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United States v. Rodriguez-Soriano

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

May 2, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Antonio Rodriguez-Soriano, Defendant-Appellant.

          Argued and Submitted December 7, 2016 Seattle, Washington

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana, D.C. No. 6:05-cr-00002-DWM-1 Donald W. Molloy, District Judge, Presiding

          Michael Donahoe (argued), Senior Litigator; Joslyn Hunt, Research Attorney; Anthony R. Gallagher, Federal Defender; Office of the Federal Public Defender, Helena, Montana, for Defendant-Appellant.

          Joseph E. Thaggard (argued), Assistant United States Attorney; Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney; United States Attorney's Office, Missoula, Montana; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown, Richard C. Tallman, and Morgan B. Christen, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Criminal Law

         The panel affirmed the district court's denial of a motion pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) for a sentence reduction in light of Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 782, which lowered by two levels the base offense level calculated for certain drug types and quantities.

         The panel held that the defendant's original sentence was not "based on" a subsequently lowered guideline range, and that he is therefore ineligible for a sentence reduction under the first requirement of § 3582(c)(2), where the record makes clear that the defendant's initial guideline range played no role in the sentencing court's determination of the appropriate sentence. The panel observed that the sentencing judge's decision about the extent of a substantial-assistance departure was not based on or affected by the guideline range that would have applied in the absence of the statutory mandatory minimum.

         The panel noted that in light of Sentencing Guidelines Amendment 780 and U.S.S.G. § 1B1.10(c) (providing that a defendant's amended guideline range shall be determined without regard to the operation of any mandatory minimum if a substantial-assistance motion allowed the court to deviate below the minimum), the defendant's applicable guideline range would be lowered due to Amendment 782, satisfying the second requirement for a reduction under § 3582(c)(2). But the panel explained that this inquiry does not resolve whether as a threshold matter the original sentence was "based on" the guideline range initially calculated; and that because in this case it was not, the defendant is not eligible for a reduction.

          OPINION

          McKEOWN, Circuit Judge:

         Congress has provided a limited mechanism for defendants to shave time off their sentences when the Sentencing Commission amends the Sentencing Guidelines with retroactive effect. In recent years, the Commission amended the Guidelines to reduce the potential time served by defendants convicted of certain drug crimes. After one of these amendments came into effect, Antonio Rodriguez-Soriano asked the district court to shorten his sentence, but the court declined to do so. We affirm because the district court properly determined that Rodriguez-Soriano's original sentence was not actually "based on" a subsequently lowered guideline range, so he is ineligible for a sentence reduction.

         Background

         In 2005, Rodriguez-Soriano pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Because of the amount of drugs involved, his base offense level was 32 and his total offense level was 29. See U.S.S.G. ยง 2D1.1(c). Although the guideline range was 97-121 months due to his criminal history, his guideline sentence was a mandatory term of life imprisonment ...


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