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United States v. Mitchell

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London

November 6, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BENTLEY, Defendant.

          RECOMMENDED DISPOSITION

          Hanly A. Ingram, Judge

         On referral from District Judge Van Tatenhove (D.E. 395), the Court considers reported violations of supervised release conditions by Defendant Christopher Bentley.

         Judge Van Tatenhove entered a judgment against Defendant in December 2014 following a guilty plea to participating in a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) & 846. D.E. 321. Defendant received a prison sentence of 46 months, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Id. Defendant began his term of supervised release on December 6, 2017.

         I.

         On September 7, 2918, the United States Probation Office (USPO) issued the Supervised Release Violation Report (“the Report”) that initiated these proceedings. The report charges three violations. According to the Report, on September 7, 2018, Defendant submitted a urine sample that, upon instant testing, indicated methamphetamine. Defendant signed an admission stating that he “wanted to have some fun and used methamphetamine and hydrocodone with ‘a couple of girls' approximately three days ago.” Based on Defendant's admission to using methamphetamine and hydrocodone, Violation #1 charges Defendant with violating Standard Condition #7, which prohibits, among other things, using any controlled substance except as prescribed by a physician. This is a Grade C Violation.

         Violation #2 charges Defendant with violating the condition that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime. Noting the Sixth Circuit's decision that use of a controlled substance includes possession and Defendant's prior drug conviction, this violation charges Defendant with conduct that would be a federal crime, that is, possession of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance. Such conduct would be a Class E felony pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 844(a), Simple Possession of a Controlled Substance. This is a Grade B violation.

         Similarly, Violation #3 also charges Defendant with violating the condition that he not commit another federal, state, or local crime. Noting the Sixth Circuit's decision that use of a controlled substance includes possession and Defendant's prior drug conviction, this violation charges Defendant with conduct that would be a federal crime, that is, possession of hydrocodone, a Schedule II controlled substance. Such conduct would be a Class E felony pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 844(a), Simple Possession of a Controlled Substance. This is a Grade B violation.

         The Court conducted an initial appearance pursuant to Rule 32.1 on October 25, 2018, and set a final hearing following a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent waiver of the right to a preliminary hearing. D.E. 400. The United States moved for interim detention; Defendant did not argue for release. Id. Based on the heavy defense burden under 18 U.S.C. § 3143(a), the undersigned remanded Defendant to the custody of the United States Marshal. Id.

         At the final hearing on November 5, 2018, Defendant was afforded all rights due under Rule 32.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3583. D.E. 401. Defendant competently entered a knowing, voluntary, and intelligent stipulation to all three violations. Id. For purposes of Rule 32.1 proceedings, Defendant admitted the factual basis for the violations as described in the Report. In the Supervised Release context, the Sixth Circuit treats controlled substance use as equivalent to possession. See United States v. Crace, 207 F.3d 833, 836 (6th Cir. 2000). The United States thus established Violations #1, #2, and #3 under the standard of § 3583(e).

         II.

         The Court has evaluated the entire record, including the Report and accompanying documents, and the sentencing materials from the underlying Judgment. Additionally, the Court has considered all of the § 3553 factors imported into the § 3583(e) analysis.

         Under § 3583(e)(3), a defendant's maximum penalty for a supervised release violation hinges on the gravity of the underlying offense of conviction. Defendant pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C); 846. For a Class C felony, the maximum revocation sentence provided under § 3583 is two years of imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 3583(e)(3).

         The Policy Statements in Chapter 7 of the Sentencing Guidelines provide advisory imprisonment ranges for revocation premised on criminal history (at the time of original sentencing) and the “grade” of the violation proven. See United States v. Perez-Arellano, 212 Fed.Appx. 436, 438-39 (6th Cir. 2007). Under § 7B1.1, Defendant's admitted conduct would qualify as a Grade C violation with respect to Violation #1 and Grade B violations with respect to Violations #2 and #3. Given Defendant's criminal history category of I (the category at the time of the conviction) and a Grade B violation, [1] Defendant's range, under the Revocation Table of Chapter 7, is four to ten months.

         A court may also re-impose supervised release, following revocation, for a maximum period that usually subtracts any term of incarceration imposed due to the violation. See 18 U.S.C. § 3583(b), (h). The post-revocation cap depends on the “term of supervised release authorized by statute for the offense that resulted in the original term of supervised release.” See 18 U.S.C. ยง 3583(h). Given the nature of Defendant's ...


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