794 Fed.Appx. 550 (7th Cir. 2020), 19-2309, United States v. Houston

Docket Nº:19-2309
Citation:794 Fed.Appx. 550
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. J. L. HOUSTON, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Helene B. Greenwald, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee J. L. Houston, Pro Se
Judge Panel:Before DIANE P. WOOD, Chief Judge, WILLIAM J. BAUER, Circuit Judge, MICHAEL B. BRENNAN, Circuit Judge
Case Date:February 24, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 550

794 Fed.Appx. 550 (7th Cir. 2020)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

J. L. HOUSTON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 19-2309

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

February 24, 2020

Submitted February 24, 2020 [*]

Editorial Note:

NONPRECEDENTIAL DISPOSITION. (See Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure Rule 32.1)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 89 CR 908-20, Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, Chief Judge .

Helene B. Greenwald, Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellee

J. L. Houston, Pro Se

Before DIANE P. WOOD, Chief Judge, WILLIAM J. BAUER, Circuit Judge, MICHAEL B. BRENNAN, Circuit Judge

ORDER

After the district court rejected his motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), J.L. Houston filed two motions asking the court to reconsider its decision. The district court denied both, prompting this appeal. Although Houston’s motions purportedly sought reconsideration of an earlier ruling, they in fact were successive § 3582(c)(2) motions. Because new motions based on the same amendment are prohibited, the district court was correct to deny them. So we affirm the judgment.

In 1992, Houston, a former leader in the El Rukn street gang, was convicted of racketeering, 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), racketeering conspiracy, id. § 1962(d), and narcotics conspiracy, 21 U.S.C. § 846. The district court later vacated Houston’s convictions and ordered that he be retried. See No. 1:89-CR-908-20 (N.D.Ill. Oct. 17, 1995). The government then dismissed the substantive racketeering charge.

At Houston’s retrial in 1997, a jury found him guilty of racketeering conspiracy and narcotics conspiracy. Unlike at the earlier trial, the jury was not asked to return a special verdict finding that Houston committed specific racketeering acts. But according to the second superseding indictment (which the jury received), the racketeering-conspiracy count was predicated on the narcotics conspiracy and three murders.

Before the sentencing hearing in 1998, a probation officer prepared a supplement to the 1992 presentence investigation report (PSR). The supplement still included the substantive racketeering count and calculated Houston’s offense level based in part on "the four racketeering acts of which he was found guilty by special verdict." Houston objected to the report because the racketeering charge had been dismissed and because the jury did not return any special verdict at the retrial. Therefore, he argued, the narcotics conspiracy was the "only appropriate underlying substantive racketeering offense" for calculating his base offense level for the racketeering conspiracy. See U.S.S.G. § 2E1.1 (base offense level is 19 or "the offense level applicable to the underlying racketeering activity," whichever is greater). In response, the government argued that it needed to prove the facts relevant to the guidelines calculation only by a preponderance of the evidence,1 and that the record "demonstrate[d] that Houston agreed that [all four racketeering] acts be committed."

At the sentencing hearing, the district court agreed to disregard one of the murders but otherwise overruled Houston’s objection. The court calculated a combined adjusted offense level of 50, which it treated as level 43 (the Sentencing Table maximum), resulting in a then-mandatory guideline sentence of life in prison. See U.S.S.G. Ch. 5 Pt. A, cmt. 2 (1987) ("An offense level of more than 43 is to be treated as an offense level of 43."). The district court imposed life in prison on each count, to run concurrently. Houston challenged his conviction (but not his sentence) on appeal, and we affirmed. United States v. Franklin, 197 F.3d 266 (7th Cir. 1999).

In 2014, Houston filed a pro se motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on Amendment 782 to the Sentencing Guidelines. He argued that the Amendment (which...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP