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Musto v. United States

filed as amended march 15 1978.: February 8, 1978.



Rosenn and Van Dusen, Circuit Judges, and Cohill, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Van Dusen


VAN DUSEN, Circuit Judge.

The United States appeals from the district court's grant of a prisoner's motion, brought under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1970), for correction of a sentence entered under 18 U.S.C. § 4208(a)(2) (1970).*fn1 The court held that its intent, as the sentencing judge, to afford the prisoner an early opportunity for release, was frustrated by the application of the 1973 Parole Policy Guidelines, 28 C.F.R. § 2.20 (1976)*fn2 and that the prisoner's motion should be granted. In United States v. Salerno (Appeal of William Silverman) (Silverman I), 538 F.2d 1005 (3d Cir.), aff'd per curiam sur petition for rehearing, 542 F.2d 628 (3d Cir. 1976) (Silverman II), this court held that 28 U.S.C. § 2255 vests a sentencing court with jurisdiction to correct a sentence whose import has been changed by new Parole Policy Guidelines adopted subsequent to the imposition of sentence. In United States v. Somers, 552 F.2d 108 (3d Cir. 1977) (Appeal of Ponzio), this court reaffirmed the narrow holdings of Silverman I and II but cautioned that the " Silverman doctrine is a most narrow and inelastic principle which will not be expanded beyond its strict confines." Id. at 114. In this appeal we face the question of whether 28 U.S.C. § 2255 vests a district court with jurisdiction to correct its initial sentence when that sentence was entered by the sentencing court with knowledge of the existence of the Parole Policy Guidelines.

We hold that a sentencing court exceeds its jurisdictional authority under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 if it alters a sentence entered under a misapprehension of the parole consequences of the sentence when the sentencing judge had knowledge of the existence of the Parole Policy Guidelines in force at the time of the sentencing. Silverman I and II and Ponzio authorize modification of sentence on a § 2255 motion only where the sentencing judge's expressed intent at or before the sentencing was thwarted by the adoption of comprehensive new parole policies promulgated by the Parole Board*fn3 subsequent to the original imposition of sentence.


Charles Musto was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on February 24, 1975, of multiple counts of extortionate extensions of credit, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 892 (1970), the use of extortionate means to collect extensions of credit, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 894 (1970), and willful use of force and threats to obstruct an FBI investigation, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1510 (1970). The trial judge sentenced Musto on June 10, 1975, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4208(a)(2), to three years' imprisonment on one count of his conviction and concurrent three-year terms on the other four counts. Musto commenced serving his sentence in the Allenwood Federal Prison Camp on June 24, 1975. No appeal was taken from his conviction, although Musto timely filed a motion under Rule 35, Fed. R. Crim. P., for reduction of sentence, which was denied.

After an initial hearing, the Parole Board ruled on August 25, 1975, that application of its Parole Policy Guidelines indicated imprisonment for a period of 26-36 months. Musto's application for parole was reconsidered prior to the one-third point of his sentence and the Board ruled on June 17, 1976, that an earlier release date than that indicated by the Guidelines was not warranted. On November 18, 1976, Musto filed with his sentencing court a motion to correct sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1970). The original sentencing judge conducted a hearing on December 1, 1976, and thereafter resentenced Musto on all counts to time already served.

We are concerned in this case, as we were in Silverman and Ponzio, with the impact of the Parole Policy Guidelines on sentences imposed under 18 U.S.C. § 4208 (a)(2). Sentencing judges have had three options in specifying an eligibility date for parole when imposing sentence. A "straight" sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 4202 (recodified at 18 U.S.C.A. § 4205(a) (West Supp. 1977)) leaves the prisoner eligible for parole after serving one-third of his sentence. A judge may designate a maximum term and a minimum term less than one-third of the maximum sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 4208(a)(1) (recodified at 18 U.S.C.A. § 4205(b)(1) (West Supp. 1977)). Alternatively, the district court could impose a maximum term and no minimum term and specify "that the prisoner may become eligible for parole at such time as the board of parole may determine." 18 U.S.C. § 4208(a)(2).

Eligibility for parole has never, of course, meant entitlement to release. Prior to the adoption of its new Guidelines, the Parole Board decided individual parole applications primarily on the basis of the prisoner's institutional behavior and the likelihood of reentry into society without risk of recidivism. See 18 U.S.C. § 4203 (1970) (current version at 18 U.S.C.A. § 4206 (West Supp. 1977)); 28 C.F.R. § 2.2 (1973); Silverman I, supra, 538 F.2d at 1007. Thus, a § 4208(a)(2) sentence afforded a prisoner who demonstrated successful rehabilitation an opportunity for early release, prior to the expiration of his term.

In November 1973, the Parole Board promulgated its new Guidelines applicable to all prisoners, whether sentenced under § 4202, § 4208(a)(1) or § 4208(a)(2), for the purpose of standardizing parole decisions and making more uniform the periods of incarceration for similar offenses.*fn4 See 28 C.F.R. § 2.20 (1976). In applying these Guidelines, parole officials refer to published tables which objectively rank the severity of offense and prognosis for recidivism (the so-called salient factor score). Combining these scores yields a predicted range of time that an offender should serve before being paroled. Id. Because the parole authorities observe these guidelines in almost all cases, see Silverman I, 538 F.2d at 1007, a § 4208(a)(2) sentence no longer affords a prisoner the opportunity for early release on the basis of his institutional behavior and his readiness to live within the law upon release.*fn5

In Silverman I, this court determined that application of the Guidelines to a § 4208(a)(2) prisoner sentenced prior to their adoption frustrated the sentencing judge's explicit expectation that the prisoner would be considered for parole only on the basis of institutional behavior and rehabilitation progress. 538 F.2d at 1008-09. This court held that such frustration rendered the sentence as imposed "subject to collateral attack" and therefore a proper subject of a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1970). Id. at 1008 & n.4. In Silverman II, supra, the same panel of this court emphasized that the sentencing judge's explicit intent, which could not have reflected the Guidelines' deemphasis of institutional behavior, was crucial. In denying rehearing, the panel pointed out that its earlier decision did not vest sentencing courts with the authority to override parole board decisions. Rather, the court carefully framed a narrow holding quoting this language from a decision of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals:

"Our decision does, however, 'permit the district court to correct a sentencing error where the import of the judge's sentence has in fact been changed by guidelines adopted by the Parole Board . . subsequent to the imposition of that sentence.' ...

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