The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 amended certain sections of the United States Code, to state that in the event of a violation involving at least 50 grams of cocaine base, and if the offender had one or more prior felony drug convictions, the offender must be sentenced to at least 20 years’ imprisonment. Congress further amended this section upon passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Those amendments provided that a person possessing at least 50 grams of cocaine base who had two or more felony drug convictions must be sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment, followed by ten years of supervised release. I received my sentence under this law.
If I were sentenced today, I would not receive a sentence of life imprisonment. In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act. Prior to this Act’s passage, § 841 treated the possession of cocaine base one hundred times more harshly than it treated the possession of powder cocaine; specifically, the possession of 5,000 grams of cocaine in its powder form carried the same penalty as the possession of 50 grams of cocaine base. In passing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Congress recognized that this 100:1 weight ratio had no basis in fact and reduced it to an 18:1 weight ratio, by amending § 841(b)(1)(A) to increase the cocaine base threshold from 50 grams to 280 grams.
I was convicted of the possession of 193 grams of cocaine base. This quantity is insufficient for prosecution under § 841(b)(1)(A)’s amended threshold of 280 grams. Rather, it would fall under § 841(b)(1)(B), which has a triggering quantity of 28 grams of cocaine base. This code section carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for a person with a prior felony drug conviction, followed by eight years of supervised release. This is in stark contrast to the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment that I received.
While I did have prior convictions at the time of this offense, they were all obviously all committed when I was quite young - such that several were not considered pursuant to §4A1.2(d)(2)(B) of the Guidelines and Comment 3 to §4A1.1 (no points are added for sentences imposed prior to age 18 that occurred more than five years before the subject offense).
As stated previously in my petition, I have four prior offences; I served less than two years for my conviction in North Carolina, and I received probation for the three convictions in New York. As my sister verifies in her statement, our parents were both deceased by the time I was 17 and we were left without supervision and guidance.
While I wanted and planned to complete higher education, our financial needs were immediate and the opportunity to make quick money abundant in crime-infested neighborhood. In prison, I have taken advantage of educational opportunities as demonstrated by the attached records and certificates. CORRECTION FROM INITIAL APPLICATION: But for any application of the career offender classification to a youth of my age, the ten-year sentence anticipated by the new minimum of § 841 (b)(1)(B) is also consistent with the Drug Quantity Table found in the 2014 United States Sentencing Commission’s Guidelines Manual. After converting all the controlled substances to marijuana and combining them, my offense is categorized as a Level 26 offense. With this offense level and 5 Criminal History points, the Manual’s Sentencing Table prescribes a sentence of 78 to 97 months (i.e., 6 years, 6 months to 8 years, 1 months). I have done over twice this maximum and three times the minimum sentence !
At my sentencing hearing on September 27, 1995, even the sentencing judge recognized the unfairness of my sentence. The Honorable C. Weston Houck stated as follows:
I don’t think there is any basis for the discrepancy that’s been in effect for some time. I believe that everybody pretty well agrees that Congress made a mistake when they decided that crack cocaine should be treated a hundred times more seriously than powder cocaine…. …But what they have done by treating crack cocaine a hundred times more seriously than powder cocaine is so ridiculous that they might even see it and back up on it… …It would seem to me that it would be unfair, if they change the law upon a recognition that the law was wrong and should never have been what they made it, then it seems to me it would be unfair to all the hundreds and hundreds of people that have been sentenced under that law and are serving time under that law, not to go back and correct those sentences... [Y]ou shouldn’t have people serving time that is unfair and improper…. ... I fully expect that in this case, that if Congress changes the law, that you’ll come back and ask me to re-sentence Mr. Reed based upon that new law, and I’ll have to deal with that problem then, and I guess I’ll have to deal with it with many, many other people, and my inclination would be to come back and re-do those sentences. (Sentencing Hearing Transcript pp. 61-63.)Judge Houck’s viewpoints align with Congress’s intent behind passing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The Act expressly defines its purpose as “[t]o restore fairness to Federal cocaine sentencing.” In light of these considerations, I believe that the time I have served in prison has been sufficient given my offense, and I respectfully request that my sentence be commuted."