United States v. Villarreal, 8-cr-1332-JAH-1

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
Docket Number8-cr-1332-JAH-1
Decision Date24 March 2022



No. 8-cr-1332-JAH-1

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 24, 2022




Pending before the Court is Defendant Raul Villareal's (“Defendant” or “Mr. Villareal”) motion for compassionate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) in light of his medical conditions and circumstances regarding COVID-19. (ECF No. 530 at 3; ECF No. 578 at 3-7). Plaintiff United States of America (“Government”) responded in opposition to the motion. (ECF No. 549; ECF No. 581). 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. 362 at 1). The Court initially sentenced Defendant to 420 months in custody, (id. at 2), and Defendant appealed his conviction and sentence. (ECF No. 353). 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 the Court sentenced Defendant to a total of 336 months in custody, (ECF No. 488), which was appealed by the Defendant and subsequently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. (ECF No. 504).

On January 7, 2021, Defendant filed the instant motion seeking compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). (ECF No. 530).[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. On February 22, 2021, the Government filed a response in opposition to Defendant's motion. (ECF No. 549). The Government argues, among other things, that the Defendant possesses adequate and consistent access to


professional health care within the BOP to sufficiently monitor his underlying medical conditions. Id. Defendant filed a supplemental motion on June 23, 2021 in support of his initial motion for compassionate release (ECF No. 578). The Government filed an opposition to Defendant's supplemental motion, (ECF No. 581), to which Defendant replied (ECF No. 594).


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). Thereafter, the Court may determine whether “extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction” and whether “a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.” Id; U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13(1)(A) & cmt. 1. The Court also considers whether a reduction would be consistent with the §3553(A) factors.

“As the movant, the defendant bears the burden to establish that he or she is eligible for a sentence reduction.” United States v. Rupak, No. 16-CR-01333-BAS-1, 2022 WL 65171, at *3 (S.D. Cal. Jan. 6, 2022) (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 his 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).

In his initial motion, Defendant notes that he submitted an electronic request for compassionate release with the Warden at FCI Gilmer on October 3, 2020 and contends that the Warden failed to respond within thirty days. (ECF No. 530 at 2). However, contrary to Defendant's claim, the Government has explained that on October 28, 2020, Warden R. Hudgins denied Defendant's request for compassionate release. (ECF No. 549 at 27). 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. 549 at 27; ECF No. 581 at 26). 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 Fails to Carry His Burden to Demonstrate that Extraordinary and Compelling Reasons Warranting Reduction Exist

Defendant argues that he faces a heightened risk of severe symptoms and death from COVID-19 because of his hypertension, obesity, PTSD, high A1C levels, and age, and claims that this constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason warranting a reduction. (ECF No. 530 at 3). Defendant further contends that circumstances in BOP facilities and FCI Gilmer rises to the level of “extraordinary and compelling.” (ECF No. 578 at 7). The Government concedes that Defendant may suffer from certain medical conditions, but principally argues that he has failed to demonstrate that his medical conditions constitute “extraordinary and compelling” reasons warranting a reduction in light of his vaccination status. (ECF No. 581 at 8).

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 “substantially diminishes 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).

a. Defendant's Medical Conditions Are Not a Basis for Compassionate Release, Especially in Light of His Vaccination Status

Defendant first argues that...

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