United States District Court, C.D. California
May 29, 2014
Joseph Hamlin Defendants.
CRIMINAL MINUTES - GENERAL
VALERIE BAKER FAIRBANK, Senior District Judge.
Proceedings (IN CHAMBERS) OPINION AND ORDER DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S "MOTION FOR RELIEF UNDER U.S.S.G. § 7B1.1"
In 1998, Joseph Hamlin ("defendant") was convicted in United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee ("the Tennessee court") Case No. CR 98-38-10 of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, cocaine base ("crack"), and marijuana. The Tennessee court sentenced defendant to 156 months (thirteen years) in federal prison. After defendant served the thirteen years in federal prison (including time served prior to sentencing), he began a ten-year period of supervised release.
On June 25, 2010, the Tennessee court transferred jurisdiction over defendant to this court for the duration of his supervised release. See Documents ("Does") 1-2. Proceeding pro se, defendant filed a motion for relief under United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.") § 7B1.1 (Doc 3). As ordered (Docs 4, 5 and 9), the government filed a response to the defendant's motion on April 28, 2014 (Doc 10). This Court's April 10, 2014 order (Doc 9) advised defendant that he was allowed to file a reply brief in support of his motion no later than Friday, May 16, 2014. Even assuming that defendant tendered a reply to prison authorities for mailing on Friday, May 16, 2014 and it was not actually mailed until Monday, May 19, 2014, any such reply would have reached the Clerk's Office of this court in the ordinary course of the mail by now. See Cox v. California, 2013 WL 3755956, *1 (C.D. Cal. July 16, 2013) ("Even excluding the two intervening days when there was no U.S. Postal Service delivery of first-class mail... in the ordinary course of events the document certainly would have arrived here no later than... five mailing days later.") (Fairbank, J.) (citing U.S. v. Mierop, 2010 549297, *2 (W.D. Mich. Feb. 10, 2010) (Maloney, C.J.) (even assuming prison did not mail reply until Thursday, February 4, two days after petitioner submitted it, that brief would have made the 700-mile journey via regular first-class mail from his prison to the Clerk's office within three business days, i.e., by Monday, February 8)). Accordingly, the Court proceeds to rule on the motion without waiting further for a reply. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the defendant's motion.
Defendant's motion reads as follows, in its entirety:
[He] should be considered [for] a reduction under U.S.S.G. 5K1.1 [because] the defendant[']s substantial assistance led to great bodily injuries that was [sic] life[-]threatening[.] [T]he defendant has co-operated and continues to co-operate in the case of above case number the defendant leader head of the criminal enterpri[s]e, leader of the Rolling 90s street gang the defendant in the above case number and name has testified on the trial of Jamal Shakur and receive[d] a downward departure of up to 50% of the applicable guideline range.
The defendant asserts that he has been brurtally [sic] stab[b]ed and beaten by members of the Rolling 90s street gang as a result the defendant was place[d] in cri[t] ical condition for many days pursuant by these members that ha[ve] been directed to kill the defendant which [sic] was stab[b]ed, beaten, and stomped to[o] [and] the defendant nearly died.
The defendant ask[s] this court as a result of his substantial assistance warrants a downward departure due to his co-operation that resulted in great bodily injuries and under Exhibit #1A a cop[y] of the hospital report that gives a full description of the defendant[']s time, condition and care level at the time of or after his arrival to Emergency Room.
The defendant is asking [and] praying that this court give the above number and name a departure adjustment pursuant to 5K1[.]1 if the cooperation resulted in great bodily injuries a reduction is warranted. The defendant asserts that this court can consider his circumstances[;] the defendant is going through cri[t]ical thyrapy [sic] rehabilitation and is now classified by the (SSID office) as being disabled after his injuries. The Defendant now request[s] that this court will order a new pre sentence report in order to determine his eligibility for consideration of a reduction in the term of supervised release. Doc 3 at 1-2 (paragraph breaks added). In its opposition (Doc 10 at 3), the government rightly opines that Guideline § 7B 1.1 does not authorize the remedy sought by the defendant. Indeed, Guideline § 7B 1.1 is a policy statement which instructs district courts how to classify a defendant's violation of the terms of supervised release or probation. This section is inapposite here, because there is no allegation in our record that defendant violated any of the terms of his supervised release. Nonetheless, because "pro se pleadings must be liberally construed, " U.S. v. Guizar, No. 13-10132, ___ F.Appx. ___, 2014 WL 2087643, *1 (9th Cir. May 20, 2014), the Court treats defendant's putative U.S.S.G. 7B1.1 motion as a motion for early termination of supervised release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3583(e)(1).
LEGAL STANDARD: EARLY TERMINATION OF FEDERAL SUPERVISED RELEASE
The statutory provision governing early termination of supervised release states, in its entirety,
The court may, after considering the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C.] section 3553(a)(1), (a)(2)(B), (a)(2)(CC), (a)(2)(D), (a)(4), (a)(5), (a)(6), and (a)(7) -
(1) terminate a term of supervised release and discharge the defendant released at any time after the expiration of one year of supervised release, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure relating to the modification of probation, if it is satisfied that such action is warranted by the conduct of the defendant released and the interest of justice.
