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United States v. Knight

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division

July 30, 2019

United States of America,
v.
Scott Alexander Knight, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case comes before the court on Defendant's pro se Motion to Reduce Sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018. ECF No. 452. The Government filed a Response in Opposition. ECF No. 455. The United States Probation Office filed a Sentence Reduction Report indicating Defendant does not qualify for relief under the Act. ECF No. 451.

         As an initial matter, Defendant argues his sentence should be reduced because he is serving a mandatory minimum 240-month sentence, and the mandatory minimum sentence for his conviction of a violation of § 841(b)(1)(A) has been reduced to 15 years by the First Step Act. ECF No. 452. However, that portion of the First Step Act, Section 401, was not made retroactive to prior convictions. It only applies to defendants who have not yet been sentenced. See § 401(c) (“This section, and the amendments made by this section, shall apply to any offense that was committed before the date of enactment of this Act, if a sentence for the offense has not been imposed as of the date of enactment.”) (emphasis added). As Defendant has already been sentenced for the violation of § 841(b)(1)(A), he is not eligible for relief under § 401 of the First Step Act.

         Neither is Defendant eligible for a reduction under § 404 of the First Step Act, which retroactively applies the Fair Sentencing Act to some convictions for cocaine base. The court has reviewed the above filings as well as the Superseding Indictment (ECF No. 167), Defendant's Plea Agreement (ECF No. 196), Transcript of Rule 11 hearing (ECF No. 458), and PreSentence Report (“PSR”) (ECF No. 451-1) in making this determination.

         It was charged in Count 1 of the Superseding Indictment that Defendant:

knowingly and intentionally did combine, conspire, agree and have tacit understanding with each other and with others, both known and unknown to the grand jury, to knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine and cocaine base (commonly known as “crack” cocaine), both Schedule II controlled substances, said conspiracy involving 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, and 50 grams or more of “crack” cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A); All in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 846.

ECF No. 167 at 1, 2. Defendant thereafter entered into a Plea Agreement to plead guilty to Count 1, which provided the following:

         The Defendant agrees to plead guilty to Count 1 of the Superseding Indictment now pending, which charges “Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base, ” a violation of Title 21, United States Code, § 846.

         In order to sustain its burden of proof, the Government is required to prove the following:

         Count 1

         (1) The conspiracy described in the Indictment to distribute the charged amount of controlled substances was willfully formed and was existing on or about the alleged time;

         (2) The defendant willfully became a member of the conspiracy; and

         (3) The defendant distributed a quantity of a controlled substance(s) equal to or in excess of the amount charged in Count 1, agreed to assist in the distribution of a quantity of controlled substance(s) equal to or in excess of the amount charged in Count 1, or the distribution of the threshold quantity of controlled substance(s) equal to or in excess of the amount charged in Count 1 was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant and same was within the scope of the defendant's agreement and understanding.

         The penalty for this offense is:

         21 USC 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) in a case involving 5 kilograms or more of cocaine and/or 50 grams or more of cocaine base, and one prior felony drug conviction - a minimum term of imprisonment of 20 years and a maximum term of life imprisonment, no probation, no parole, a fine of $8, 000, 000 and a term of supervised release of at least ten (10) years in addition to any term of imprisonment, plus a special assessment of $100.

         ECF No. 196 at 1-2.

         At the Rule 11 hearing, the ...


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