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United States v. Valdez

United States District Court, D. Alaska

December 31, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JUAN VALDEZ (D-01), Defendant.

          ORDER

          H. RUSSEL HOLLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Motion for Compassionate Release [1]

         Before the court is defendant's Amended Motion for Compassionate Release Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). The motion is opposed by plaintiff, [2] and the court has authorized and received a reply memorandum on behalf of defendant Valdez.[3]

         In proceedings predating Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), defendant was tried and convicted of multiple violations of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). Under then applicable Sentencing Commission guidelines, defendant's total offense level was 44, his criminal history category was II, his sentencing range was 360 months to life, and a sentence of 360 months was imposed. Based upon amendments to drug offense guidelines, defendant applied for and received a sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2). Defendant's total offense level was reduced to 40 and his sentence was reduced to 324months.[4]

         Mr. Valdez's conviction and sentence have been subject to numerous appeals and 28 U.S.C. § 2255 applications over the years. On each occasion relief was denied.[5]Proceedings under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 have likewise been unsuccessful, Valdez v. Apker, No. 1:17-cv-01308 at Docket No. 6 (E.D. Cal.), and affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Valdez v. Apker, No. 17-17281 (9th Cir. March 12, 2018), and Valdez v. Friend, No. 1:19-cv-00911, at Docket No. 8 (E.D. Cal.), aff'd., 19-16644 (9th Cir.).

         Defendant is approximately 59 years of age. He has served 21 years in prison, and his current release date is September 3, 2021. Defendant suffers from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and anemia.[6] While incarcerated, he has obtained his GED and has participated in various legal and vocational programs. He has not been subject to any disciplinary actions in the past six years. Defendant volunteers at the prison chapel and has been employed in the prison library, assisting other inmates.

         Defendant Valdez applied to BoP prison officials for a sentence reduction on August 13, 2019.[7] His application was denied on August 15, 2019.[8]

         The motion now before the court is expressly authorized by 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Plaintiff does not contest defendant's procedural right to seek a compassionate release. Plaintiff does contend that defendant is not “currently eligible for a modification of his sentence” under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) or (ii).[9]

         Motions for release based upon extraordinary and compelling reasons are no longer limited to motions made by the Bureau of Prisons. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Motions for release for extraordinary and compelling reasons may be made directly to the court by a defendant, but are, however, subject to consideration of the factors set out in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and the policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.

         In light of defendant's age, his participation in educational programs while incarcerated, his good behavior during incarceration, and the likelihood of deportation at the conclusion of his term of imprisonment, the court would not be concerned if defendant were released. The court perceives no substantial risk of harm to any person or the public, and at age 59, recidivism is unlikely. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) factors would not preclude a compassionate release in this case.

         The court turns to the question of whether or not a sentence reduction in this case would be consistent with applicable policy statements of the Sentencing Commission. U.S.S.G § 1B1.13 provides that:

Upon motion of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), the court may reduce a term of imprisonment ... if, after considering the factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) ... the court determines that -
(1) (A) extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant the reduction; or ....
(2) the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other person or to the community, as provided in 18 U.S.C. ...

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