United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
D. LEINENWEBER, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Ruben Hughes' (“Hughes”) Motion for Relief
under 18 U.S.C. § 2582(c)(2) [ECF No. 216] is granted.
The Court hereby adjusts Hughes' term of imprisonment
from life to 360 months while leaving intact all other
conditions of his criminal judgment.
parties agree that, as applied retroactively, Amendment 782
to the Sentencing Guidelines lowers the sentencing range for
Hughes's offense from life to no more than life and no
less than 360 months. See, ECF No. 223 at 12-13
(Govt's Resp. Br.); ECF No. 234 at 1-2 (Pet'r's
Reply Br.). Based on his eligibility for relief, Hughes asks
the Court to resentence him to the minimum sentence
available, 360 months or 30 years. See, 18 U.S.C.
App. § 1B1.10 (stipulating that except under
circumstances not present in this case, “the court
shall not reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment . .
. to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended
guideline range”); Dillon v. United States,
560 U.S. 817, 819 (2010) (upholding the mandatory nature of
the limit in sentence reduction). The Government, on the
other hand, requests that, if the Court chooses to reduce
Hughes's sentence, it does not do so to less than 40
years. See, ECF No. 223 at 2.
determining whether it should lower the Petitioner's
incarceration term and if so, by how much, the Court consults
18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). See, 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)
(providing that the court may reduce the term of imprisonment
for an eligible prisoner “after considering the factors
set forth in section 3553(a)”); Dillon, 560
U.S. at 827. This section of the penal code obliges the Court
to “impose a sentence sufficient, but not greater than
necessary” to punish the offender, deter his future
criminal activities (i.e., provide specific
deterrence), and discourage other would-be offenders
(i.e., supply specific deterrence). See, 18
U.S.C. § 3553(a). It also specifies that the Court shall
consider the policy statements of the Sentencing Commission.
See, id. Pursuant to the relevant policy statement,
the Court takes account of the Petitioner's
post-sentencing conduct in assessing his request for a
sentence reduction. See, 18 U.S.C. app. §
this standard, the Court first decides that it should reduce
Hughes's sentence. In so doing, it simultaneously notes
the discretionary nature of the reduction and the fact that
of the 485 motions seeking retroactive application of
Amendment 782 in the Northern District of Illinois, 483 have
been granted. See, United States v. Cunningham, 554
F.3d 703, 707 (7th Cir. 2009); U.S. Sentencing Commission,
2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment Retroactivity Data
Report, Table 1 (Jan. 2017), available at
Drug-Retro-Analysis.pdf. Hughes's crime -
distribution of at least 11 kilograms of crack cocaine - is
certainly serious but not so heinous that the Court cannot
imagine a more severe drug crime that deserves a heavier
penalty. See, United States v. Hughes, 384 F.
App'x 509, 511 (7th Cir. 2010) (affirming this
Court's finding as the drug quantity). The Court thus
reduces Hughes's sentence both because it does not
believe that he deserves a punishment at the very top of
today's Guidelines and because it wishes to reserve as
marginal deterrence that most severe penalty for those who
contemplate committing even worse crimes than Hughes.
Court next decides that it should reduce the Petitioner's
sentence to the 30 years he requests. The Government contends
that Hughes should receive at least 10 more years because he
had a leadership role in the drug trafficking ring, because
he used the people closest to him, including his father and
girlfriend, to run the operation, and because he likely
procured perjured testimonies to reduce his culpability for
being a felon in possession of a firearm. See, ECF
No. 223 at 18-23. While none of these things put Hughes in a
favorable light, the Court notes that, insofar as they
justify a longer sentence, they do so primarily on the
grounds of punishment, not deterrence. Although retribution
is undoubtedly a legitimate social end served by
incarceration, see, 18 U.S.C.
3553(a)(2)(A)(providing that the sentence imposed should
“provide just punishment for the offense”), the
Court believes that 30 years behind bars is punishment
enough. Thirty years is a long time for a person who went
into prison a young man and will emerge from it a middle-age
convict with more time spent behind bars than beyond them.
Court also thinks that a 30-year sentence is sufficient for
purposes of both general and specific deterrence. If somebody
is not chastened by the prospect of 30 years in prison, then
it is unlikely that he will be deterred by an added ten.
See, U.S. Department of Justice, National
Institute Five Things About Deterrence, (May 2016),
that based on the current state of theory and empirical
knowledge, “prison sentences (particularly long
sentences) are unlikely to deter future crime”). As
such, whatever impact the Court has on the behavior of
would-be criminals is unlikely to be diminished by the
current decision. See, Id. (explaining that
“criminals know little about the sanctions for specific
crimes”). This is especially true in light of the fact
that the Court retains the power to sentence somebody to a
longer than 30-year term should the circumstances warrant it.
deterring Hughes himself from criminal activities, the Court
is cautiously optimistic that Hughes will not reoffend upon
release for the following reasons. First, Hughes will leave
prison at the age of 55, long past the peak age of
criminality. See, Id. (stating that “data show
a steep decline [in criminal activities] at about age
35”). Second, as suggested by the letters that his sons
wrote in support of his petition, Hughes has maintained ties
to his family. The Court hopes that this means Hughes will
have the support he needs to reintegrate into society as well
as a reason to stay out of trouble. Third, Hughes'
post-sentencing record, while not perfect, does not seem to
indicate that he is prone to violence or is unable to follow
rules. In the 18 years that Hughes has been in prison, he has
accrued eight disciplinary write-ups, as balanced ...