U.S. v. Leonardo
Amendment 750, which reduced the base-offense levels for certain crack cocaine offenses, did not offer a reduction for individuals who are sentenced as "career offenders," pursuant to §4B1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. In 2005, the defendant, Pedro Lora, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine. The District Court found that he was a "career offender," that his total offense level was 35 and that his criminal history category was VI. The defendant's sentencing range was 292 to 365 months in prison. The court departed downward from the sentencing guidelines and sentenced the defendant to 11 years in prison. After an initial appeal, on remand the District Court sentenced the defendant to 15 years. In 2011, he moved for a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 United States Code §3582(c)(2), based on Amendment 750 to the Sentencing Guidelines. The District Court held that because the plea agreement did not refer to a guidelines range, his 15-year sentence was not based on an amended guidelines range, and he was not eligible for §3582(c)(2) relief. The defendant appealed and claimed that the Supreme Court's 2011 decision in Freeman v. U.S. permits a sentence reduction, because his plea agreement expressly referred to the sentencing guidelines. The 2nd Circuit reviewed de novo. The defendant's guidelines range was based on the conclusion that he was a "career offender." Although Amendment 750 reduced the base-offense levels for crack cocaine offenses, it did not offer a reduction to the "career offender" enhancements in §4B1.1. As a result, Amendment 750 to the sentencing guidelines did not affect the defendant's enhancement as a "career offender." "Because the amendment does not lower [the defendant's] applicable guideline range," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "he is ineligible for a sentence reduction." The 2nd Circuit affirmed the order of the District Court, Covello, J. Frank Riccio represented the defendant. Robert Spector, Sandra Glover and Jonathan Francis represented the government.