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United States v. Mendez

United States District Court, E.D. California

May 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSE ESQUIVEL MENDEZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO REDUCE SENTENCE PURSUANT TO 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) ECF No. 270

          Lawrence J. O'Neill UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Defendant Jose Esquivel Mendez's (“Defendant”) pro se motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) (“§ 3582(c)”). See ECF No. 270. By his motion, Defendant, citing United States v. Quintero-Leyva, 823 F.3d 519 (9th Cir. 2016), asserts that he should benefit from Amendment 794[1] to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG” or “Guidelines”) and requests that the Court grant him a 3-level minor role reduction and reduce his sentence. Id. Upon review of the record in the case, including the Probation Office's Presentence Report (“PSR”), and the relevant law, the Court has determined that a response from the Government is not necessary. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for a sentence reduction.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 1, 2009, following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the following counts in a second superseding indictment: Count 1, violating 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A), and 846, Conspiracy to Distribute and to Possess with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine; Count 2, violating 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A), and 18 U.S.C. § 2, Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, and Aiding and Abetting; and Count 3, violating 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(2), Avoidance of Examination by Immigration Officers. PSR ¶ 1; ECF No. 152.

         According to the PSR, over two kilograms of actual methamphetamine was involved in Defendant's offense. PSR ¶ 18. Pursuant to USSG § 2D1.1(c)(1), Defendant's base offense level was 38[2], see id., the offense level was increased by two because Defendant had willfully obstructed or impeded the administration of justice with respect to the investigation or prosecution of the instant offense pursuant to USSG § 3C1.1, see id. at ¶ 22, and his criminal history was category I (based on 0 criminal history points). See id. at ¶ 28. The PSR did not recommend any adjustment for Defendant's role in the offense, stating that “while there is insufficient information to indicate [Defendant] held an aggravating role, it is further believed he did not hold a mitigating role, and consequently no role adjustment is recommended.” Id. ¶ 21. Furthermore, because Defendant had denied the elements of the offenses, was convicted after a jury trial, and declined to make a statement to the Probation office, the PSR did not recommend a reduction for acceptance of responsibility. Id. ¶ 24.

         The Guidelines range for a defendant with an offense level of 40 and a criminal history category 1 is 292 to 365 months of imprisonment. See USSG Ch. 5, Pt. A. The PSR therefore recommended a sentence of 292 months. PSR at 14.

         On August 28, 2009, this Court sentenced Defendant to a term of 292 months of imprisonment for all three counts. See ECF Nos. 181 & 194 (transcript of sentencing hearing). On September 9, 2009, Defendant appealed his conviction to the Ninth Circuit. ECF No 189. His argument on appeal was that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. ECF No. 233 at 2. The Ninth Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction on October 5, 2011. Id.

         On September 17, 2012, Defendant, through counsel, filed a motion pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, therein arguing that he suffered from ineffective assistance of counsel. ECF No. 250. The Court denied Defendant's § 2255 motion on November 30, 2012. ECF No. 254.

         On October 19, 2015, Defendant filed a pro se motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to § 3582(c)(2), therein requesting a reduction in his sentence pursuant to Amendment 782[3]. ECF No. 262. Pursuant to Eastern District of California General Order 546, the Court appointed the Federal Defender's Office to represent Defendant in this motion. ECF No. 263. On November 24, 2015, the Court granted the parties' stipulated motion to reduce Defendant's sentence. ECF No. 265. The parties agreed that pursuant to Amendment 782, Defendant's total offense level had been reduced from 40 to 38, and his amended Guideline range was now 235 to 293 months, and that Defendant was entitled to benefit from Amendment 782. Id. at 2-3. The Court then ordered that Defendant's sentence be reduced to a total term of 235 months, comprised of 235 months on Counts One and Two, and six months on Count Three, to be served concurrently. Id. at 3; ECF No. 269.

         Defendant's second[4] § 3582(c)(2) motion is now before the Court. ECF No. 270.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         “A federal court generally ‘may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.'” Dillon v. United States, 560 U.S. 817, 819 (2010). “This baseline rule is subject to an important exception: a district court may reduce a sentence based on a guideline range that is later lowered by the Sentencing Commission.” United States v. Rodriguez-Soriano, __F.3d__, 2017 WL 1591135, at *2 (9th Cir. May 2, 2017) (citing § 3582(c)(2)).

         Determining whether a sentence reduction is appropriate under § 3582(c)(2) “requires a two-step inquiry.” United States v. Dunn, 728 F.3d 1151, 1155 (9th Cir. 2013). At step one, “a district court must determine whether a prisoner is eligible for a sentence modification under the Commission's policy statement in USSG § 1B1.10.” Id. That policy statement enumerates a list of amendments to the Guidelines which have lowered the sentencing ranges for certain offenses. See USSG § 1B1.10(d).

         If the answer to step one is that a defendant is eligible for a reduced sentence, the district court turns to step two of the inquiry, where the court “must 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.” Dunn, 728 F.3d at 1155. The § 3553(a) factors include: “the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant; the purposes of sentencing; the kinds of sentences available; the sentences and ranges established by the Guidelines; relevant policy statements ...


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