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United States v. Tate

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 25, 2019

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Larry Curtis Tate, Defendant.

          Michael L. Cheever, Assistant United States Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

          Robert H. Meyers, Assistant Federal Defender, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ANN D. MONTGOMERY, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the undersigned United States District Judge for a ruling on Defendant Larry Curtis Tate’s (“Tate”) Motion for a Reduced Sentence Under the First Step Act [Docket No. 237]. Tate requests a reduction of his sentence under § 404 of the First Step Act (“FSA”) and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B). For the reasons set forth below Tate’s Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In July 2007, Tate and four codefendants were charged in an eight-count indictment with federal drug trafficking of cocaine powder and crack cocaine. Indictment [Docket No. 1]. Tate entered a plea of guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). Plea Agreement [Docket No. 115]. At the time, the count carried a statutory penalty of 10 years to life imprisonment and a period of supervised release of at least 5 years.

         At sentencing, the Court found Tate had 26 criminal history points, placing him in criminal category VI. Sentencing Tr., Apr. 25, 2008 [Docket No. 158] at 3. The Court additionally found Tate was a career offender under § 4B1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, based on Tate’s 1999 conviction for fourth-degree assault and his 2004 conviction for third-degree assault. Id. at 3–5. Tate’s career offender status also placed him in criminal category VI, and resulted in an advisory guidelines range of 262–327 months. Id. at 6. The Court imposed a sentence of 211 months’ imprisonment and 5 years’ supervised release. Id. at 17; Sentencing J. [Docket No. 145] at 2–3. The sentence was a downward variance from the low end of his guidelines based upon 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors; Tate’s criminal history; Tate’s position in relation to his co-defendants; the sentencing “disparities between crack and cocaine;” and to reflect a reasonable graduated sanction considering Tate had “never served a particularly long sentence before.” Sentencing Tr. at 16.

         During his time in custody, Tate has completed several courses offered by the Bureau of Prisons, including the drug education program, a 515-hour faith-based program called Life Connections, and numerous educational classes. In addition, Tate obtained his forklift license and commercial driver’s license, earned an apprenticeship certificate as a shop tailor, and has been employed full time throughout his incarceration.

         Tate has been sanctioned only twice during the 12 years he has been in custody-once in 2011 for abusing phone privileges, and once in 2018 for threatening bodily harm to a staff member. As a result of the 2018 violation, Tate lost 27 days of good conduct time and spent almost three months in the special housing unit. According to the Bureau of Prisons website, Tate’s anticipated release date is May 18, 2022.

         Tate now asks the Court to reduce his sentence from 211 months down to time served. He also requests that his 5-year term of supervised release be reduced to 4 years. The Government agrees that Tate is eligible for a sentence reduction, but argues Tate’s sentence should not be reduced below 188 months, and opposes a reduction of Tate’s 5-year supervised release term.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced sentencing disparities between individuals convicted of crack cocaine crimes and those of powder cocaine crimes. 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii). The Fair Sentencing Act increased the amount of crack cocaine needed to trigger the penalties of § 841(b)(1)(A) from 50 grams to 280 grams of crack and the penalties of § 841(b)(1)(B) from 5 grams to 28 grams. When it was initially passed, Congress did not make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, which means that individuals sentenced before enactment were not considered for relief from the statutory penalties under which they were sentenced. This recently changed. The First Step Act of 2018 expressly permits the Court to consider a sentence reduction for individuals sentenced before 2010. It states:

A court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may, on motion of the defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the government, or the court, impose a reduced sentence as if sections 2 and 3 of the Fair Sentencing Act of ...

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