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United States v. Austin

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA


December 8, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
LORENZO AUSTIN, DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Lawrence K. Karlton

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REDUCE SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)

On December 8, 2009, the above-entitled matter came before the Court for hearing on Mr. Austin's motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). That statute authorizes the Court to reduce a sentence that was "based on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." The government contends that this case is controlled by United States v. Bride, 581 F.3d 888 (9th Cir. 2009). The Court disagrees. First, the Ninth Circuit in Bride specifically noted that it was not reaching the issue of whether relief in a Section 3582(c)(2) proceeding is necessarily precluded when a district court imposes a sentence pursuant to a binding plea agreement under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C). Id. at 891 n.5.

Second, Bride is plainly distinguishable on its facts. In that case, the applicable guideline range was 360 months to life; nevertheless, the court sentenced the defendant to the 19-year term agreed upon by the parties in the binding plea agreement. The Ninth Circuit emphasized that "the terms of the plea agreement are key to determining whether the defendant's sentence was, in fact, based on a sentencing range that was later reduced by the Sentencing Commission." Id. at 891. The fact that the defendant received a sentence that was "a full eleven years" shorter than the low-end of the applicable Guidelines sentencing range demonstrated that the defendant's sentence was based on the agreement between the parties rather than on a guidelines sentencing range. Ibid. In this case, by contrast, Mr. Austin was facing a guideline range of 168 to 210 months on count one, and the term of 144 months the Court imposed on that count represents a 15% downward departure from the bottom of the applicable guideline range.

In accordance with Bride, this Court has carefully examined the terms of the plea agreement. In paragraph 11 of the agreement, the government agreed "not to seek an upward departure from the applicable guideline range at the time of sentence," and defendant similarly agreed "not to seek a downward adjustment from the applicable guideline range," with exceptions not relevant to the current motion. Plea agreement at p. 6 (emphasis added). If the terms of Mr. Austin's imprisonment were based solely on the parties' agreement, as the government contends, there would have been no need to limit the parties' ability to seek adjustments (either downward or upward) at the time of sentencing.

Accordingly, this Court finds that the sentence imposed on Mr. Austin was based on a guideline range subsequently lowered by the United States Sentencing Commission. The motion to reduce sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) is GRANTED. The defendant is committed to the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons to be imprisoned for a term of 120 months as to Count 1, and a term of 60 months on Count 2, to be served consecutively, for a total term of 180 months. The Clerk shall prepare an amended judgment.

20091208

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