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United States v. Cummings

June 16, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL CUMMINGS



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

OPINION

Presently before the Court is a Motion by Defendant Michael Cummings ("Cummings") for a Sentence Reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be denied.

I.

The Court will review the background of this case only insofar as necessary to resolve the present motion. On August 25, 2006, Cummings pled guilty to a one-count information for possession with intent to distribute five grams or more of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(B). At sentencing, the Court made a preliminary finding that the applicable total offense level ("TOL") for Cummings's conduct was 23. However, the Court also determined that Cummings met the definition of a career offender under U.S.S.G. §4B1.1. Therefore, Cummings's total offense level became 31,*fn1 along with a criminal history category ("CHC") of VI.

The Government moved for a downward departure under U.S.S.G. §5K1.1. The Court granted that motion and departed downwards nine levels, to level 22. For offenders with a TOL of 22 and a CHC of VI, the applicable advisory sentencing range was 84 to 105 months.*fn2 The Court sentenced Cummings to a term of 84 months incarceration.

Cummings now moves for a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

II.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), the Court may reduce the term of imprisonment imposed upon a defendant "based on a sentencing range that has been subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission . . . if such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." United States v. Williams, 282 F.App'x 119, 122 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582 (c)(2)). On November 1, 2007, the Sentencing Commission adopted Amendment 706 to the Guidelines, the general effect of which is "to decrease by two levels the base offense levels for crack cocaine offenses." Id. at 121 (quoting United States v. Wise, 515 F.3d 207, 219 (3d Cir. 2008)). "Amendment 706 became retroactive as of March 3, 2008." Id.

III.

At issue in this motion is the impact of Amendment 706, if any, on a defendant who was sentenced as a career offender for an offense involving crack cocaine. Relying on the text of § 3582(c)(2), Cummings argues that he is eligible for a sentence reduction notwithstanding his status as a career offender. Specifically, Cummings contends that all sentences for crack cocaine offenses "were based on the [subsequently lowered] crack guideline sentencing ranges because those ranges represented the starting point of every sentence even if the defendant was ultimately sentenced [as a career offender]." (Def.'s Br. 4-5 (emphasis added))

The Third Circuit recently addressed the applicability of Amendment 706 to career offenders in United States v. Mateo, 560 F.3d 152 (3d Cir. 2009).*fn3 In that case, Jose Ramon Mateo ("Mateo") pled guilty to distribution of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Id. at 153. Based solely on the nature of his offense conduct, Mateo would have been subject to a total offense level of 25. Id. The sentencing court, however, determined that Mateo was a career offender under U.S.S.G. §4B1.1, resulting in a total offense level of 31. Id. With a TOL of 31, and a CHC of VI, Mateo was subject to an advisory guidelines sentencing range of 188 to 235 months. Id. at 153-54. He was sentenced to a prison term of 188 months. Id. at 154.

While Mateo was incarcerated, Amendment 706 was adopted and made retroactive. Id. Thereafter, Mateo unsuccessfully moved in district court for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Id.

On appeal to the Third Circuit, Mateo argued that his sentence was "based on" a sentencing range that was subsequently lowered. Id. The Third Circuit disagreed, explaining that a defendant is only eligible for a sentence reduction if his "sentencing range [was] lowered by recalculation based on the amended base offense level." Id. As the panel explained, "'[t]he term "sentencing range" clearly contemplates the end result of the overall guideline calculus, not the series of tentative results reached at various interim steps in the performance of that calculus.'" Id. at 155 (quoting United States v. Caraballo, 552 F.3d 6, 10 (1st Cir. 2008)) (alteration in original). Thus, for a career offender such as Mateo, Amendment 706 did not "have the effect of lowering the ...


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