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United States v. Bellamy

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

July 25, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIE NMN BELLAMY, JR., Defendant.

          ERICA H. MACDONALD, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, AND DEIDRE Y. AANSTAD, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF.

          WILLIE NMN BELLAMY, JR., PRO SE DEFENDANT.

          ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR COMPASSIONATE RELEASE AND REDUCTION IN SENTENCE

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Defendant Willie Bellamy, Jr., pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin, and the Court sentenced him to 60 months imprisonment and four years of supervised release on June 30, 2017. (Sentencing J. at 1-2, June 30, 2017, Docket No. 2393.) The 60-month sentence was the mandatory minimum but a downward variance from the guideline range. (SOR at 1, 4, June 30, 2017, Docket No. 2394.) The Court varied downward in part because of Bellamy's age (69) and poor health. (Id. at 3-4.) The Court also noted that one of the convictions qualifying Bellamy for career offender status was more than 25 years old and considered the “undue influence of [Bellamy's] son contributing to [Bellamy's] criminal conduct.” (Id. at 4.)

         Bellamy is now 71 years old and is incarcerated at Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”) - Elkton. (Id.; Mot. for Com. Release & Reduced Sentence (“Mot.”), Jan. 8, 2019, Docket No. 2776.) He continues to suffer from serious health issues. (Mot. Ex. 8, Jan. 8, 2019, Docket No. 2776-8.) He is confined to a wheelchair, has heart problems, suffers from diabetes, and suffers from a chronic diabetic kidney disease, among other conditions. (Mot. Ex. 8; Mot. Ex. B, Jan. 8, 2019, Docket No. 2776-3.) Bellamy moves this Court to grant him compassionate release and a reduction in sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) because of his age and serious health conditions.[1]

         The Court will find that extraordinary and compelling circumstances warrant compassionate release in Bellamy's case due to his serious and worsening health problems. The Court will thus grant Bellamy's motion, reduce his term of imprisonment to time served effective August 30, 2019, and increase Bellamy's term of supervised release to the unserved portion of his previous term of imprisonment in addition to the four years previously imposed.

         DISCUSSION

         Before passage of the First Step Act of 2018, a sentencing court could only consider compassionate release upon a motion from the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”). United States v. Beck, No. 1:13-CR-186-6, 2019 WL 2716505, at *4 (M.D. N.C. June 28, 2019) (citing Pub. L. No. 98-473, Ch. II(D) § 3582(c)(1)(A) 98 Stat. 1837 (1984)). The BOP's decision not to file such a motion was judicially unreviewable. Id. In February 2016, the United States Sentencing Commission held a public hearing on compassionate release.[2] Following concerns that the BOP “ha[d] failed to use its authority to recommend compassionate release in the past, ” the Sentencing Commission passed amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines that “strengthened and broadened the criteria for compassionate release.”[3] In a press release by the Sentencing Commission announcing the amendments, the Commission's Chair, Judge Patti Saris, encouraged the BOP “to use its discretion consistent with [the Sentencing Commission's] new policy so that eligible applications [could be] reviewed by a trial judge.”[4]

         Through the First Step Act, Congress provided a mechanism for courts to review the BOP's refusal or failure to move for compassionate release, further expanding defendants' access to the relief. See First Step Act of 2018, PL 115-391, December 21, 2018, 132 Stat. 5194, 5239. In a section entitled “Increasing the Use and Transparency of Compassionate Release, ” the First Step Act amended 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) to allow a sentencing court to reduce a term of imprisonment “upon motion of the Director of the [BOP], or upon motion of the defendant after the defendant has fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons to bring a motion on the defendant's behalf or the lapse of 30 days from the receipt of such a request by the warden of the defendant's facility, whichever is earlier.” Id.; 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) (emphasis added).

