United States v. Jones, Case No. 94-cr-20079-EJD-1

Decision Date27 August 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 94-cr-20079-EJD-1
Citation482 F.Supp.3d 969
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Anthony Jamal JONES, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

Anthony Jamal Jones, Florence, CO, pro se.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR COMPASSIONATE RELEASE

Re: Dkt. No. 72

EDWARD J. DAVILA, United States District Judge

This order vacates and supersedes ECF No. 80, which was filed on August 25, 2020.

In 1995, Anthony Jamal Jones pleaded guilty to various robbery and firearms charges and was sentenced principally to 357 months (or 29.75 years) in prison. Mr. Jones is currently serving out his term of imprisonment in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") at USP Atlanta.

Mr. Jones moves this Court for his immediate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), arguing that changes in federal sentencing law and the coronavirus pandemic constitute "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for a reduction in his sentence. The Government opposes Mr. Jones's request. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will GRANT Mr. Jones's motion for a sentence reduction and order his prompt release.

I. BACKGROUND

The following background facts are undisputed.

In 1994, Mr. Jones was charged with five counts of armed robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) & (d), and five counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, see 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Dkt. No. 73-1 (indictment). These charges were brought in connection with a series of bank robberies that Mr. Jones and another individual, Patrick Reed, committed when Mr. Jones was 21 years old. Dkt. No. 73-2 (presentence report ("PSR"), filed under seal) at 3-6.

On January 4, 1995, Mr. Jones entered into a plea agreement under which he pleaded guilty to the five counts of armed robbery (Counts 1-5) and to two counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence (Counts 6 and 10). Dkt. No. 19; Dkt. No. 73-3 (plea agreement) at 1-2. In exchange for Mr. Jones's guilty plea, the Government agreed to and did move to dismiss the other three counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence. Id. at 4; Dkt. No. 18.

As the parties did not agree to a particular sentence, see Dkt. No. 73-3 at 7, Mr. Jones was sentenced by District Judge James W. Ware on March 8, 1995, see Dkt. No. 23. Judge Ware sentenced Mr. Jones to a total of 29 years 9 months incarceration, to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.1 Dkt. No. 73-4 (judgment). The term of imprisonment consists of: (1) 57 months for the five counts of armed robbery (Counts 1-5); (2) a mandatory, consecutive 60 months for the first § 924(c) count (Count 6); and (3) a mandatory, consecutive 240 months for the second § 924(c) count (Count 10). Id. The 57-month sentence as to Counts 1-5 was in the lowest possible range of the then-applicable version of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines (the "Guidelines"). See Dkt. No. 73-3 at 6-7.

Mr. Jones was initially committed to FCI Florence in Colorado, beginning in April 1995. While there, in 1997, Mr. Jones was convicted of misdemeanor simple assault and sentenced to 12 months incarceration, to run consecutive to the sentence imposed in the above-captioned case. Dkt. No. 73-5 (Dkt. No. 73-6 (docket for Case No. 97-cr-00159 in the District of Colorado). Since then, Mr. Jones's prison term appears to have been largely uneventful. See Dkt. No. 73-5 ("BOP Summary Reentry Plan"). Mr. Jones was later transferred to USP Atlanta, where he is currently incarcerated. Id. at 3.

Mr. Jones is presently 48 years old. Dkt. No. 73-9 (Exhibit I, BOP medical records, filed under seal). He has been incarcerated for more than 25 years. According to the BOP, he is projected to satisfy his sentence in the instant case and begin serving his sentence in the Colorado case on September 15, 2020; he is projected to be released on September 14, 2021. Dkt. No. 78-1.

Now before the Court is Mr. Jones's motion for a reduction in his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1), commonly referred to as compassionate release. Dkt. No. 72 ("Mot."). Mr. Jones filed his motion on June 12, 2020, at which time he had not yet satisfied the administrative exhaustion requirement at 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The parties agree that Mr. Jones has now exhausted his administrative remedies, however, and the motion has been fully briefed; it is thus ripe for the Court's review. See Dkt. Nos. 78 ("Opp."); 79 ("Reply").