18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1). In turn, the factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) are:
(1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant;
(3) protection of the public;
(4) the need to provide the defendant with educational, vocational training, medical care or other rehabilitation;
(5) the sentence and sentencing range established for the category of defendant;
(6) any pertinent policy statement by the sentencing commission;
(7) the need to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct; and
(8) the need to provide restitution to any victims of the offense.
See U.S. v. Smith, 219 F.Appx. 666, 667 n.3 (9th Cir. 2007). Section 3553(a)'s "overarching purpose" is to craft a sentence "sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to satisfy the purposes of sentencing." U.S. v. Nelson, 2012 WL 3544889, *2 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 16, 2012) (citing Kimbrough v. US, 552 U.S. 85, 101, 128 S.Ct. 558 (2007)).
The defendant bears the burden of showing that he is entitled to early termination. See U.S. v. Weber, 451 F.3d 552, 559 n.9 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing U.S. v. Weintraub, 371 F.Supp.2d 164, 167 (D. Conn. 2005) and U.S. v. McKay, 352 F.Supp.2d 359, 361 (E.D.N.Y. 2005)). Ultimately, the court possesses broad discretion in determining whether a defendant merits early termination of probation. See U.S. v. Robins, No. 08-CR-01497 Doc. 81 at ___ (C.D. Cal. May 27, 2014) (Fairbank, J.) (citing U.S. v. Hook, 471 F.3d 766, 771 (7th Cir. 2006)). "Moreover, a federal district court need not hold a hearing before ruling on a defendant's motion for early termination ofprobation." Robins, No. 08-CR-01497 Doc. 81 at ___ (citing Floyd, 491 F.Appx. at 333 (discussing FED. R. CRIM. P. 32.1(c)(2), which presumptively requires the court to hold a hearing "[b]efore modifying the conditions of probation or supervised release", not before ruling on a motion for early termination of probation or supervised release) (emphasis added)).
ANALYSIS: DEFENDANT HAS NOT SHOWN THAT EARLY TERMINATION IS JUSTIFIED
So far as the record reflects, the defendant has complied with the terms of his supervised release thus far. As a matter of law, however, the Court determines that defendant's compliance with the terms of his probation cannot constitute a basis for terminating his probation early. "Although it is commendable that defendant has complied with the conditions of probation that the court imposed, this alone is not enough for the court to find that early termination of probation is warranted by defendant's conduct and is in the interest of justice as required by 18 U.S.C. § 3563(cc)." U.S. v. Cotter, 2014 WL 1653106, *1 (W.D. Pa. Apr. 23, 2014). "Section 3564(cc) does not provide for early termination solely based on a defendant's compliance with the terms of probation. [Rather]... early termination... should occur only when the sentencing judge is satisfied that something exceptional or extraordinary warrants it.'" Cotter, 2014 WL 1653106 at *1 (quoting U.S. v. Laine, 404 F.Appx. 571, 573-74 (3d Cir. 2010)); accord U.S. v. Smith, 2014 WL 68796, *1 (S.D.Miss. Jan. 8, 2014) ("Courts have generally held that something more than compliance with the terms of probation is required to justify early termination. Early termination is usually granted only in cases involving changed circumstances, such as exceptionally good behavior.") (collecting unpublished Sixth Circuit decision and district-court cases).
"[O]therwise, every defendant who avoided revocation would be eligible for early termination.'" Robins, No. 08-CR-01497 Doc. ___ at ___, 2014 WL ___ at * ___ (quoting U.S. v. Kai Vang, 2013 WL 4054701, *1 (E.D. Wis. Aug. 12, 2013) and citing U.S. v. Leone, 2013 WL 867527, *2 n.5 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 4, 2013) ("[I]f compliance with the terms of probation necessarily awarded termination to a petitioner, the term itself would be pointless. If bad behavior warrants a revocation of probation (in favor of imprisonment) and good behavior warrants an early termination of probation, then nary a defendant would serve the actual term of probation. The exception would indeed swallow the rule.")). This is particularly true where, as here, the defendant has served less than half of his term of supervised release, cf. U.S. v. Bay, 2012 WL 3779401, *1 (D. Utah. Aug. 30, 2012) ("[T]he Court would note Defendant's compliance with the terms of his probation and his continued employment. However, the Court does not feel that 20 months of good conduct on a term of 60 months probation is sufficient to warrant termination of the remainder of Defendant's probation.") - a term that was set at the relatively uncommon duration of ten years precisely because of the seriousness of his drug-trafficking crime.
The Court now turns to the 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors, which the Court is required to consider when deciding whether to terminate supervised release early under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1). As the government notes (Doc 10 at 4), "[d]efendant committed a serious offense for which he received an appropriate sentence, of which supervised release is an integral part. The sentencing court [M.D. Tenn.] has already determined that ten years of supervised release involves no greater deprivation of liberty than is reasonably necessary' to deter further criminal acts, protect the public, and achieve rehabilitation." Defendant - having failed to file a reply - has not even attempted to carry his burden of showing that the balance of the applicable section 3553(a) factors has changed and now counsel a shorter term of supervised release than those factors did at the time of sentencing. Defendant Hamlin, therefore, has not shown that early termination of supervised release would be in the interest of justice.
Defendant's "Motion for Relief Under U.S.S.G. § 7B1.1" (construed as a motion for early termination of supervised release pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(1)) [Doc # 4] is DENIED.
Defendant SHALL SERVE the full term of supervised release previously imposed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.