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United States v. Castagnola

United States District Court, S.D. California

July 24, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILIP JOHN CASTAGNOLA (14), Defendant.

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

MARILYN L. HUFF, District Judge.

On April 14, 2015, Defendant Philip John Castagnola ("Defendant") filed, through his previously appointed defense attorney Merle N. Schneidewind, a joint motion with the concurrence of the Government to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) based on Amendment 782 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines ("U.S.S.G.") as promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission. (Doc. No. 1545.)

On April 17, 2015, the Court issued an Order to Show Cause ("OSC") why the Count should not deny the joint motion to reduce the Defendant's sentence based on the limitation in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A), since the Court made two departures in the Defendant's original sentence. (Doc. No. 1546.) The Court imposed a custodial sentence of 87 months after departing downward one level based on the parties' joint recommendation[1] (Doc. Nos. 859 and 1073) and departing downward one additional level under United States v. Cook, 938 F.2d 149 (9th Cir. 1991) and Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81 (1996) for a combination of factors under U.S.S.G § 5K2.0. (See generally Doc. Nos. 1123 and 1125.)

On April 21, 2015, the Defendant responded to the OSC. (Doc. No. 1547.) The Defendant argues that that the purpose of the one-level "fast-track" departure under § 5K3.1 was to "account for time served of 245 actual days in custody in a related state case (SCD231394)" and that "[u]nder the sentencing guidelines § 5G1.3(b), the Court may depart downward" to account for the time the Defendant served in state custody. (Id. at pg. 4.) Furthermore, the Defendant asserts that "[c]ounsel has used the term fast track' for the departure when in fact it was a departure under 5G1.3." Id . The Defendant did not address the Court's additional § 5K2.0 departure under Cook and Koon.

In response to the Court's OSC, the Government now opposes the motion to reduce the Defendant's sentence, arguing that "[b]ecause these departure were not related to substantial assistance, then under § 1B1.10, they do not carry over to the new, amended, guideline calculation" and "[t]herefore, under §1B1.10(b), Defendant is not entitled to any further reductions, and the Court should deny his motion." (Doc. No. 1554 at pg. 7.) The Court agrees with the Government.

The Court turns to the applicable Guideline language and law to evaluate the motion for a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2). U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(1) (Nov. 1, 2014) provides that:

In determining whether, and to what extent, a reduction in the defendant's term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and this policy statement is warranted, the court shall determine the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant if the amendment(s) to the guidelines listed in subsection (d) had been in effect at the time the defendant was sentenced. In making such determination, the court shall substitute only the amendments listed in subsection (d) for the corresponding guideline provisions that were applied when the defendant was sentenced and shall leave all other guideline application decisions unaffected.[2]

Additionally, "the court shall not reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and this policy statement to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guideline range determined under subdivision (1) of this subsection." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(A) (Nov. 1, 2014). The commentary to § 1B1.10 clarifies that the "[e]ligibility for consideration under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) is triggered only by an amendment listed in subsection (d) that lowers the applicable guideline range (i.e., the guideline range that corresponds to the offense level and criminal history category determined pursuant to §1B1.1(a), which is determined before consideration of any departure provision in the Guidelines Manual or any variance)." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10 cmt. n.1(A) (Nov. 1, 2014).

An exception exists under U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(b)(2)(B) (Nov. 1, 2014) if a defendant was sentenced below the Guideline range pursuant to a government motion reflecting a defendant's substantial assistance under U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 (at the time of sentencing) or under Fed. R. Crim. P. 35(b) (post-sentencing).

In Dillon v. United States, 130 S.Ct. 2683, 2691 (2010), the Supreme Court explained the limited nature of the § 3582(c)(2) proceedings and the process for ruling on motions to reduce sentenced under that section.

Consistent with the limited nature of §3582(c)(2) proceedings, §1B1.10(b)(2) also confines the extent of the reduction authorized. Courts generally may "not reduce the defendant's term of imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2)... to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guideline range" produced by the substitution. §1B1.10(b)(2)(A). Only if the sentencing court originally imposed a term of imprisonment below the Guidelines range does §1B1.10 authorize a court proceeding under §3582(c)(2) to impose a term "comparably" below the amended range. §1B1.10(b)(2)(B).

In Dillon, the Supreme Court required district courts to follow a two-step process in ruling on motions under § 3582(c)(2). The Supreme Court cautioned that "[f]ollowing this two-step approach, a district court proceeding under §3582(c)(2) does not impose a new sentence in the usual sense." Id . Furthermore, "proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) and this policy statement do not constitute a full resentencing of the defendant." U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(a)(3). The two-step process provided by Dillon, 130 S.Ct. at 2691-92, is as follows:

At step one, §3582(c)(2) requires the court to follow the Commission's instructions in § 1B1.10 to determine the prisoner's eligibility for a sentence modification and the extent of the reduction authorized. Specifically, § 1B1.10(b)(1) requires the court to begin by "determin[ing] the amended guideline range that would have been applicable to the defendant" had the relevant amendment been in effect at the time of the initial sentencing. "In making such determination, the court shall substitute only the amendments listed in subsection (c) for the corresponding guideline provisions that were applied when the defendant was sentenced and shall leave all other guideline application decisions unaffected."
At step two of the inquiry, §3582(c)(2) instructs a court to consider any applicable §3553(a) factors and determine whether, in its discretion, the reduction authorized by reference to the policies relevant at step one is warranted in whole or in part under the particular circumstances of the case. Because reference to §3553(a) is appropriate only at the second step of this circumscribed inquiry, ...

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