United States v. Prince

Decision Date17 January 2023
Docket Number2:16-cr-00225-GMN-NJK-2
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, I v. JOHN WILLIAM PRINCE, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Nevada

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, I
v.

JOHN WILLIAM PRINCE, Defendant.

No. 2:16-cr-00225-GMN-NJK-2

United States District Court, D. Nevada

January 17, 2023


ORDER

Gloria M. Navarro, District Judge United States District Court

Pending before the Court is Defendant John William Prince's (“Defendant's”) Second Motion for Compassionate Release, (ECF No. 193). The Government filed a Response, (ECF No. 196), to which Defendant filed a Reply, [1] (ECF No. 197).

For the reasons discussed below, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Second Emergency Motion for Compassionate Release and Motion to Seal.[2]

I. BACKGROUND

On January 3, 2019, Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Distribute a Controlled Substance - Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B)(viii), and 846. (Mins. Proceedings, ECF No. 152); (J., ECF No. 172). On July 3, 2019, the Court sentenced Defendant to ninety-seven (97) months' imprisonment, to be

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followed by forty-eight (48) months' Supervised Release with special conditions. (See Mins. Proceedings, ECF No. 171); (J., ECF No. 172). Defendant is presently in custody at the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center (“Fort Worth FMC”). (See Second Mot. Comp. Rel. (“Second MCR”) 2:21-3:2, ECF No. 193). On July 10, 2020, filed his first Motion for Compassionate Release, (see generally First MCR, ECF No. 175), which this Court denied on December 28, 2020. (Order, ECF No. 184).

By the instant motion, Defendant again petitions this Court for compassionate release. Defendant requests the Court reduce his ninety-seven (97) month sentence to time served to enable him to begin his forty-eight (48) month term of supervised release. (Second MCR 2:68). Alternatively, Defendant asks the Court to reduce his “sentence to time served, extend his supervised-release term, and add a condition of home confinement for the remainder of his custodial sentence (approximately [fifty-eight] 58 months).” (Id. 2:8-11).

The Court discusses Defendant's Second Motion for Compassionate Release below.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The compassionate release provision of 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), as amended by the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (Dec. 21, 2018), authorizes the sentencing court to modify a defendant's sentence in limited circumstances. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The sentencing court may order compassionate release, “if after considering the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a),” the defendant has demonstrated: (1) he has exhausted his administrative remedies; (2) “extraordinary and compelling reasons” warrant a reduction in his sentence, and (3) he is not “a danger to the safety of any other person or the community.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A); USSG § 1B1.13. Under United States Sentencing Guideline § 1B1.13, “extraordinary and compelling reasons” include, among other things, terminal illnesses and medical conditions “that substantially diminish[ ] the ability of the defendant to provide selfcare within the environment of a correctional facility and from which he or she is not expected

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to recover.” USSG § 1B1.13. The court may also consider “other reasons” including a “reason other than, or in combination with” a reason specifically provided in the Sentencing Guidelines. Id. The decision to grant compassionate release is in the sentencing court's discretion. See United States v. Wade, 2:99-cr-00257-CAS-3, 2020 WL 1864906, at *5 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 13, 2020).

III. DISCUSSION

The Government disputes neither that Defendant has exhausted his administrative remedies, nor that Defendant has presented “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for his release in light of his underlying medical conditions[3] and the COVID-19 pandemic.[4] (See Resp. Second MCR 3:5-24, ECF No. 196). As such, the Court's analysis is limited to a discussion of whether Defendant has demonstrated that his release would not present a danger to the public, as well as whether release is warranted under the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors.

Under 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g), an inmate may be granted compassionate release only if he is not a danger to any other person or to the community. See United States v. Johnson, No. 2:19-cr-0081, 2020 WL 2114357, at *1 (E.D. Wash. May 4, 2020) (“[T]he Court should not grant a sentence reduction if the defendant poses a risk of danger to the community, as defined

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in the Bail Reform Act.”). In assessing whether the Defendant presents a danger to the community, the Court should consider factors such as: (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense involved violence or a controlled substance; (2) the weight of evidence against the defendant; (3) the defendant's history and characteristics, including physical and mental condition, criminal history, and family ties; and (4) the nature and seriousness of the danger posed by the defendant's release. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g).

First, the Court reflects on the “nature and circumstances of the offense.” This factor can be bifurcated into two separate but related inquiries. The former will examine how courts have broadly considered drug offenses in determining the danger posed by an individual. The latter will analyze the specific circumstances of Defendant's offense, namely his role in the conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.

Beginning with Defendant's charge for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, the Court notes that it takes seriously the destruction drugs cause the community. Nevertheless, courts have found that a conviction for a non-violent drug offense alone is not enough to demonstrate that a person will be a danger to the community. See United States v. Matthews, 557 F.Supp.3d 1057, 1067 (E.D. Cal. 2021) (finding that the nature and circumstances of the defendant's offense weighed in favor of release where he participated in non-violent crimes, specifically taking “part of a drug distribution conspiracy” and further noting that “he was not the leader”); United States v. Luna, 478 F.Supp.3d 859, 863 (N.D. Cal. 2020) (“Luna has demonstrated that a reduction of sentence to time served would pose no danger to public safety where his conviction . . . involved . . . non-violent drug offenses ....”); United States v. Fowler, 445 F.Supp.3d 452, 453-54 (N.D. Cal. Jun. 6, 2020) (finding that a defendant who had never committed a violent crime, but whose underlying offense was distributing methamphetamine, was not a danger to the community). Thus, the nature of the offense weighs against a finding that Defendant poses a threat of harm to the community.

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Turning to the specific circumstances of the offense, courts have denied compassionate release due to concerns about public safety where the defendant had a leadership role in the drug distribution conspiracy. See United States v. Lopez-Ontiveros, No. 15-cr-575, 2021 WL 165037, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 19, 2021) (“Although his underlying offense was non-violent, district courts have denied compassionate release when the defendant had a...

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