Thursday, February 18, 2010

Defendant Eligible for Reduced Sentence After Prior Rule 35 Reduction

US v. Stewart: Stewart was convicted back in 2002 of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and sentenced to 235 months in prison. A Rule 35 motion filed afterward reduced his sentence to 187 months. When the revised crack Guidelines were made retroactive, Stewart filed for a reduction in his sentence under 18 USC 3582(c)(2). The new Guidelines reduced his sentencing range to 188 to 235 months. The district court declined to reduce Stewarts sentence any further because the 187-month sentence "remains appropriate."

Stewart appealed and the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court. Interpreting USSG 1B1.10, which applies to such proceedings, the court held that the "original sentence" to which it refers is the sentence being served at the time the defendant seeks a reduction, not necessarily the first sentence imposed. Thus, Stewart's 187-month sentence was the "original" sentence and he was eligible for a further reduction from that sentence (although the district court was not required to grant it). The court did not reach the issue of whether Stewart was entitled to a reduction, but returned the case to the district court.

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