United States v. Lemons, 100821 FED6, 21-5313

Docket Nº21-5313
Opinion JudgeCHAD A. READLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Party NameUnited States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Michael R. Lemons, Defendant-Appellant.
AttorneyM. Dianne Smothers, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant. Naya Bedini, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.
Judge PanelBefore: BATCHELDER, LARSEN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.
Case DateOctober 08, 2021
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Michael R. Lemons, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 21-5313

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

October 8, 2021

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee at Jackson. No. 1:08-cr-10102-1-J. Daniel Breen, District Judge.

ON BRIEF:

M. Dianne Smothers, OFFICE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Naya Bedini, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Memphis, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: BATCHELDER, LARSEN, and READLER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

CHAD A. READLER, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

Michael Lemons appeals from the district court's denial of his motion seeking a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). The district court concluded that Lemons failed to demonstrate extraordinary and compelling reasons justifying a sentence reduction. Seeing no abuse of discretion in that determination, we affirm.

I.

In 2009, Lemons pleaded guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), which prohibits an individual previously convicted of a felony offense from possessing a firearm. The district court in turn sentenced Lemons to 180 months' imprisonment. That sentence was driven by the Armed Career Criminal Act, or ACCA, which requires the imposition of a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 months if the defendant has "at least three previous convictions for certain 'violent' or drug-related felonies." United States v. Stitt, 139 S.Ct. 399, 404 (2018) (quoting 18 U.S.C § 924(e)(1)). Prior to his § 922(g)(1) offense, Lemons had amassed three Tennessee convictions for aggravated burglary. At sentencing, the district court concluded that those offenses qualified as ACCA predicate offenses, thereby triggering a mandatory minimum 15-year sentence under the ACCA. We affirmed, United States v. Lemons, 480 Fed.Appx. 400 (6th Cir. 2012), and later ordered the reinstatement of that sentence after the district court granted Lemons relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, Lemons v. United States, Nos. 17-5945/5947 (6th Cir. Oct. 25, 2019).

After serving approximately seven years of his sentence, Lemons filed a motion seeking a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). He asserted three grounds in support: the risk presented by COVID-19 given his incarceration and his medical conditions, his lengthy sentence, and his progress towards rehabilitation. The district court denied the motion. It held that Lemons did not present extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting a sentence reduction, and thus declined to consider whether the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) supported a sentence reduction. This timely appeal followed.

II.

We review the denial of a motion seeking a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) for abuse of discretion. United States v. Ruffin, 978 F.3d 1000, 1005 (6th Cir. 2020). "A district court abuses its discretion when it applies the incorrect legal standard, misapplies the correct legal standard, or relies upon clearly erroneous findings of fact." United States v. Moore, 582 F.3d 641, 644 (6th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Pugh, 405 F.3d 390, 397 (6th Cir. 2005)).

Federal sentencing law authorizes a district court to reduce a defendant's previously imposed sentence if the court finds that (1) "extraordinary and compelling reasons" warrant a reduction, (2) a reduction is "consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission," and (3) the § 3553(a) factors, to the extent applicable, support a reduction. Ruffin, 978 F.3d at 1003-05 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i)). When a defendant (as opposed to the Bureau of Prisons) files a motion seeking a sentence reduction, however, we do not consider the Commission's current policy statement, U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13. United States v. Sherwood, 986 F.3d 951, 953 (6th Cir. 2021). As a result, a court must deny a defendant's motion if the defendant fails to show either that extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant a sentence reduction or that the § 3553(a) factors support a reduction. Id. at 954; United States v. Hampton, 985 F.3d 530, 531 (6th Cir. 2021).

In the district court, Lemons presented three grounds to support his argument that "extraordinary and compelling reasons" warrant a sentence reduction: the length of his ACCA mandatory minimum sentence, his efforts at rehabilitation, and his underlying medical conditions coupled with the risk of contracting COVID-19 in prison. On appeal, Lemons argues that the district court erred by considering his grounds for relief in isolation rather than collectively, in other words, as three extraordinary and compelling reasons justifying release rather than a single extraordinary and compelling reason. But Lemons points to no binding legal authority to bolster the point. And much to the contrary, we recently held...

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