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Sentencing Guidelines- First Step Act of 2018

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//May 12, 2024//

Sentencing Guidelines- First Step Act of 2018

By: WISCONSIN LAW JOURNAL STAFF//May 12, 2024//

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7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: United States of America v. Gustavo Colon

Case No.: 23-1318

Officials: Sykes, Chief Judge, and Kirsch and Pryor, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Sentencing Guidelines- First Step Act of 2018

Colon, currently serving a life sentence for involvement in a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) as per 21 U.S.C. § 848(a), appealed the rejection of his motion for a reduced sentence under § 404 of the First Step Act of 2018. The district court dismissed his motion, citing that Colon’s CCE conviction did not qualify as a “covered offense” under the Act.

Previously, Colon was convicted of conspiring to distribute various drugs, participating in a CCE, utilizing a telephone in the commission of his conspiracy, and distributing cocaine. The sentencing judge annulled Colon’s conspiracy conviction, deeming it a violation of the double jeopardy clause because conspiracy was subsumed within the CCE offense for which Colon was also found guilty. Consequently, the judge imposed a life sentence for the CCE conviction. In 2003, this court upheld Colon’s conviction and sentence.

In 2021, Colon sought a sentence reduction under § 404 of the First Step Act, which permits courts to reduce the sentence of a “covered offense”—defined as an offense whose statutory penalties were modified by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. However, the district judge dismissed the motion, reasoning that Colon’s CCE conviction did not meet the criteria of a “covered offense” as the Fair Sentencing Act did not amend 21 U.S.C. § 848(a).

The Seventh Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling, determining that a CCE conviction under § 848(a) does not qualify as a “covered offense” under the First Step Act. This is because the penalties outlined—ranging from twenty years to life imprisonment—remained unaltered by the Fair Sentencing Act. Consequently, Colon was deemed ineligible for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act.

Affirmed.

Decided 05/07/24

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