Friday, June 22, 2012

No Relief for Career Offenders (Sentenced Within § 4B1.1 Range) Seeking Crack Reductions

     In United States v. Thompson, defendant pled guilty to distribution of fewer than five grams of crack cocaine, but his sentencing range was ultimately calculated based on his classification as a career offender. Following the 2011 retroactive amendment to the Sentencing Guidelines that lowered the base offense levels for crack cocaine offenses, Thompson moved to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).

     In United States v. Mateo, 560 F.3d 152 (3d Cir.2009), the Third Circuit held that a defendant sentenced under § 4B1.1 was not “sentenced to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission” under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), because the crack cocaine amendment in §2D1.1 had no effect on Mateo's sentencing range: it altered the calculation of the base offense level for his crack cocaine offense, but not the calculation of the career offender Guidelines range actually used to compute his Guidelines sentence.

     Thompson argued that Mateo should be reconsidered in light of Freeman v. United States, 131 S.Ct. 2685 (2011), which held that in the case of a defendant who had entered an 11(c)(1)(C) guilty plea recommending a sentence “based on” a subsequently amended Guideline, relief under § 3582 was available.

     In this case Thompson argued that Freeman altered the “based on” analysis and Mateo's ultimate reliance on the final sentencing range was no longer valid. The Circuit disagreed, finding that the two cases addressed different questions about the “based on” condition: “Freeman dealt with one interpretive question: whether a sentence imposed pursuant to a Rule 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement can be “based on” a sentencing range at all.” and “Mateo addressed another: whether a sentence can be “based on” a sentencing range other than the range actually used at sentencing.” The Court explicitly left open the question whether career offenders who received departures or variances might be eligible for reductions in sentence. That question comes before the Court in September.

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