United States v. Eccleston

Decision Date10 June 2021
Docket NumberNo. CR 95-0014 JB,CR 95-0014 JB
Citation543 F.Supp.3d 1092
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Sebastian Leigh ECCLESTON, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico

Fred A. Federici, Assistant United States Attorney, David M. Walsh, Assistant United States Attorney, United States Attorney's Office, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Attorneys for the Plaintiff

Carter B. Harrison, IV, Harrison & Hart, L.L.C., Albuquerque, New Mexico and Alicia M. McConnell, Business Law Southwest LLC, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Attorneys for the Defendant



THIS MATTER comes before the Court on: (i) the Emergency Motion for Compassionate Release Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), filed April 15, 2020 (Doc. 307)("Compassionate Release Motion"); (ii) the Amended Motion for Sentence Modification Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) and Under the First Step Act and the Cares Act, filed December 14, 2020 (Doc. 335)("Amended Motion"); and (iii) the Defendant Sebastian S. Eccleston's Amended and Supplemental Motion for Reduced Sentence Pursuant to the First Step Act and 18 U.S.C. § 3582, filed February 10, 2021 (Doc. 339)("Second Amended Motion").2 The Court held a hearing on April 7, 2021. See Clerk's Minutes at 1, filed April 7, 2021 (Doc. 353). The primary issues are: (i) whether Defendant Sebastian Leigh Eccleston has exhausted his administrative remedies, where S. Eccleston's initial compassionate release request was denied on April 21, 2020; (ii) whether extraordinary and compelling circumstances warrant reduction in S. Eccleston's sentence under the First Step Act of 2018, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) ("First Step Act"); (iii) whether a sentence reduction is consistent with the applicable policy statements that the Sentencing Commission has issued; and (iv) whether a sentence reduction is consistent with the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors. The Court concludes that: (i) S. Eccleston has exhausted his administrative remedies regarding the Amended Motion and the Second Amended Motion, but not regarding the Motion, because S. Eccleston's initial compassionate release request was denied after he filed the Motion, but more than thirty days before S. Eccleston filed the Amended Motion and the Second Amended Motion; (ii) S. Eccleston's case presents extraordinary and compelling circumstances, because, although neither S. Eccleston's medical concerns nor the changes to 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) ’s stacking provisions are extraordinary and compelling, the following circumstances, considered together, are extraordinary and compelling and favor reducing his sentence: (a) S. Eccleston's believed reasonably, when he signed the State and Federal Plea Agreements, that his State and federal prison sentences would run concurrently, however, he was sentenced consecutively; (b) the Court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that S. Eccleston will not reoffend; (c) S. Eccleston has made impressive efforts to rehabilitate himself while incarcerated, including obtaining a college degree and improving his problems with mental health and drugs; (d) S. Eccleston's has no prison disciplinary history; (e) S. Eccleston was eighteen when he committed the underlying offense and has been incarcerated for twenty-six years; and (f) S. Eccleston has displayed consistent remorse for his actions; (iii) the Sentencing Commission's policy statements are a neutral factor, because there are currently no applicable Sentencing Commission policy statements; and (iv) a sentence of 228 months is consistent with § 3553(a), because it is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, to provide just punishment for the offense, to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct, to protect the public from S. Eccleston, and to provide S. Eccleston with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner. Accordingly, (i) the Motion is denied; (ii) the Amended Motion is granted in part and denied in part; (iii) the Second Amended Motion, is granted in part and denied in part; and (iv) Defendant S. Eccleston's previously imposed sentence of 417 months is reduced to 228 months, which the Court derives by subtracting the time S. Eccleston served in State prison from his federal sentence.3


S. Eccleston committed a series of crimes from when he was fourteen to nineteen years old, some of which resulted in his existing federal sentence. See Presentence Report, filed June 29, 2020 (Doc. 314)("PSR"). The Court first summarizes S. Eccleston's background, including his criminal history, before he was sentenced. Second, the Court makes findings of fact regarding S. Eccleston's federal offense, carjacking. Third, the Court makes findings of fact regarding COVID-19 and S. Eccleston's health problems. Fourth, the Court makes findings of fact about S. Eccleston's time in prison, including his rehabilitative efforts. Last, the Court makes findings of fact regarding S. Eccleston's future plans. S. Eccleston "bears the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence" to demonstrate that his sentence should be reduced. United States v. Grasha, 489 F. Supp. 3d 403, 406 (W.D. Pa. 2020) (Flowers, J.)(collecting cases).

1. S. Eccleston's Background Before Federal Sentencing.

1. "S. Eccleston was born on February 20, 1976, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara, California ...." PSR ¶ 58, at 13.

2. S. Eccleston's parents divorced when S. Eccleston was approximately three years old, because of "incompatibility" and infidelity by S. Eccleston's father. PSR ¶ 58, at 13.

