United States v. Jamel E. Easter (3rd Cir. September 2020)

The Federal Docket

October 26, 2020

Sentencing Modifications – A district court may modify a sentence under Section 404 of the First Step Act and 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) and in doing so must consider all § 3553 factors, including defendant’s post-sentence rehabilitation.

Jamal E. Easter was convicted on crack cocaine and firearm charges in 2008. He received a 228-month sentence which was reduced to 195 months after filing an unopposed motion in 2014 for retroactive sentence reduction under Amendment 782.  In 2019, Easter filed a motion for resentencing under the First Step Act in which the district court determined the sentencing guideline level would not change and did not exercise its discretion to consider any other factors before imposing the same sentence, including defendant’s post-sentence rehabilitation.

The Court reviewed Easter’s denied motion for resentencing de novo as an issue of first impression for statutory interpretation.  Looking to the plain text in 18 U.S.C. § 3582, § 404 of the First Step Act, and § 3553, the Court held a district court must consider all § 3553 factors in deciding whether to exercise its discretion under § 404 since each statute referred to imposing a sentence.  The Court inferred Congress’ intent was to view the district court’s role the same when it imposed an initial sentence as when it imposed a sentence under the First Step Act.  The Court further held it was more predictable, straightforward, and reviewable to apply the § 3553 factors under § 404 and nothing in § 404 said the factors did not apply.  The Court vacated defendant’s sentence and remanded to district court for resentencing. 

Appeal from the Middle District of Pennsylvania

Opinion by Greenaway, Jr., joined by Jordan and Krause.

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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