United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.
Lawrence Kemp Tennille, a pro se federal prisoner, has sent a
letter directly to the Court asking for relief from his
sentence pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018 and for
appointment of counsel. The Court construes this letter as a
motion for reduction of sentence and appointment of counsel.
But Tennille is not eligible for a sentence reduction under
the First Step Act because he was sentenced as a career
offender. As a result, Tennille's motion for reduction of
sentence is DENIED.
1997, Tennille was convicted of conspiring to possess with
intent to distribute in excess of fifty grams of cocaine
base. Tennille was sentenced as a career offender pursuant to
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. [DE 142, Judgment; DE 158, Sentencing
Transcript; DE 175, Sixth Circuit Order]. Tennille was
sentenced to life imprisonment. The sentence was affirmed by the
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
United States v. Tennille, No. 97-6245, 2000 WL
191725 (6th Cir. Feb. 3, 2000).
Tennille filed a motion for relief from judgment. [DE 355].
This Court construed that motion as a successive motion for
habeas relief and forwarded the petition to the Sixth Circuit
pursuant to In re Sims, 111 F.3d 45 (6th Cir. 1997).
[DE 358]. The Sixth Circuit denied Tennille's request for
authorization to file a second or successive § 2255
motion. [DE 372].
Tennille mailed a letter to the Court renewing his requests
for relief pursuant to the First Step Act of 2018. As such,
the Court considers this letter as a motion for reduction of
sentence under the First Step Act of 2018.
December 21, 2018, the First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No.
115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, was signed into law. Among other
reforms, Section 404 of the First Step Act retroactively
applies certain sentencing reform provisions of the Fair
Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372
(“FSA”). Specifically, the First Step Act
retroactively applies the reduced statutory penalties for
cocaine base (“crack” cocaine) offenses in the
FSA to “covered offenses” committed before August
court that imposed a sentence for a covered offense may
impose a sentence as if the FSA were in effect at the time
the covered offense was committed. This reduction in sentence
may be made by the court on its own or on a motion of the
defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, or an
attorney for the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), a defendant is eligible for a
sentence reduction if: (1) the defendant has been sentenced
to a term of imprisonment based on a sentencing range that
has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission;
and (2) such reduction is consistent with applicable policy
statements issued by the Sentencing Commission.”
United States v. Riley, 726 F.3d 756, 758 (6th Cir.
2013) (internal citations and quotation omitted). To satisfy
the second requirement, “a guidelines amendment must
have the effect of lowering the defendant's applicable
guideline range.” Id. (internal citations and
here, Tennille's argument that he is eligible for a
sentence reduction under the First Step Act has been
foreclosed by the Sixth Circuit. As the Court has reminded
Tennille on multiple occasions, and again reiterates,
Tennille was sentenced as a career offender and his sentence
is not based on his guideline range. [DE 353, at 1 (citing
[DE 276; DE 286; DE 320; DE 330])].
Riley, the Sixth Circuit addressed whether prisoners
sentenced as career offenders were eligible for a sentence
reduction under the Fair Sentencing Act and held that those
sentenced as career offenders under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1
were not eligible because the reforms in the Fair Sentencing
Act only affected the guidelines ranges under U.S.S.G. §
2D1.1. Riley, 726 F.3d at 758-59.
holding, the Sixth Circuit explained that career offenders
were not eligible for a sentence reduction under Amendment
706, a retroactive amendment that lowered the base offense
levels for most crack offense levels in § 2D1.1, because
sentences for career offenders were not based on a sentencing
range that had been lowered by the commission. See
Id. (discussing United States v. Perdue, 572
F.3d 288 (6th Cir. 2009)).
Sixth Circuit reaffirmed its holding in Perdue in
the context of Amendment 750 under the Fair Sentencing Act
because “that amendment did not lower the career
offender sentencing guidelines range” where a sentence
was derived from a defendant's status as a career
offender, rather than based on the quantity of drugs.