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United States v. Chavez

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
ALEX CHAVEZ, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO MODIFY IMPOSITION OF SENTENCE UNDER 18 U.S.C. § 3582(C)(2) [RE: ECF 342]

          BETH LABSON FREEMAN United States District Judge.

         Defendant Alex Chavez, a federal prisoner serving a 120-month term of imprisonment, has filed a pro se motion for a reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Def.'s Motion, ECF 342. The motion is DENIED for the reasons discussed below.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 27, 2011, a grand jury issued a second superseding indictment charging multiple defendants with drug and firearm offenses. Chavez was charged with Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute, to Distribute, and to Manufacture Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (Count 1); Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (Count 5); and Possession or Receipt of Firearm in Commerce with Removed or Altered Serial Number in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(k) (Count 6). Second Superseding Indictment, ECF 63.

         Chavez thereafter entered into a written Plea Agreement with the Government pursuant to Rules 11(c)(1)(A) and 11(c)(1)(C) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Plea Agreement, ECF 287. The Plea Agreement provided that Chavez would plead guilty to Count 5 only and that the sentence on Count 5 would be 120 months imprisonment, 5 years supervised release, and a special assessment in the amount of $100. Id. ¶¶ 1, 8. The Plea Agreement also contained an express waiver of Chavez's right to seek relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582. Id. ¶ 5. Judge D. Lowell Jensen, the district judge then assigned to the case, accepted Chavez's plea on May 16, 2013. Order Accepting Plea, ECF 288.

         Prior to sentencing, the Government submitted a sentencing memorandum in support of the parties' joint recommended sentence as set forth in the Plea Agreement, noting that the Probation Officer also concurred with the recommendation. Gov't Sentencing Memo. at 1, ECF 305. The Government stated that the recommended 120-month term of imprisonment was below the low end of the Guidelines range, 151 months, but it argued that a 120-month term of imprisonment was sufficient in light of Chavez's intact and supportive family, demonstrated capacity to reform, and agreement to waive appeal, “thereby ensuring that this litigation will end with his sentencing.” Id. at 2. Chavez did not file a sentencing memorandum.

         On July 31, 2014, Judge Jensen imposed the sentence which was set forth in the Plea Agreement and requested in the Government's sentencing memorandum: 120 months imprisonment, 5 years supervised release, and a special assessment in the amount of $100. Minutes, ECF 330; Judgment, ECF 331. Judge Jensen also dismissed Counts 1 and 6 of the second superseding indictment on the motion of the Government. Id.

         Chavez, proceeding pro se, has filed a motion for a reduction of sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). The Federal Public Defender's Office has filed a Notice of Non-Intervention, indicating that “the Office of the Federal Public Defender in the Northern District of California has reviewed Defendant's motion and has nothing further to add to his request.” Notice of Non-Intervention, ECF 343. Because Judge Jensen has retired, this case has been reassigned to the undersigned judge.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Chavez has Waived the Right to Seek Relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582

         In his Plea Agreement, Chavez expressly waived the right to seek relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582. Plea Agreement ¶ 5, ECF 287 (“I also agree not to seek relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582.”). “Such a waiver is enforceable if (1) the language of the waiver encompasses the relief sought, and (2) the waiver is knowingly and voluntarily made.” United States v. Malone, 503 Fed. App'x 499, 500 (9th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). In Malone, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order granting the defendant's motion for reduction of sentence because the defendant had “waived his right to move for a sentence reduction under § 3582(c)(2) in his underlying plea agreement.” Id. at 499. The record did not suggest the existence of “any recognized ground for excusing waiver, such as claims involving breach of the plea agreement, racial disparity in sentencing among codefendants or an illegal sentence imposed in excess of a maximum statutory penalty.” Id. at 500 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To the extent that new grounds for sentence reduction may have developed after execution of the plea agreement, the Ninth Circuit held that “a favorable change in the law does not entitle a defendant to renege on a knowing and voluntary guilty plea.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

         As in Malone, the record before this Court does not suggest any ground for excusing Chavez's waiver of the right to seek relief under 18 U.S.C. § 3582. Accordingly, Chavez's motion is DENIED.

         B. Chavez is not Entitled to a Reduction of Sentence under § 3582(c)(2)

         Section 3582(c)(2) authorizes a Court to reduce a defendant's sentence “on its own motion.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2); Malone, 503 Fed. App'x at 500. Even if this Court were to exercise its power to consider application of Amendment 782 on its own motion in this case, Chavez would not be entitled to a reduction of his sentence. “Under federal sentencing law, a district court generally ‘may not modify a term of imprisonment once it has been imposed.'” Rodriguez-Soriano, 855 F.3d at 1042 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)). “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.” Id. (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2)). Deciding whether to reduce a defendant's sentence under § 3582(c)(2) is a two-step process. Id. “[A] district court first ...


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