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United States v. Allen

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi

April 24, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
MICHAEL LADELL ALLEN DEFENDANT

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SHARION AYCOCK U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendant Michael Ladell Allen asks the Court to recalculate his sentence based on Amendment 794 to United States Sentencing Guideline § 3B1.2, which he contends should be retroactively applied. The Government has responded and asserts that Defendant Allen is not eligible for application of the “minor participant” reduction.

         Defendant Allen was indicted with seventeen other defendants in a drug conspiracy case. He pled guilty in July of 2012 and was sentenced in March of 2013 to 300 months. He appealed that sentence, and his appeal was subsequently denied by the Fifth Circuit. He later moved for a reduction in sentence based on Sentencing Guideline Amendment 782, which was granted.

         He now contends he is eligible for another reduction pursuant to Sentencing Guideline Amendment 794. That Amendment provides a two-level decrease to the defendant's applicable offense level if the defendant played a “minor” role in the criminal activity or a four-level decrease if the defendant's role was “minimal.” At the time of Allen's sentencing, the commentary to § 3B1.2 described the mitigating-role adjustment as applying to “a defendant who plays a part in committing the offense that makes him substantially less culpable than the average participant.” U.S.S.G § 3B1.2 cmt. n.3 (2013). The commentary also described a “minimal participant” as one who is the least culpable and may lack “knowledge or understanding of the scope and structure of the enterprise and of the activities of others, ” while the “minor participant” is one who is less culpable than most other participants “but whose role could not be described as minimal.” U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2, cmt. nn.4, 5 (2013). Further, the commentary noted that “[a] defendant who is accountable under § 1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct) only for the conduct in which the defendant personally was involved and who performs a limited function in concerted criminal activity is not precluded from consideration for an adjustment under this guideline.” Id. at n.3. The district court's decision regarding whether to apply the reduction is “heavily dependent upon the facts of the particular case.” Id. at n.3(C).

         Amendment 794, which became effective on November 1, 2015, revised the commentary to § 3B1.2 but not the language of the actual Guidelines provision. See U.S.S.G. app. C supp., amend. 794. The amendment made several revisions, including adding a “non-exhaustive list of factors” that the court should consider in determining whether to apply the adjustment. Id. Those factors include:

(i) the degree to which the defendant understood the scope and structure of the criminal activity;
(ii) the degree to which the defendant participated in planning or organizing the criminal activity;
(iii) the degree to which the defendant exercised decision-making authority or influenced the exercise of decision-making authority;
(iv) the nature and extent of the defendant's participation in the commission of the criminal activity, including the acts the defendant performed and the responsibility and discretion the defendant had in performing those acts;
(v) the degree to which the defendant stood to benefit from the criminal activity.
For example, a defendant who does not have a proprietary interest in the criminal activity and who is simply being paid to perform certain tasks should be considered for an adjustment under this guideline.

U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2, cmt. n.3(C).

         The Commission added the following language at the end of Note 3(C):

The fact that a defendant performs an essential or indispensable role in the criminal activity is not determinative. Such a defendant may receive an adjustment under this guideline if he or she is substantially less culpable ...

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