COVID-influenced federal sentence reductions
We can now confidently state that there have been over 500 federal sentence reductions grants in the just the last three months. Some of those grants are detailed in some of the posts below, and I am hopeful the US Sentencing Commission or someone else “official” might have a truly comprehensive report on these matters before too long.
In United States v. Rodriguez, No. 2:03-cr-00271-AB-1 (ED Pa. Apr. 1, 2020) (available for download below). The start of this new opinion highlights why it is a must-read for anyone working on 3582(c)(1)(A) motions these days:
We are in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. COVID-19 has paralyzed the entire world. The disease has spread exponentially, shutting down schools, jobs, professional sports seasons, and life as we know it. It may kill 200,000 Americans and infect millions more. At this point, there is no approved cure, treatment, or vaccine to prevent it. People with pre- existing medical conditions — like petitioner Jeremy Rodriguez — face a particularly high risk of dying or suffering severe health effects should they contract the disease.
Mr. Rodriguez is an inmate at the federal detention center in Elkton, Ohio. He is in year seventeen of a twenty-year, mandatory-minimum sentence for drug distribution and unlawful firearm possession, and is one year away from becoming eligible for home confinement. Mr. Rodriguez has diabetes, high blood pressure, and liver abnormalities. He has shown significant rehabilitation in prison, earning his GED and bettering himself with numerous classes. He moves for a reduction of his prison sentence and immediate release under the “compassionate release” statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). He argues that “extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction.” 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(1)(A)(i).
For Mr. Rodriguez, nothing could be more extraordinary and compelling than this pandemic. Early research shows that diabetes patients, like Mr. Rodriguez, have mortality rates that are more than twice as high as overall mortality rates. One recent report revealed: “Among 784 patients with diabetes, half were hospitalized, including 148 (18.8%) in intensive care. That compares with 2.2% of those with no underlying conditions needing ICU treatment.”
These statistics — which focus on the non-prison population — become even more concerning when considered in the prison context. Prisons are tinderboxes for infectious disease. The question whether the government can protect inmates from COVID-19 is being answered every day, as outbreaks appear in new facilities. Two inmates have already tested positive for COVID-19 in the federal detention center in Elkton — the place of Rodriguez’s incarceration. After examining the law, holding oral argument, and evaluating all the evidence that has been presented, I reach the inescapable conclusion that Mr. Rodriguez must be granted “compassionate release.”
Download Rodriguez Memorandum
Here are a few more:
United States v. Campagna, No. 16 Cr. 78-01 (LGS), 2020 WL 1489829 (SDNY Mar. 27, 2020) (“Defendant’s compromised immune system, taken in concert with the COVID-19 public health crisis, constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason to modify to Defendant’s sentence on the grounds that he is suffering from a serious medical condition that substantially diminishes his ability to provide self-care within the environment of the RCC.”)
United States v. Powell, No. No. 1:94-cr-00316 (ESH) (DDC Mar. 28, 2020) (available here) (“Defendant is 55-years-old, suffers from several respiratory problems (including sleep apnea and asthma), and has only 3 months remaining on his 262-month sentence. The government does not oppose the relief sought. In addition, the Court finds that requiring defendant to first seek relief through the Bureau of Prisons’ administrative process would be futile because defendant has an open misdemeanor case in Superior Court which the Bureau of Prisons has advised defense counsel renders defendant ineligible for home confinement.”)
United States v. Muniz, No. 4:09-CR-0199-1, 2020 WL 1540325 (SD Tex. Mar. 30, 2020) (“Because Defendant is at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and because inmates in detention facilities are particularly vulnerable to infection, the Court finds that Defendant has demonstrated an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release.”)
United States v. Gonzales, No. 2:18-CR-0232-TOR-15, 2020 WL 1536155 (Ed Wash. Mar. 31, 2020) (“Defendant is the most susceptible to the devastating effects of COVID-19. She is in the most susceptible age category (over 60 years of age) and her COPD and emphysema make her particularly vulnerable…. The Court was aware of Defendant’s underlying medical condition and took that into consideration at the time of sentencing. In normal times, Defendant’s condition would be manageable. These are not normal times, however.”)
United States v. Liew, No. 11-cr-00573-JSW-1, 2020 WL 3246331 (ND Cal. June 15, 2020)
United States v. Acevedo, No. 18 CR. 365 (LGS), 2020 WL 3182770 (SDNY June 15, 2020)
United States v. Fields, No. 2:05-CR-20014-02, 2020 WL 3129056 (WD La. June 11, 2020)
United States v. Halliburton, No. 17-cr-20028, 2020 WL 3100089 (CD Ill. June 11, 2020)
United States v. DeBartolo, No. 14-016 WES, 2020 WL 3105032 (D R.I. June 11, 2020)
REPRINTED FROM: By Douglas A. Berman, Newton D. Baker-Baker & Hostetler Chair in Law