         Before reducing a defendant's term of imprisonment, a sentencing court must do three things: (1) find that “extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction”; (2) find that the reduction “is consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission”; and (3) consider the statutory sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A).[5]

         Bellamy requested compassionate release by the BOP under the criteria for “debilitated medical conditions” and “elderly inmates with medical conditions, ” but the BOP denied his request. (Mot. Ex. A at 1-2, Jan. 8, 2019, Docket No. 2776-1.) The United States argues that the BOP's decision was correct and that the Court should likewise find that Bellamy does not meet the criteria for compassionate release or a reduction in sentence.[6]

         I. EXTRAORDINARY AND COMPELLING REASONS

         The Court will find that extraordinary and compelling reasons exist to reduce Bellamy's sentence under the relevant Sentencing Commission's Policy Statement (“SC Statement”). The Bureau of Prison's Policy Statement (“BOP Statement”) likewise supports a reduction in sentence.

         The S.C. Statement can be found in section 1B1.13 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines (“USSG”). The statement outlines various criteria that constitute “extraordinary and compelling reasons.” See U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13, application notes. The specific criteria relevant to Bellamy will be discussed below.

         The S.C. Statement criteria loosely track the criteria set forth by the BOP Statement, although the BOP's criteria are more detailed. Compare id. with BOP Policy Statement Program Statement 5050.50, Compassionate Release/Reduction in Sentence: Procedures for Implementation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 3582 and 4205(g) (“BOP Statement”) at 4-10. The S.C. Statement also provides that the Court may consider determinations by the Director of the BOP that there exist extraordinary and compelling reasons other than (or in combination with) the criteria set forth in the S.C. Statement. U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13, application note 1(D).

         Importantly, the S.C. Statement provides that “an extraordinary and compelling reason need not have been unforeseen at the time of sentencing in order to warrant a reduction in the term of imprisonment.” Id. application note 2. However, “rehabilitation of the defendant is not, by itself, an extraordinary and compelling reason.” Id. application note 3. The S.C. Statement also recognizes that “[t]he court is in a unique position to determine whether the circumstances warrant a reduction (and, if so, the amount of reduction).” Id. application note 4.

         Bellamy moves for a sentencing reduction on the grounds that he suffers from “debilitated medical conditions” and is an “elderly inmate with medical conditions.” The Court will consider each ground in turn. The Court will find that Bellamy meets the criteria for a reduction in sentence based on his medical conditions but not based on his age.

         A. Bellamy's Medical Conditions

         Under the S.C. Statement, non-terminal medical conditions may constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons if (1) a defendant is “suffering from a serious physical or medical condition, . . . suffering from a serious functional or cognitive impairment, or . . . experiencing deteriorating physical or mental health because of the aging process”; (2) the defendant is not expected to recover from the health problem; and (3) the defendant's health problem “substantially diminishes the ability of the defendant to provide self-care within the environment of a correctional facility.” U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13, application note 1(A).

         The BOP Statement provides that a defendant may be considered for a reduced sentence based on a debilitated medical condition if the defendant has an “incurable, progressive illness” or has “suffered a debilitating injury from which [he] will not recover.” BOP Statement at 5. The defendant must either be “[c]ompletely disabled, meaning the [defendant] cannot carry on any self-care and is being totally confined to a bed or chair, ” or be “[c]apable of only limited self-care and . . . confined to a bed or chair more than 50% of waking hours.” Id.

         In considering Bellamy's request, the Court has carefully reviewed the documents submitted by Bellamy and his medical records, which were provided by the United States. Bellamy's medical history includes the following diagnoses: acute combined systolic and diastolic ACC/AHA stage C congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus Type 2, chronic diabetic kidney disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, esophageal reflux, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and asthma. (Mot. Ex. A; Mot. Ex. B.) The BOP's health services staff describe many of Bellamy's health problems as “chronic in nature and . . . directly related to and/or accelerated by the aging process.” (Mot. Ex. A.)

         Bellamy claims that he needs assistance getting to the bathroom, taking a shower, getting dressed, making phone calls, using the computer, and “almost every single basic thing that [he] need[s] to do to complete a day.” (Mot. Ex. 8.) He also claims that he is confined to a wheelchair or his bed for more than 50% of the time he is awake. (Mot. ...


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