Friday, March 27, 2009

Where originally sentenced under career offender guideline, not entitled to two level reduction under Crack Amendment

In United States v. Mateo, No. 08-3249, March 24, 2009, the Court of Appeals joined four other Circuits in denying a motion to reduce sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) where at the original sentencing, the defendant was sentenced under the career offender guideline.

Mateo was convicted of an offense involving crack cocaine. At his original sentencing, however, Mateo was sentenced as a career offender under USSG § 4B1.1. Then, in 2007, after the Sentencing Commission retroactively amended section § 2D1.1 lowering the base offense levels for crack cocaine offenses, Mateo filed a motion for a sentence reduction. He argued that, even though he was sentenced as a career offender under § 4B1.1, his sentence was "based on" § 2D1.1, and therefore entitled to a reduction. He also made arguments under § 3553(a). The district court denied the motion, finding that the Crack Amendment did not reduce the sentencing range applicable to Mateo.

On appeal, the Third Circuit reviewed the district court’s interpretation of the Guidelines, de novo and its decision to grant or deny the § 3582(c) motion for abuse of discretion. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision stating that, "[t]o be entitled to a reduction of sentence, a defendant’s sentencing range must have been lowered by recalculation based on the amended base offense level." The Court, citing First Circuit precedent, emphasized that the "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. Therefore, pursuant to the statute, ‘if an amended guideline does not have the effect of lowering the sentencing range actually used at sentencing, the defendant’s sentence was not based on that range within the intendment of the statute.’" (citation omitted). Consequently, the Court concluded that, as a career offender, Mateo’s base offense level under § 4B1.1 remained the same regardless of the applicable base offense level under § 2D1.1. As such, the amendment to § 2D1.1 did not affect Mateo’s sentencing range and § 3582(c) does not permit a reduction.

Mateo also made the argument that the Guidelines are advisory and strict adherence to its policy statements violate Booker. The Third Circuit rejected the idea and held that the requirements for a sentence reduction under § 3582(c) remain unchanged in light of Booker and Kimbrough.

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