United States v. Villarreal, 8-cr-1332-JAH-2

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
Docket Number8-cr-1332-JAH-2
Decision Date24 March 2022



No. 8-cr-1332-JAH-2

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 24, 2022




Pending before the Court is Defendant Fidel Villareal's (“Defendant” or “Mr. Villareal”) motion to reduce his sentence of imprisonment on the basis of (1) the risk posed to Defendant by the coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”) in light of his medical conditions, and (2) what Defendant contends is an unusually long sentence. (ECF No. 532; ECF No. 541). Defendant seeks compassionate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A). Id. The Government opposes the motion. (ECF No. 550; ECF No. 565). Having carefully considered the motion, exhibits, and responses, and for the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.



On April 24, 2008, Defendant Villareal was charged with multiple counts of Bringing in Aliens for Financial Gain, Conspiracy to Bring in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, Receiving Bribe by Public Official, Bribery of a Public Official, Conspiracy to Launder Money (International Promotion), Conspiracy to Tamper with a Witness, and Witness Tampering. (ECF No. 1). The case proceeded to trial and the jury convicted Defendant of Conspiracy to Bring in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, several counts of Bringing in Illegal Aliens for Financial Gain, Receiving Bribe by Public Official, and Conspiracy to Launder Money (International Promotion). (ECF No. 363). The Court initially sentenced Defendant to 360 months in custody, (id. at 2), and Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence. (ECF No. 355). The Ninth Circuit reversed in part, holding that the Court gave an improper jury instruction on the bribery charge, erred by considering departures before calculating the Guideline range, and failed to explain the sentence. (ECF No. 449). After the case was remanded to this Court, the Government dismissed the bribery charge, which negated the need for a new trial. (ECF No. 448).

Instead, the case proceeded to re-sentencing, where Defendant started with a base offense level of 32. From there, the Court applied the following enhancements: (1) + 4 because the “Offense Involved Substantially More Than 100 Aliens”; (2) + 4 for “Dismissed Conduct (Bribery)”; and (3) +2 for “Disruption to Government Function”. (ECF No. 498). Taken together, this resulted in an adjusted offense level of 42 and a Guideline range of 360 days to life. (Id.). The Court re-sentenced Defendant to a total of 270 months in custody, (ECF No. 494), which was appealed by the Defendant and subsequently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. (ECF No. 504 at 7; United States v. Villareal, 725 Fed.Appx. 515 (9th Cir. 2018)). Defendant then filed a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court, which was denied on December 3, 2018. See Villareal v. United States, No. 18-5468, 139 S.Ct. 592 (2018).


On January 7, 2021, Defendant filed the instant motion seeking compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A). (ECF No. 532).[1] Defendant alleges his age and underlying medical conditions place him at significant risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe long-term effects. Id. Defendant also argues that his allegedly unusually long sentence is a basis for reduction. Defendant filed a supplemental motion on February 15, 2021 in support of his initial motion for compassionate release (ECF No. 541). On February 22, 2021, the United States of America (“Government”) filed a response in opposition to Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 550), to which Defendant replied (ECF No. 558). The Government also filed a response to Defendant's supplemental motion, (ECF No. 565), to which Defendant replied (ECF No. 569). On September 3, 2021, the Government submitted a supplemental document in support of their opposition. (ECF No. 583). The Government argues the Defendant possesses adequate and consistent access to professional health care within the BOP to sufficiently monitor his underlying medical conditions. Id. The Government further argues that Defendant's alleged danger to the community and the balance of the 3553(a) factors counsel against reduction. (ECF 550 at 38).


A court generally may not correct or modify a prison sentence once it has been imposed, unless expressly permitted by statute or by Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. United States v. Penna, 319 F.3d 509, 511 (9th Cir. 2003). Defendant seeks modification of his sentence under the compassionate release provision of 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A)(i), as amended by the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (Dec. 21, 2018). The amendment to §3582(c)(1)(A) provides prisoners with two direct routes to court: (1) file a motion after fully exhausting administrative appeals of the BOP's


decision not to file a motion, or (2) file a motion after “the lapse of 30 days from the receipt ... of such a request” by the warden of the defendant's facility, “whichever is earlier.” 18 U.S.C. §3852(c)(1)(A).

