Friday, May 29th, 2009

Reduction Ad Absurdum

United States v. Savoy, No. 08-4800-cr (2d Cir. May 27, 2009)(per curiam)

After a 1998 jury trial on crack distribution charges, Demetric Savoy faced a guideline sentencing range of 188 to 235 months’ imprisonment, and received a sentence at the bottom of the range. In 2008, he moved, under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), for a sentence reduction under the retroactive ameliorating amendment to the crack guidelines. With that amendment, Savoy faced a revised range of 151 to 188. However, in the motion, he argued that the court should sentence him to 120 months. The district court granted the § 3583(c)(2) motion and reduced the sentence to 151 months, but refused to go lower. The court believed that the relevant guideline provision, § 1B1.10, was binding and precluded a sentence below the amended range.

On appeal, the circuit affirmed. The language of § 1B.10 is mandatory: the court “shall not reduce the defendant’s term of imprisonment under … § 3582(c)(2) … to a term that is less than the minimum of the amended guideline range.” Savoy argued that Booker and its progeny have made this mandatory language advisory. The circuit disagreed, but took the easy way out. Instead of reasoning its way through the issue, the court simply noted that seven other circuits have held that sentencing courts lack authority to reduce a sentence below the amended guideline range, and noted that it was “persuaded by the reasoning of those courts.”

There is, however, a circuit split on the issue, so perhaps it will go up.

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