United States District Court, D. Montana, Great Falls Division
MORRIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Jose Huerta requests that this Court reduce his sentence
pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3582(c), Amendments 782 and 788 to the
United States Sentencing Guidelines, and the First Step Act
of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115-291, 132 Stat. 5194, 5221 (Dec. 21,
2018). (Doc. 253.) Huerta bases his motion on two events: (1)
California's passage of Proposition 47 (“Prop
47”), which could retroactively reclassify Huerta's
prior drug offense from a felony to a misdemeanor and (2) the
two-level reduction in the base offense level for his offense
of conviction. Id. at 1.
Government filed its initial response on March 18, 2019.
(Doc. 255.) The Government highlights that Huerta was
convicted on conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute
and distribute methamphetamine, not crack cocaine. (Doc. 255
at 2.) The Government contends that as a result the
retroactive provision of the Act fails to apply to
Huerta's conviction. Id. The Government
neglected to respond, however, to Huerta's argument that
he stands entitled to a reduced sentence based on Amendments
782 and 788 to the Sentencing Guidelines.
Court issued an order that denied in part and held in
abeyance in part Huerta's Motion for Reduction of
Sentence on March 19, 2019. (Doc. 256.) The Court determined
that it remained precluded from reducing Huerta's
sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018 as the Court
had sentenced Huerta before December 21, 2018. Id.
at 10-11. The Court ordered the Government to file a response
to Huerta's Motion for Reduced Sentence on the issue of
whether Huerta proves entitled to a reduced sentence based on
Amendments 782 and 788 to the Sentencing Guidelines within 14
days of the filing of its March 19, 2019 order. Id.
Government timely filed the requested response on April 1,
2019. (Doc. 257.) Huerta filed a supplemental brief in
support of his Motion for Reduction of Sentence on April 4,
2019. (Doc. 258.)
Grand Jury indicted Huerta on October 5, 2005, on the
following four counts: Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to
Distribute Methamphetamine (Count I); Distribution of Over 50
Grams of Methamphetamine (Count II); Possession with Intent
to Distribute Over 500 Grams of Methamphetamine (Count III);
and Maintaining Drug Involved Premises (Count IV). (Doc. 22.)
Huerta pleaded guilty to Count I of the Indictment pursuant
to Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(A) and (B) on
November 30, 2005. (Docs. 106, 120.)
Government filed a 21 U.S.C. § 851(b) Information
(“851 Information”) on October 19, 2005. (Doc.
36.) The 851 Information sought to establish that Huerta
possessed a prior drug conviction that would subject him to
increased penalties pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 481(b).
(Doc. 36.) The Court conducted a hearing on the 851
Information immediately before Huerta's sentencing
hearing on March 9, 2006. (Doc. 155.) The Court determined
that Huerta possessed a prior felony drug conviction. (Doc.
183 at 35.)
Court stated, at the sentencing hearing, that Huerta had
earned a total offense level of twenty-nine and a criminal
history category of three. Id. at 38. Huerta's
corresponding advisory guideline range equaled 108 to 135
months. Id. The Court noted, however, that its
acceptance of the 851 Information required the Court to
impose the statutory mandatory minimum of 20 years as set
forth in 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A). Id. The
Court explained that the statute prohibits “imposition
of any sentence that is below the statutory minimum of 240
months, notwithstanding the advisory guideline
calculation” in this case. Id. The Court
imposed a sentence of 240 months. (Docs. 155, 158.)
Government opposes Huerta's motion for two reasons. (Doc.
257 at 2.) First, the Government contends that Huerta's
sentence was not “based on” the United States
Sentencing Guidelines as the Court sentenced Huerta to a
mandatory minimum. Id. at 2. Second, the Government
claims that “the Court does not have the authority to
reduce” Huerta's sentence as the policy statements
found in United States Sentencing Guidelines § 1B1.10
prove inapplicable to Huerta's case. Id.
Court “must consult [the Sentencing] Guidelines and
take them into account when sentencing” a defendant.
United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 264, 125
S.Ct. 738 (2005). Section 3582(c) authorizes the Court to
modify a defendant's term of imprisonment when the
sentence imposed was “based on a sentencing range that
has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing
Commission.” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).
782 amended United States Sentencing Guidelines § 2D1.1
and § 2D1.11 effective November 1, 2014. Amendment 782
“reduced by two levels the offense levels assigned to
the quantities that trigger the statutory mandatory minimum
penalties in § 2D1.1, and made parallel changes to
§ 2D1.11.” Amendment 788 to the ...