After the Defendant has exhausted his administrative remedies, “a court may modify or reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment ‘after considering the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C. §3553(a)]' if the Court finds, as relevant here, that ‘extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction' and ‘such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.'” United States v. Rupak, No. 16-CR-01333-BAS-1, 2022 WL 65171, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2022) (citing 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A)(i)).

“As the movant, the defendant bears the burden to establish that he or she is eligible for a sentence reduction.” Rupak, 2022 WL 65171, at *3 (citing United States v. Holden, 452 F.Supp.3d 964, 969 (D. Or. 2020)).


In analyzing whether Defendant is entitled to compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A), the Court will determine whether the following three requirements are satisfied. First, Defendant must show he has exhausted administrative remedies. Second, Defendant must demonstrate that extraordinary and compelling reasons “warrant… a reduction.” 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Third, Defendant must establish that the 18 U.S.C. §3553 (a) sentencing factors “are consistent with” granting a motion for compassionate release. United States v. Trent, 2020 WL 11812242, at *2 (N.D. Cal. 2020).

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

A court may reduce a term of imprisonment on a motion from a defendant “after the defendant has fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons to bring a motion on the defendant's behalf or the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility, whichever is earlier.” See 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A).


On October 3, 2020, Defendant submitted an electronic request for compassionate release with the Warden at FCI Gilmer. (ECF No. 532 at 2; Id. at 16). That request was denied on October 28, 2020. Though it is unclear whether Defendant has properly appealed the Warden's decision, [2] the Government concedes that Defendant has exhausted his remedies. (ECF No. 550 at 27-28). Accordingly, the Court proceeds to review Defendant's motion on the merits. See United States v. Keller, 2 F.4th 1278, 1282 (9th Cir. 2021) (holding that while “§3582(c)(1)(A)'s administrative exhaustion requirement imposes a mandatory claim-processing rule that must be enforced when properly invoked”, the rule is “mandatory in the sense that a court must enforce the rule if a party properly raise[s] it, but the objection may be forfeited if the party asserting the rule waits too long to raise the point”) (internal quotations and citations omitted); see also Rupak, 2022 WL 65171 at *2 (citation omitted) (noting that while Mr. Rupak “failed to exhaust his administrative remedies” because “he did not appeal the denial of his request”, “the Government failed to raise this issue in its brief” and thus “the Court proceeds to analyze his substantive request.”).

B. Defendant Has Failed to Carry His Burden to Demonstrate Extraordinary and Compelling Reasons Warranting Reduction

A court may reduce a defendant's sentence if it finds that “extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction” and that “such a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.” 18 U.S.C. §3582 (c)(1)(A). Though the Sentencing Commission's original policy statements are not binding, [3] they are informative and provide illustrative examples of extraordinary and


compelling reasons, such as a “serious physical or medical condition”, “serious functional or cognitive impairment”, or “deteriorating physical or mental health because of the aging process”, any of which should “substantially diminish[h] the ability of the defendant to provide self-care within the environment of a correctional facility and from which he or she is not expected to recover.” Rupak, 2022 WL 65171 at *3 (citation omitted).

Courts “have routinely denied [motions for compassionate release] absent truly exceptional circumstances”, id., and the mere “fact that a defendant is in poor physical health or has chronic health conditions may be insufficient to show extraordinary and compelling reasons for release.” Id. (citing United States v. Saccoccia, 10 F.4th 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2021); United States v. DeMille, 465 F.Supp.3d 1144, 1149 (D. Or. 2020)). Defendant principally argues that (1) his age and underlying medical conditions, coupled with prison conditions at FCI Gilmer, place him at risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe long-term effects, and that (2) his sentence is unusually long. (ECF No. 532; ECF No. 541). He contends that both reasons...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT