsey declined to re-sentence Mr. Jones:

Defendant here stands convicted of very serious misconduct which caused serious negative impact on the community. His role in the distribution of a vast amount of illegal drugs must be found to have had a major negative impact on the lives of users of the drugs. While defendant is not solely responsible for the effects of the use of the drugs for the distribution of which he stands convicted, he nonetheless was a major factor in those affected by their use. Further his motivation in the role he played in the distribution was the substantial profit he derived from the sale of drugs to the extent as was demonstrated in this case. His ruthless pursuit of the distribution by violence and murder cannot be said to have any redeeming quality and suggest a real risk of a return to a life of crime if he is freed from a long sentence. . . .
What [Defendant] does not recognize is . . . [h]e had a greater role as the leader of the organization.

         Memorandum of Decision re: Reduction of Sentence, ECF No. 2315 at 2 (Oct. 5, 2009) (“Dorsey Order”).[3]

         On May 9, 2016, Mr. Jones moved to vacate, set aside, or vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Mot. to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Sentence, No. 3:16-cv-706 (VAB), ECF No. 1 (May 9, 2016) (“§ 2255 Mot.”).

         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 (SRU), 2019 WL 3769598, at *2 (D. Conn. July 17, 2019).

         On May 10, 2019, on grounds unrelated to the First Step Act, this Court denied Mr. Jones's § 2255 motion because (1) it was time-barred and (2) even if it was timely, Mr. Jones's sentence had already been properly reconsidered by Judge Dorsey when the Second Circuit remanded his direct appeal. Ruling on § 2255 Mot., No. 3:16-cv-706 (VAB), ECF No. 8 at 4-7 (May 10, 2019); see Id. at 7 (noting that, at that time, Mr. Jones had “not provided this Court with any basis, legal or equitable, for reaching a decision different from his previous resentencing”).

         On September 5, 2019, Mr. Jones moved for his immediate release or resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step Act. Def.'s Mot.

         On September 16, 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. First Step Act of 2018 Addendum to the Presentence Report, ECF No. 2578 (Sept. 16, 2019) (“First Step Supp. PSR”).

         On October 7, 2019, Mr. Jones filed a memorandum in support of his motion. Def.'s Mem.

         On November 20, 2019, the Government briefly opposed Mr. Jones's motion. Gov't Opp.

         On November 22, 2019, Mr. Jones filed a reply in further support of his motion. Def.'s Reply Mem. in Support of Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 2619 (Nov. 22, 2019) (“Def.'s Reply”).

         While incarcerated for almost the last twenty years, Mr. Jones has participated in numerous educational courses, and in the last six years he has not received a single disciplinary ticket. Def.'s Mem. at 12 n.19 (referencing an exhibit in the First Step Act Supplemental PSR - Mr. Jones's Bureau of Prisons chronological disciplinary record and education information, ECF No. 2578-9); see also Id. (“His most recent [disciplinary] ticket, in August 2013, is for failing to stand for count. Leonard's only other disciplinary ticket within the last 10 years is for ‘being unsanitary or untidy' in 2012. . . . His most serious offense, possessing intoxicants in 2005 . . . resulted in a loss of 27 days of good conduct time. No other infraction resulted in a loss of good conduct time.”).

         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 of 2010 “reduced [future] 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.Supp.3d 168, 169 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 13, 2019) (internal citations and quotations omitted); see also Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 220; 124 Stat. 2372 (hereafter “Fair Sentencing Act”).

         “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&rd ...


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