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A federal district court "may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed" except in limited circumstances. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) ; see also Dillon v. United States , 560 U.S. 817, 824–25, 130 S.Ct. 2683, 177 L.Ed.2d 271 (2010). 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) identifies one of the "exception[s] to the general rule of finality." Dillon , 560 U.S. at 824, 130 S.Ct. 2683. Pursuant to this provision, a court may "reduce the term of imprisonment" "upon a motion of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, or upon motion of the defendant ... if it finds that ... extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). In determining whether "extraordinary and compelling reasons" for reducing the defendant's sentence, the Court must "consider[ ] the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable." Id. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The Court must also ensure that "such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." Id. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 994, which sets forth the "duties of the Commission," the policy statement "shall describe what should be considered extraordinary and compelling reasons for sentence reduction, including the criteria to be applied and a list of specific examples." 28 U.S.C. § 994(t).

In addition, as alluded to above, § 3582(c)(1)(A) contains an exhaustion requirement: A defendant may bring a motion on his own behalf only after he has "fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons" to bring the motion on his behalf or after "the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility, whichever is earlier." Id. To fulfill this requirement, Mr. Jones submitted a request for a sentence reduction to the Warden of the USP Atlanta on May 26, 2020. Dkt. No. 77. The parties agree that 30 days elapsed since that unanswered request on June 25, 2020, and that the Court thus presently has jurisdiction over Mr. Jones's motion. See Opp. at 3; Reply at 2.

III. DISCUSSION

In his § 3582(c)(1) motion, Mr. Jones moves for a reduction in his sentence of at least 15 months, which would allow for his immediate release. Mr. Jones offers two "extraordinary and compelling reasons" that, "taken alone, or considered together," he believes justify the requested reduction: (1) the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) significant changes in sentencing law—namely, the First Step Act's elimination of the practice of "stacking" mandatory § 924(c) sentences and the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in United States v. Booker , 543 U.S. 220, 125 S.Ct. 738, 160 L.Ed.2d 621 (2005), making the Guidelines advisory rather than mandatory. Mot. at 6-7. Mr. Jones further submits that the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) —including his significant efforts toward rehabilitation—support compassionate release. Mot. at 17.

The Government opposes release, arguing that these reasons are not "extraordinary and compelling." In addition, the Government maintains that a reduction based on changes to sentencing law would not be consistent with the Sentencing Commission's policy statement at § 1B1.13 of the Guidelines. The Government also asks the Court to limit any sentence modification that it might grant to time served.

Having considered the parties’ submissions and the applicable law, the Court concludes that the combination of changes in federal sentencing law, Mr. Jones's potential risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and the § 3553(a) factors constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons for his release. The Court further finds that § 1B1.13 of the Guidelines presents no barrier to modifying Mr. Jones's sentence. Finally, the Court rejects the Government's counterproposal of time served and grants Mr. Jones's request for a reduction of 15 months.

A. The Sentencing Commission's Policy Statement Re "Extraordinary and Compelling Reasons"

Turning to the merits of Mr. Jones's request, the Court begins with the Government's threshold argument that a court, in determining whether "extraordinary and compelling reasons" exist, may only consider the reasons specifically identified by the Sentencing Commission in its commentary to § 1B1.13 of the Guidelines. See Opp. at 5-6. The Court finds that that it is not so limited and may consider any relevant circumstances.

As noted above, a sentence reduction may be granted under § 3582(c)(1)(A) only if it "is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The relevant Sentencing Commission policy statement is § 1B1.13 of the Guidelines. U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 1B1.13 (U.S. Sentencing Comm'n 2018). The Government points the Court to the Application Notes, which set forth "four examples of what constitutes an ‘extraordinary and compelling circumstance,’ " Opp. at 5:

(A) Medical Condition of the Defendant .—
(i) The defendant is suffering from a terminal illness (i.e., a serious and advanced illness with an end of life trajectory). A specific prognosis of life expectancy (i.e., a probability of death within a specific time period) is not required. Examples include metastatic solid-tumor cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), end-stage organ disease, and advanced dementia.
(ii) The defendant is—
(I) suffering from a serious physical or medical condition,
(II) suffering from a serious functional or cognitive impairment, or
(III) experiencing deteriorating physical or mental health because of the aging process,
that
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