United States v. Sanchez

Decision Date06 July 2021
Docket Number1:95-cr-05038-DAD
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California


(DOC. NOS. 134, 143)

Pending before the court is defendant Robert Anthony Sanchez's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (Doc. No. 134), as well as his motion for a reduction of his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C § 3582(c)(1)(A) (Doc. No. 143). For the reasons explained below, defendant's motion brought pursuant to § 2255 will be denied, and defendant's motion brought pursuant to § 3582 will be granted.


On March 2, 1995, an indictment was returned charging defendant Sanchez in Counts One, Three, Five, Seven, Nine, Eleven Thirteen, and Fifteen with interference with commerce by robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); Counts Two Four, and Six with use of a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1); and Counts Eight, Ten, Twelve, Fourteen, and Sixteen with use of a firearm during a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the same in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1) and (2). (Doc. Nos. 1; 134-1, Ex. C.) On February 21, 1995, defendant entered a plea of guilty to Counts One, Two, Five, Six, Seven, Nine, and Thirteen of the indictment. (Doc. No. 134-1, Ex. D.) On January 23, 1996, defendant Sanchez was sentenced to a 63-month term of imprisonment as to Counts One, Five, Seven, Nine, and Thirteen with those terms to be served concurrently with each other; a 60-month term of imprisonment as to Count 2; and a 240-month term of imprisonment as to Count 6 with those terms to be served consecutively both to one another and to the 63 month term imposed on the interference with commerce by robbery counts, constituting an aggregate 363-month term of imprisonment in the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) to be followed by a 60 month term of supervised release. (Doc. No. 134-1, Ex. A.) The court also imposed the mandatory special assessments in the amount of $350.00, and ordered that restitution be made in the amount of $2, 387.00. (Id.)

When defendant Sanchez filed the present motions, he was serving his sentence of imprisonment at BOP's Federal Correctional Institution, Fairton (“FCI Fairton”) in New Jersey. (See Doc. No. 143 at 41.) As of December 18, 2020, defendant stated it was his “understanding that the Bureau of Prisons [] intend[ed] to place him in a halfway house in Oakland, California, more than three hours away from his support network, as early as 4 months from [then].” (Doc. No. 143 at 2.) At the June 30, 2021 hearing on the pending motion for compassionate release, defense counsel represented that defendant Sanchez has been in that halfway house since April 2021. As of the date of this order, defendant Sanchez has served approximately 317 months of his 363-month prison sentence with pre-sentencing jail time credits taken into account. (See Doc. No. 151-1, Ex. 1.) Accounting for prison good time credits as well, defendant Sanchez's projected release date is now February 5, 2022. (See id.)

Defendant Sanchez timely filed his pending § 2255 motion on June 23, 2016.[1] (Doc. No. 134.) On April 19, 2017, the government filed its opposition to the motion, and on April 26, 2017, defendant filed his reply thereto. (Doc. Nos. 137, 138.) Thereafter, defendant filed the pending motion seeking relief under § 3582 on October 23, 2020. (Doc. No. 143.) On November 18, 2020, the government filed its opposition to the § 3582 motion, and on December 18, 2020, defendant filed his reply thereto. (Doc. Nos. 151, 160.) The court held a hearing on defendant's § 3582 motion on June 30, 2021, at which counsel appeared. (Doc. No. 163.)

A. 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Motions

A federal prisoner making a collateral attack against the validity of his or her conviction or sentence must do so by way of a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 filed in the court which imposed the sentence. United States v. Monreal, 301 F.3d 1127, 1130 (9th Cir. 2002). Section 2255 provides four grounds upon which a sentencing court may grant relief to a federal prisoner: (1) the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States; (2) the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence; (3) the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law; or (4) the sentence is otherwise subject to collateral attack. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a); see also Davis v. United States, 417 U.S. 333, 344-45 (1974); Monreal, 301 F.3d at 1130; United States v. Barron, 172 F.3d 1153, 1157 (9th Cir. 1999).

