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Porfirio Gatica-Rodriguez v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma

May 10, 2017

PORFIRIO GATICA-RODRIGUEZ, Defendant/Petitioner,
v.
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff/Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          James H. Payne United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendant/Petitioner Porfirio Gatica-Rodriguez's (“Defendant”) “Pro Se Motion Requesting the Court with the Consent of the Government to Reduce His Sentence to a More Fair and Just Sentence Pursuant to the Holloway Doctrine.” (Doc. No. 59). Defendant argues his sentence is excessive and asks the Court to reduce his sentence in the interests of justice and fairness. The Government opposes Defendant's motion. (Doc. No. 63). For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 18, 2009, after initially being charged via Complaint, a federal grand jury indicted Defendant with one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(viii). (Doc. No. 1 (Complaint); Doc. No. 14 (Indictment)). Defendant pleaded guilty pursuant to a sealed written plea agreement. (Doc. No. 31 (Minutes of Change of Plea Hearing); Doc. No. 36 (Sealed Plea Agreement)).

         In advance of sentencing, the United States Probation Office prepared a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (“PSR”), in which Defendant was assigned an offense level of 33 based on the amount of methamphetamine possessed (at least 500 grams but less than 1.5 kilograms) and a three-level reduction for acceptance of responsibility. (PSR ¶¶ 17, 23, 24). The Probation Office determined Defendant had a total of six criminal history points, resulting in a Category III criminal history designation. (PSR ¶ 33). Based on his offense level of 33 and a criminal history designation of Category III, his advisory imprisonment range was 168-210 months. (PSR ¶ 48).

         However, Defendant was determined to be a Career Offender, based on two prior convictions for controlled substance offenses. (PSR ¶ 25). The Career Offender determination raised Defendant's offense level to 34 and criminal history category to Category VI, which resulted in an advisory imprisonment range of 262-327 months. (PSR ¶¶ 25, 33, 49).

         At sentencing, the Court found Defendant to be a Career Offender subject to an enhanced guideline calculation. (See Doc. No. 43 (Minute Sheet - Sentencing)). The Court sentenced Defendant to imprisonment for 262 months on Count 1 of the Indictment. (Doc. No. 44 (Judgment)). Within one year of his sentence becoming final, Defendant filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence. (Doc. No. 47). Defendant alleged his counsel was ineffective for failing to file an appeal on his behalf. On October 25, 2010, the Court denied Defendant's § 2255 motion in its entirety. (Doc. No. 5 in Case No. 10-CV-202-JHP).

         Thereafter, Defendant sought authorization to file a second or successive § 2255 motion to challenge the use of his prior convictions to designate him as a career offender, pursuant to Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013). (Doc. Nos. 50, 51). The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied Defendant's motion for authorization, finding the Supreme Court did not make Alleyne retroactive to cases on collateral review. (Doc. No. 55). Next, Defendant sought reduction of his sentence pursuant to Amendment 782 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which reduced the base offense level for many drug offenses by two levels. (Doc. No. 56). However, the Court denied relief, because Defendant had been sentenced based on the Career Offender guideline rather than the drug quantity involved in his case, making him ineligible for a reduction under Amendment 782. (Doc. No. 58).

         In the present motion, Defendant seeks a reduction of his sentence pursuant to United States v. Holloway, 68 F.Supp.3d 310 (E.D.N.Y. 2014).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant seeks to reduce his sentence under what he calls the “Holloway Doctrine, ” which takes its name from a case filed in the Eastern District of New York, United States v. Holloway, 68 F.Supp.3d 310 (E.D.N.Y. 2014). Defendant describes the Holloway Doctrine as “recogniz[ing] that District courts have the discretion, inherent in our American system of justice, to subsequently reduce a defendant[']s sentence in the interest of fairness [ e]ven after all appeals and collateral attacks have been exhausted, and there is neither a claim of innocence nor any defect in the ‘conviction or sentence' when it has clearly been demonstrated that the original sentence sought by the United States and imposed by the court (even when mandated by law) is revealed to be disproportionately severe.” (Doc. No. 59, at 2).

         “A district court does not have inherent authority to modify a previously imposed sentence; it may do so only pursuant to statutory authorization.” United States v. Smartt, 129 F.3d 539, 540 (10th Cir. 1997) (quotation omitted). In Holloway, the district court permitted a sentence reduction in the “spirit of fairness, ” using the authority of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) to revisit the defendant's excessive sentence. 68 F.Supp.3d at 311, 314. The defendant in Holloway stole three cars at gunpoint over the course of two days. Id. at 312. Each carjacking was charged as a separate count, accompanied by three separate charges for crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) for use of a gun during each carjacking. Id. Holloway went to trial and was convicted on all counts. Id. Under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines, he was sentenced to 151 months in prison for the carjacking counts. Id. He was also sentenced to mandatory consecutive sentences on the three § 924(c) counts: 5 years for the first conviction and 20 years each for the other two convictions. Id. The § 924(c) sentences were required by statute to run consecutively to each other and to the carjacking sentence, which resulted in a total sentence of 691 months, or 57 years and 7 months. Id. at 312-313. Both the Second Circuit and the United States Supreme Court affirmed the convictions and sentence. Id. at 313. The district court denied Holloway's § 2255 petition, and the Second Circuit declined to issue a certificate of appealability. Id. The Second Circuit also denied Holloway's request to file a successive § 2255 petition. Id. at 313-14.

         After serving approximately twenty years of his sentence, Holloway filed a motion to reopen his § 2255 proceeding under Rule 60(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, based on the unduly harsh sentence produced from the mandatory “stacking” of the § 924(c) counts. Id. at 314. District Judge John Gleeson, the sentencing judge, thereafter asked the United States Attorney to “consider exercising her discretion to agree to an order vacating two or more of Holloway's 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) convictions” so he could face a more just resentencing. Id. After initially declining Judge Gleeson's request, the United States Attorney ultimately agreed to withdraw her objection to Holloway's Rule 60(b) motion and agreed to the vacating of two of Holloway's § 924(c) convictions, so that Judge Gleeson could resentence Holloway based on the remaining convictions. Id. at 314-16.

         The prosecutor's decision was based on her office's view “that this is both a unique case and a unique defendant in many ways.” Id. at 315. The prosecutor believed this case was unique, partly because of Holloway's exemplary prison record-Holloway had only a few minor infractions, and he had taken advantage of educational and other opportunities in prison. Id. The prosecutor also indicated the victims of Holloway's crimes supported Holloway's release, which made Holloway's case unique. Id. The Assistant United States Attorney took care to emphasize the unique nature of Holloway's case: “I want to be clear on this point-that the United States Attorney's position in this case ...


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