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United States v. Curtis

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

February 1, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM L. CURTIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on defendant William L. Curtis's pro se motions for a reduction of his criminal sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and United States Sentencing Guidelines Manual (“U.S.S.G.”) § 1B1.10 (Docs. 204, 208 & 210). The government has responded to the motions (Doc. 212), and Curtis has replied to that response (Doc. 213).

         Curtis was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiring to distribute crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841(a)(1) and one count of distributing crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). At sentencing, the Court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Curtis's relevant conduct was 884.07 grams of crack cocaine, which under U.S.S.G.[1]§ 2D1.1 yielded a base offense level of 36. The Court also found by a preponderance of the evidence that Curtis obstructed justice by exhibiting reckless conduct during flight that created a substantial risk of serious bodily injury to others and that his offense level should therefore be increased by two points under U.S.S.G. § 3C1.2, yielding a total offense level of 38. Considering Curtis's criminal history category of II, this yielded a sentencing range of 262 to 327 months in prison. The Court sentenced Curtis to serve 327 months in prison on each count to be served concurrently, which was below the 30-year statutory maximum sentence the Court found to apply to Curtis. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(C). While in prison, Curtis has succeeded in several prison education, training and rehabilitation programs and been worker of the month on several occasions. He also had two rule infractions in 2015, one for interfering with security devices and one for possession of a cell phone. Curtis now asks the Court to apply Amendments 750 and 782 to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1 to lower his sentence.

         Section 3582(c)(2) allows the Court to reduce a defendant's previously imposed sentence where “a defendant . . . has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o).” In doing so, the Court must consider the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and must ensure that any reduction “is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Thus, a defendant urging a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2) must satisfy two criteria: (1) the Sentencing Commission must have lowered the applicable guideline sentencing range, and (2) the reduction must be consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission. If the defendant cannot satisfy the first criterion, the Court cannot grant the reduction request. See United States v. Taylor, 778 F.3d 667, 762 (7th Cir. 2015).

         I. Reduced Guideline Range

         Curtis satisfies the first criterion for a sentence reduction because he was “sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 994(o).” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Amendments 750 and 782 amended U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(c) after Curtis's sentencing to lower his base offense level from 36 to 32 and his total offense level from 38 to 34, which also lowered his sentencing range to 168 to 210 months. However, as the Court has explained in its August 27, 2009, order, Curtis has a statutory minimum of 240 months under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b)(1)(A) and 851. Consequently, under U.S.S.G. § 5G1.1(b) his effective guideline sentencing range is 240 months.[1]

         II. Consistency with Policy Statements

         He also satisfies the second criterion because allowing a reduction is consistent with the applicable policy statements. The Sentencing Commission's policy statement governing sentence reductions following guideline amendments is contained in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10. That section provides that the guideline range reduction contained in Amendments 750 and 782 may be applied retroactively pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) to reduce previously imposed sentences with certain limitations. U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(a)(1) & (c). Thus, the Court now has discretion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) to reduce the sentences of some defendants sentenced for drug offenses. No part of U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10 is inconsistent with granting Curtis a sentence reduction.

         III. Exercise of Discretion

         Although Curtis is eligible for a reduction in light of Amendments 750 and 782, the Court exercises its discretion not to order a reduction for the same reasons it cited in its August 27, 2009, order denying him a reduction under Amendments 706 and 711. In exercising this discretion, the Court is guided by the factors in 18 U.S.C. §3553(a), see 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), public safety considerations and Curtis's post-sentencing conduct. See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10, note 1(B). As stated in the Court's prior order:

         A. The nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant

From 1997 through 1999, Curtis transported crack cocaine from Chicago to Carbondale, Illinois, and supplied several dealers in the area. He was driven to multiple locations by a coconspirator to make consecutive drug sales. Curtis was also observed cooking powder cocaine into crack cocaine. Cooperating witnesses provided information that Curtis utilized others to distribute his crack cocaine.
On May 5, 1999, a controlled buy was conducted by authorities wherein Curtis sold a confidential source crack cocaine. As Curtis left the area, agents blocked Curtis's vehicle at an intersection, and approached him on foot. Curtis fled the area. Agents attempted to conduct a traffic stop utilizing emergency lights and sirens, but Curtis evaded authorities. On November 17, 1999, authorities observed the defendant leaving his residence and they attempted to conduct a traffic stop. Curtis led authorities on a high-speed pursuit, which ended with the defendant's ramming his vehicle into a police vehicle, causing $2, 910 in damage. Curtis was able to elude apprehension for a short time, but was arrested later at his residence. This latter incident was taken into consideration by the guidelines.
Curtis has two prior convictions for possession of cocaine. These offenses were committed within two months of each other. While on bond for these two offenses, he was arrested for the offense of aggravated assault and mob action. This offense allegedly involved the defendant, while in possession ...

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