3. S. Eccleston "became depressed after his parents divorced." PSR ¶ 67, at 15.

4. Following the divorce and until S. Eccleston was thirteen years old, he lived with his mother, Maria Soledad Anton, in Maryland and Virginia. See PSR ¶ 62, at 14.

5. While Anton was working, S. Eccleston "and his brothers would be out in the streets doing whatever they wanted." PSR ¶ 67, at 15.

6. From ages five to age seven, S. Eccleston's stepfather physically abused him. See PSR ¶ 67, at 15.

7. S. Eccleston's stepfather also abused drugs. See PSR ¶ 67, at 15.

8. S. Eccleston was then "sexually abused by an eighteen-year-old cousin when he was approximately seven years old"; the sexual abuse continued until S. Eccleston was twelve. PSR ¶ 66, at 15.

9. S. Eccleston told his parents about the sexual abuse, but "they did not believe him." PSR ¶ 66, at 15.

10. When S. Eccleston was nine years old, he "began abusing drugs by inhaling gasoline ... and smoking marijuana." PSR ¶ 72, at 16.

11. From ages eleven through fifteen, S. Eccleston abused gasoline regularly. See PSR ¶ 72, at 16.

12. S. Eccleston also "experimented with cocaine." PSR ¶ 72, at 16.

13. When S. Eccleston was thirteen, he was "raped by an individual who was intoxicated." PSR ¶ 66, at 15.

14. S. Eccleston's father, Gregory Eccleston, "attempted to have medication prescribed

to his son through a psychiatrist," but Anton "refused to sign the authorization." PSR ¶ 69, at 15.

15. G. Eccleston then obtained custody of S. Eccleston when he was thirteen, and S. Eccleston moved to Albuquerque to live with G. Eccleston, where S. Eccleston lived primarily until his arrest for the offense in this case. See PSR ¶ 62, at 14.

16. S. Eccleston had initially a difficult relationship with his father; he "would not obey his father, because his father had not been a part of his life .... [H]e lost respect for his father because he never did things fathers and sons do and ... his father never expressed love for him." PSR ¶ 59, at 13.

17. S. Eccleston would "not accept[ ] discipline" from his father "when he did something wrong and would run away from home." PSR ¶ 60, at 13.

18. S. Eccleston "grew up not letting anyone tell him what to do ... because he did what he wanted since he was very young." PSR ¶ 67, at 15.

19. From ages thirteen to seventeen, S. Eccleston was also "in and out of psychiatric institutions," including: (i) three stays in Heights Psychiatric Hospital in Albuquerque; (ii) one stay in Memorial Hospital in Albuquerque; and (iii) one stay at the Psychiatric Institution of Richmond, Virginia; S. Eccleston's "stays at the hospitals averaged between five and six months." PSR ¶¶ 65-66, at 15.

20. During his psychiatric hospital stays, S. Eccleston was diagnosed as "manic depressive.4 " PSR ¶¶ 66, at 15.

21. Also between ages thirteen and seventeen, S. Eccleston "would use LSD on an occasional basis." PSR ¶ 72, at 16.

22. On May 23, 1990, when S. Eccleston was fourteen years old, he "and co-Defendants pulled the victim's pants down and then took a picture of the victim"; as a result, S. Eccleston was placed on "unofficial probation." PSR ¶ 52, at 11.

23. S. Eccleston did not finish high school; he dropped out when he was fifteen. See PSR ¶ 75, at 16.

24. "[T]he highest grade he completed was the tenth grade." PSR ¶ 75, at 16.

25. On March 20, 1991, when S. Eccleston was fifteen years old, he was arrested for commercial burglary in Albuquerque. See PSR ¶ 49, at 9.

26. S. Eccleston was sentenced to six months’ probation on April 25, 1991. See PSR ¶ 49, at 9.

27. Between 1992 and 1994, S. Eccleston "had a relationship with Erica Sanchez." PSR ¶ 63, at 14.

28. S. Eccleston and Sanchez have a child, Fabian Diego Sanchez. See PSR ¶ 63, at 14.

29. During the relationship, S. Eccleston worked at Burritos Chewy in Albuquerque as a cook. See PSR ¶ 76, at 17.

30. S. Eccleston and Sanchez separated because S. Eccleston "was living on the streets and due to his incarceration on the instant offense." PSR ¶ 63, at 14.

31. From 1993 to 1994, S. Eccleston was a member of Albuquerque's Uptown Kings Gang. See PSR ¶ 57, at 12.

32. S. Eccleston "really did not want to be in a gang," but "the gang would sometimes give him a place to stay." PSR ¶ 57, at 12.

33. Around the same time, S. Eccleston also was "addicted to...

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