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
Harris (“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. 2576
(Sept. 10, 2019) (“Def.'s Mot.”); see
also Mem. in Support of Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 2605
(Oct. 11, 2019) (“Def.'s Mem.”). Mr. Harris
is currently serving a life sentence.
United States of America (the “Government”) has
opposed Mr. Harris's motion. Government's Response to
Def.'s Mem., ECF No. 2620 (Nov. 25, 2019)
reasons explained below, the Court (1)
GRANTS the motion; (2)
ORDERS that Mr. Harris's sentence of
incarceration be REDUCED to TIME
SERVED; and (3) IMPOSES a term of
supervised release of FIVE (5) YEARS.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
of his involvement with and leadership of an extensive and
violent drug trafficking enterprise in Bridgeport,
Connecticut, in the late 1990s, Mr. Harris has been in
federal custody since February 22, 2000. Presentence Report,
ECF No. 2580-2 (Feb. 22, 2001) (“2001 PSR”).
November 7, 2000, a federal grand jury indicted Mr. Harris
and other alleged members of the drug trafficking enterprise
on one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to
distribute heroin, cocaine, and cocaine base, in violation of
21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846.
Second Superseding Indictment, ECF No. 455 (Nov. 7, 2000).
December 4, 2000, after an almost three-week trial before the
Honorable Alan H. Nevas of the United States District Court
for the District of Connecticut (this
“District”), a jury convicted Mr. Harris of
violating 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841 (b)(1)(A),
and 846, Conspiracy to Distribute and Distribution of Heroin,
Cocaine, and Cocaine Base (Count One). Jury Verdict Form, ECF
No. 2580-9 at 1 (Sept. 20, 2019). The jury assigned to Mr.
Harris a quantity of 1000 grams or more of heroin,
id. at 2; 5000 grams or more of cocaine,
id.; and 50 grams or more of cocaine base,
id. at 3.
April 5, 2001, Judge Nevas sentenced Mr. Harris to the
maximum of life imprisonment and a special assessment of
$100. Judgment, ECF No. 649 (Apr. 5, 2001) (text order);
see also Judgment, ECF No. 2580-6 (Sept. 20, 2019)
April 16, 2001, Mr. Harris appealed his conviction and
sentence. Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 679 (Apr. 16, 2001).
March 11, 2005, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit (the “Second Circuit”) affirmed the
judgment and sentence, but remanded Mr. Harris's case for
resentencing consistent with United States v.
Crosby, 397 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 2005). United States
v. Jones, No. 01-1240-cr, General Docket at 7-8 (Mar.
30, 2007, Judge Nevas held a resentencing hearing, and
re-imposed a sentence of life imprisonment and a $100 special
assessment. Minute Entry, ECF No. 2199 (May 30, 2007);
see also Amended Judgment, ECF No. 2201 (June 11,
2007). At resentencing, Judge Nevas also imposed a five-year
term of supervised release and a fine of $25, 000. Amended
Judgment at 1. In re-imposing the life sentence, Judge Nevas
applied for the first time the murder cross reference to
U.S.S.G. § 2A1.1, and he also provided an additional
statement of reasons for his sentence:
[B]ased upon the evidence that this court heard at the trial
of a codefendent [sic], Quinne Powell, . . . the court finds
by a preponderance of the evidence that Kevin Guiles was
murdered . . . and that the defendant was involved in that
[E]ven if the court did not apply the § 2D1.1(d) (1)
cross reference to § 2A1.1 the court would apply §
2D1.1(c) (1) to impose the same sentence of life imprisonment
. . . because [Mr. Harris] was found guilty of a violation of
21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a)(1) and 846 and this violation
involved more than 1.5 kilograms of cocaine base. . . .
Finally, even if the court incorrectly imposed a sentence of
life imprisonment under either the § 2D1.1(d) (1) cross
reference or § 2D1.1(c) (1), the court would have
imposed a term of life imprisonment as a non-guidelines
sentence, after considering all of the factors in 18 U.S.C.
