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TREGLIA v. BEELER

July 22, 1999

ROBERT TREGLIA, REG. NO. 10860-014, PETITIONER,
v.
ART REELER, WARDEN FCI FORT DIX, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge:

OPINION

To foster rehabilitation of nonviolent offenders with a history of drug abuse, Congress has provided that a federal prisoner "convicted of a nonviolent offense" who successfully completes an intensive drug treatment program shall be eligible to have his sentence reduced by up to one year. See 18 U.S.C. § 3621(e)(2)(B).*fn1 The petitioner in this case, Robert Treglia, who is serving a term of imprisonment for a nonviolent drug-trafficking offense,*fn2 successfully completed the 500 hour Residential Drug Abuse Program ("RDAP") administered by the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") on August 28, 1998, but was nonetheless categorically denied consideration for early release under § 3621(e)(2)(B) because his sentence had been enhanced under U.S.S.G. 2D1.1 for possession of a firearm. At issue in this case, which arises under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, is whether the BOP may, by regulation and policy statement, place Treghia's nonviolent offense into a category that disqualifies him from consideration for early release under § 3621(e)(2)(B) based on the fact that his sentence was enhanced because a weapon was found in his vehicle at the time of his arrest on the drug trafficking charge.

This matter is before the court on respondent's motion, pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(g), for reconsideration of the court's March 23, 1999 Opinion and Order denying Treglia's petition for habeas corpus, but remanding the matter to the BOP for an individualized determination of whether Treglia should be granted a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B). In the alternative, respondent moves for a stay of that ruling pending appeal, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 62(c) and Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 8(a)(1).

Although the court denied Treghia's petition, the court found that the BOP had improperly deemed Treglia ineligible for consideration for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B) on the basis of facts other than those that formed the basis for the elements of the offenses for which Treglia had been convicted, in violation of the holding of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Roussos v. Menifee, 122 F.3d 159 (3d Cir. 1997). The court also found that Treglia has established his threshold eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B) because he is serving a term of confinement for a nonviolent drug trafficking offense and he has successfully completed the RDAP, consistent with the statute. Accordingly, the court remanded the matter to the BOP for consideration of whether Treglia, as a person statutorily eligible for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(b), should actually be granted a sentence reduction—a determination left to the discretion of the BOP.

The BOP seeks reconsideration of these findings, arguing that the court "overlooked" the BOP's revision of the program statement held to be offensive in Roussos and its reliance on the revised program statement to deny Treglia's eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B) as an exercise of discretion. In the alternative, the BOP seeks a stay of the court's March 23, 1999 ruling pending appeal. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies the BOP's motion in its entirety.

DISCUSSION

A. The BOP's Motion for Reconsideration

A motion for reargument (a/k/a a motion for reconsideration) under Local Civil Rule 7.1(g) will be granted only when "dispositive factual matters or controlling decisions of law" were presented to the court but not considered. McGarry v. Resolution Trust Corp., 909 F. Supp. 241, 244 (D.N.J. 1995) (citing Pelham v. United States, 661 F. Supp. 1063, 1065 (D.N.J. 1987)). "The standard of review involved in a motion for reargument is quite high, and therefore relief under this rule is granted very sparingly." United States v. Jones, 158 F.R.D. 309, 314 (D.N.J. 1994) (citing Maldonado v. Lucca, 636 F. Supp. 621, 630 (D.N.J. 1986)).

In the present case, the BOP contends that the court overlooked the BOP's revision of the program statement held to be offensive in Roussos and its reliance on the revised program statement to deny Treglia's eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B) as an exercise of discretion in reaching its decision on March 23, 1999.

The court did not overlook the BOP's revision of the program statement held to be offensive in Roussos or the BOP's reliance on the revised program statement in denying Treglia's eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B). On the contrary, the court acknowledged the adoption of Program Statement 5162.04 (October 9, 1997), but found that the new program statement does not remedy the problem identified by the Third Circuit in Roussos because it renders prisoners categorically ineligible for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B) who meet the statute's threshold criteria for eligibility. See Treglia v. Beeler, slip op. at 8-11 (D.N.J. March 23, 1999). The court also acknowledged the BOP's reliance on Program Statement 5162.04 in denying Treglia's eligibility for a sentence reduction under § 3621(e)(2)(B). See id. at 3-5.

The court recognizes that § 3621(e)(2)(B) does not compel the BOP to grant a sentence reduction to any prisoner. The statute merely permits, but does not require, the BOP to grant a sentence reduction of up to one year to a prisoner "convicted of non-violent offense" who successfully completes the RDAP. By implication, the statute also forbids the BOP from granting a sentence reduction to a prisoner convicted of a violent offense who successfully complete the RDAP. It is the statute, not the BOP, that defines eligibility. Under the statute, every prisoner who (1) was convicted of a non-violent offense and who (2) successfully completes the RDAP is eligible for a sentence reduction. The BOP may not declare statutorily eligible prisoners to be categorically ineligible for sentence reductions based on sentence enhancements or any other factor, but must proceed to make an individualized determination with respect to each eligible prisoner whether a sentence reduction should be granted in his or her particular case. The BOP may consider sentence enhancements or other indicators of a particular prisoner's proclivity for violence that would justify a decision to deny a sentence reduction in making these individualized determinations as an exercise of discretion, but the BOP may not combine the threshold determination of statutory eligibility for a sentence reduction and individualized discretionary determination of whether to grant a sentence reduction into a single analysis.

In this regard, the court agrees with the analysis of the Honorable Robert C. Chambers in his dissent in the recent case of Pelissero v. Thompson, 170 F.3d 442 (4th Cir. 1999):

  BOP officials may deny or limit sentence reductions to
  individual inmates convicted of nonviolent offenses
  based on such factors as sentence enhancements and
  firearm possession. But this does not change the fact
  that such inmates are statutorily eligible for
  sentence reductions, and are thus statutorily entitled
  to an individualized determination by the BOP. The
  Bureau may impose reasonable restrictions or
  limitations on any sentence reduction based upon the
  particular prisoner's propensity to violence, even for
  those inmates whose eligibility is not at issue. Even
  so, I do not believe the BOP may categorically exclude
  such inmates without offending the statute's plain
  language and settled law. For these reasons, I would
  join in the reasoned judgment of seven of our sister
  circuits, as well as a recent panel of this court, and
  find that the BOP exceeded its statutory authority in
  categorically excluding inmates from sentence
  reductions based upon sentencing factors and firearm
  possession convictions.

(Id. at 449)(Chambers, J., dissenting); see also Williams v. Clark, 52 F. Supp.2d 1145 (C.D.Cal. 1999)(declaring prisoner who had successfully completed RDAP eligible for early release under ยง 3621(e)(2)(B) and directing BOP to decide whether to grant sentence reduction); Guido v. Booker, 37 F. Supp.2d 1289 (D.Kan. 1999)(same); Kilpatrick v. Houston, 36 F. Supp.2d 1328 (N.D.Fla. 1999)(same); ...


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