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United States v. Wells


September 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge


Defendant, Tyrone Wells, has filed a pro se motion to vacate his sentence, seeking to take advantage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The defendant pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack cocaine and, after several remands from the court of appeals, was sentenced on January 15, 2009, to 143 months' imprisonment.

In pertinent part, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 amended 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) by increasing the amount of the defendant's involvement in crack cocaine from at least 50 grams to at least 280 grams before a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years can be imposed. See Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-220, 124 Stat. 2372, at § 2(a)(1), effective Aug. 3, 2010.

Defendant's motion argues that his case is still pending and that therefore the act, given certain constitutional considerations, should be applied to him retroactively. Thus we should resentence him "under [the] changed quantity thresholds of the Fair Sentencing Act." (Doc. 153, Mot. to Vacate, p. 10).*fn1 We should do so because we went below the minimum guideline range of 168 months to 143 months based in part on the disparity in sentencing between crack- and powder-cocaine. Defendant reasons that we would have gone even lower if the mandatory minimum had been lower.

We cannot grant the motion because we have no jurisdiction. Federal courts have no inherent authority to modify a sentence at any time. See McMillan v. United States, 257 F. App'x 477, 479 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam)(nonprecedential)("We note that, as a general matter, a court cannot modify a term of imprisonment after it has been imposed without specific authorization.") (citing United States v. DeLeo, 644 F.2d 300, 301 (3d Cir. 1981)); United States v. Penna, 319 F.3d 509, 511 (9th Cir. 2003). Defendant has presented us with no legal authority for us to consider his motion to reduce his sentence.

Even if we had jurisdiction, Defendant's claim has no merit. Defendant's crack-cocaine drug quantity was 300 grams, by his own admission. (Doc. 153, Mot., p. 9). This is consistent with a drug quantity of 353 grams set forth in his presentence report. (PSR ¶ 11). The PSR based its calculation on: (1) 5.5 grams purchased from Defendant by a confidential informant (PSR ¶ 4); (2) 1.9 grams found in the pocket of a woman's jacket during a search of Defendant's residence (PSR ¶ 5); (3) 328.7 grams found in the master bedroom closet (PSR ¶ 5); and (4) 17 grams found on the bedroom floor. (PSR ¶ 5). Defendant filed no objection to this drug quantity before his original sentencing, and at his most recent resentencing his lawyer stated the drug quantity was 353 grams. (Doc. 128, sentencing transcript, p. 3).

With a crack-cocaine quantity of 353 grams, the act does not benefit Defendant; he still faces a mandatory minimum of ten years imprisonment since the act only lowered the mandatory minimum sentence for those with a drug quantity of less than 280 grams. Thus, even if we assume, along with Defendant, that our sentencing calculation was affected by the mandatory minimum, that mandatory minimum remains at ten years.

We will issue an appropriate order.


AND NOW, this 23rd day of September, 2010, it is ordered that Defendant's pro se motion (doc. 153) to vacate sentence is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

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