from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Texas
DAVIS, SMITH, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:
district court sentenced Odis Lee Jackson to life in prison
following his drug conviction in 2003. Since then, Jackson
has filed numerous motions seeking a reduced sentence. His
latest is under the First Step Act of 2018 ("FSA"),
Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5222 (2018).
The district court denied the motion but initially failed to
provide reasons. On limited remand, the court explained that
it exercised its discretion not to resentence. Jackson
appeals, and we affirm.
years ago, a jury found Jackson guilty of two drug-related
counts: possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or
more of crack,  in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1)
and (b)(1)(A)(iii) and 18 U.S.C. § 2; and conspiracy to
do the same, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A)(iii), and 846. The jury was told that,
to convict Jackson on each count, his offense had to involve
at least fifty grams of crack. This court affirmed on direct
appeal. United States v. Jackson, 86 Fed.Appx. 722,
723 (5th Cir. 2004) (per curiam).
version of § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) in effect at the time
required that, to trigger a mandatory minimum of ten
years' imprisonment and a maximum of life, the offense
involve only fifty grams of a substance containing cocaine
base. If, however, the defendant had two or more felony drug
convictions, the mandatory sentence was life in prison.
Id. Jackson had several such convictions, so the
government requested a sentencing enhancement under 21 U.S.C.
§ 851. The court held that it applied and thus handed
Jackson his mandatory life sentence plus ten years'
years after Jackson's sentencing, Congress enacted the
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat.
2372 (2010). Section 2 amended § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii)
(Jackson's statute of conviction) by increasing the
fifty-gram threshold to 280, and it similarly amended §
841(b)(1)(B)(iii) by increasing the threshold quantity from
five to twenty-eight grams. See 124 Stat. at 2372.
Thus, if Jackson had committed the offense after the Fair
Sentencing Act was in effect, the jury's finding of fifty
or more grams would have triggered only the more relaxed
penalties in § 841(b)(1)(B)(iii) (2000). The Act
wasn't retroactive, however, so Jackson couldn't reap
changed with the passage of the FSA, which gave sentencing
courts discretion to "impose a reduced sentence as if
section 2 . . . of the Fair Sentencing Act . . . were in
effect at the time the covered offense was committed."
FSA, § 404(b).
April 2019, Jackson moved for resentencing under the FSA. He
contended that he was eligible, since his offense was "a
violation of a Federal criminal statute, the statutory
penalties for which were modified by section 2 or 3 of the
Fair Sentencing Act of 2010." Id. §
404(a). Noting that the jury had found only that his offense
involved fifty grams or more, Jackson maintained that, with
the Fair Sentencing Act applied retroactively, he would have
been subject only to the penalty provisions of §
841(b)(1)(B)(iii), with its new threshold of twenty-eight
grams. See 124 Stat. at 2372. The government opposed
district court denied the motion but failed to say why. On
limited remand, it explained that it had assumed, without
deciding, that Jackson had a "covered offense"
under section 404(a). Regardless, for three reasons, it
exercised its discretion not to reduce the sentence. First,
"Jackson's current sentence would still [have]
fall[en] within the statutory range provided by 21 U.S.C.
§ 841 and the [FSA]." Because of Jackson's
prior convictions, his statutory penalty range would have
been ten years to life, with at least eight years'
supervised release. See § 841(b)(1)(B)(iii)
(2000). His life sentence, then, still fell within the
permissible range. Second, ...