To warrant the granting of relief, the movant must demonstrate the existence of an error of constitutional magnitude which had a substantial and injurious effect or influence on the guilty plea or the jury's verdict. Brecht v. Abrahamson, 507 U.S. 619, 637 (1993); see also United States v. Montalvo, 331 F.3d 1052, 1058 (9th Cir. 2003) (We hold now that Brecht's harmless error standard applies to habeas cases under section 2255, just as it does to those under section 2254.”). Such relief is warranted only where a movant has shown “a fundamental defect which inherently results in a complete miscarriage of justice.” Davis, 417 U.S. at 346; see also United States v. Gianelli, 543 F.3d 1178, 1184 (9th Cir. 2008).

[A] district court must grant a hearing to determine the validity of a petition brought under [§ 2255], [u]nless the motions and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.' United States v. Blaylock, 20 F.3d 1458, 1465 (9th Cir. 1994) (quoting 28 U.S.C. § 2255). The court may deny a hearing if the movant's allegations, viewed against the record, fail to state a claim for relief or “are so palpably incredible or patently frivolous as to warrant summary dismissal.” United States v. McMullen, 98 F.3d 1155, 1159 (9th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also United States v. Withers, 638 F.3d 1055, 1062-63 (9th Cir. 2011); United States v. Leonti, 326 F.3d 1111, 1116 (9th Cir. 2003). To warrant a hearing, therefore, the movant must make specific factual allegations which, if true, would entitle him to relief. Withers, 638 F.3d at 1062; McMullen, 98 F.3d at 1159. Mere conclusory assertions in a § 2255 motion are insufficient, without more, to require the court to hold a hearing. United States v. Hearst, 638 F.2d 1190, 1194 (9th Cir. 1980).

B. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) Motions

A court generally “may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c); see also Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 824 (2010) ([A] judgment of conviction that includes [a sentence of imprisonment] constitutes a final judgment' and may not be modified by a district court except in limited circumstances.”). Those limited circumstances include compassionate release in extraordinary cases. See United States v. Holden, 452 F.Supp.3d 964, 968 (D. Or. 2020). Prior to the enactment of the First Step Act of 2018 (“the FSA”), motions for compassionate release could only be filed by the BOP. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) (2002). Under the FSA, however, imprisoned defendants may now bring their own motions for compassionate release in the district court. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) (2018). In this regard, the FSA specifically provides that a court may

upon motion of the defendant after the defendant has fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the [BOP] to bring a motion on the defendant's behalf[2] or the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility, whichever is earlier, may reduce the term of imprisonment (and may impose a term of probation or supervised release with or without conditions that does not exceed the unserved portion of the original term of imprisonment), after considering the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C. §] 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, if it finds that -
(i) extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction; or
(ii) the defendant is at least 70 years of age, has served at least 30 years in prison, pursuant to a sentence imposed under section 3559(c), for the offense or offenses for which the defendant is currently imprisoned, and a determination has been made by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other person or the community, as provided under section 3142(g);
and that such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission[.]

18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) and (ii).[3]

The applicable policy statement with respect to compassionate release in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines sets out criteria and circumstances describing “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” U.S. Sent'g Guidelines Manual (“U.S.S.G.”) § 1B1.13 (U.S. Sent'g Comm'n 2018)[4]; see also United States v Gonzalez, 451 F.Supp.3d 1194, 1197 (E.D. Wash. 2020) (noting that many courts have relied on U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13 to define “extraordinary and compelling reasons, ” even though that policy statement was issued before Congress passed the FSA and authorized defendants to file compassionate release motions). However, the Ninth Circuit recently held “that the current version of U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13 is not an ‘applicable policy statement[ ]' for 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) motions filed by a defendant.” United States v. Aruda, 993 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2021). “In other words, the Sentencing...

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