§ 3553(a), with a strong emphasis on the need for the
sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to
promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment
as required under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) (2) (A).
to Amended Judgment, ECF No. 2201 at 1-3 (June 11, 2007);
see also Resentencing Tr., ECF No. 2198 at 103:10-16
(May 30, 2007) (“Finally, the Court would find that
even if the Court is incorrect in the guideline sentence
which it is about to impose, the Court would have imposed a
non-guideline sentence, considering all the factors in
Nevas did not articulate any findings regarding Mr.
Harris's current ability to pay the new fine of $25, 000,
besides adopting the Government's view of his purported
wealth. Cf. Sentencing Tr., ECF No. 809 at 29:5-6
(Apr. 5, 2001) (“The Court imposes no fine, makes a
finding that he's unable to pay a fine.”).
30, 2007, Mr. Harris again appealed his conviction and
sentence. Notice of Appeal, ECF No. 2202 (May 30, 2007).
December 18, 2008, the Second Circuit again affirmed Mr.
Harris's conviction and sentence. Mandate of USCA, ECF
No. 2267 (Dec. 18, 2008).
the years, Mr. Harris has pursued various forms of relief,
all of which were unsuccessful. Ruling Denying Motion to
Reduce Sentence re Crack Cocaine Offense, ECF No. 2399 (June
20, 2013); Order Granting Motion to Withdraw Motion for
Reconsideration, ECF No. 2407 (Oct. 18, 2013); Order, ECF No.
2411 (Nov. 1, 2013); Order Denying Motion for
Reconsideration, ECF No. 2440 (Oct. 19, 2015); Mandate of
USCA, ECF No. 2452 (Sept. 1, 2016); see also Motion
to Reduce Sentence - USSC Amendment, ECF No. 2450 (July 21,
2016) (pending before this Court); Motion to Reduce Sentence
- USSC Amendment, ECF No. 2461 (May 30, 2017) (same).
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,
September 10, 2019, Mr. Harris moved for his immediate
release or resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step
Act. Def.'s Mot.
September 20, 2019, the U.S. Probation Office
(“Probation”) filed a supplemental Pre-Sentencing
Report, and took the position that Mr. Harris was not
entitled to relief under the First Step Act. First Step Act
of 2018 Addendum to the Presentence Report, ECF No. 2580
(Sept. 20, 2019) (“First Step Supp. PSR”);
see also 2001 PSR, ECF No. 2580-2 (filed and
prepared by Probation for Mr. Harris's original
October 11, 2019, Mr. Harris filed a memorandum in support of
his motion. Def.'s Mem.
November 25, 2019, the Government briefly opposed Mr.
Harris's motion. Gov't Opp.
December 2, 2019, Mr. Harris 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
January 13, 2020, the Court held a hearing on the motion.
Minute Entry, ECF No. 2637 (Jan. 13, 2020).
incarcerated for almost the last twenty years, Mr. Harris has
participated in numerous Bureau of Prisons programs and
educational courses, and has only accumulated five
disciplinary infractions. First Step Act Supp. PSR, Inmate
Education Data, ECF No. 2580-11 (Sept. 17, 2019)
(“Inmate Education Data”); Compare First
Step Act Supp. PSR, Inmate Discipline Data, ECF No. 2580-10
(Sept. 17, 2019) (“Inmate Discipline Data”),
with Ex. 9: Inmate Discipline Data, ECF No. 2621-2
(Dec. 2, 2019).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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
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).
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 United States 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 section shall be construed to
require a court to reduce any sentence pursuant to this
section.'” (quoting First Step Act, §
threshold issue is Mr. Harris's eligibility for relief,
which requires the Court to determine first whether he was
convicted of a “covered offense” under Section
404 of the First Step Act. If Mr. Harris is eligible for
relief, the Court then must determine whether its ...