United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William W. Caldwell United States District Judge
before the court is Defendant Derrick Cruz's motion (Doc.
315) for relief from judgment. For the following reasons, the
court will deny Defendant's motion.
January 23, 1996, after a jury trial, Defendant was convicted
of three separate counts that included drug offenses and
money laundering. (Doc. 88). On May 1, 1996, this court
sentenced Defendant to 324 months' imprisonment-the
bottom end of the sentencing range provided by the
then-mandatory United States Sentencing Guidelines
(“Sentencing Guidelines”). (Doc. 131). The
Third Circuit affirmed Defendant's conviction and
sentence on February 2, 1997. (Doc. 148).
the following ten years, Defendant filed a litany of motions
and other documents challenging his conviction and sentence.
The only fruitful challenges were those based on retroactive
amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines. Defendant
successfully moved three times for a reduction to his federal
sentence based on retroactive amendments, reducing the
initial sentence of 324 months' incarceration to his
current sentence of 135 months' incarceration.
(See Docs. 224, 237, 282, 285, 302, 305).
March 20, 2017, Defendant filed the instant motion for relief
from judgment. (Doc. 315). Although styled as motion pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), the motion is
actually a request for miscellaneous relief based primarily
on a decision from the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of New York, United States v.
Holloway, 68 F.Supp.3d 310 (E.D.N.Y. 2014) (Gleeson,
J.). (Doc. 315 at 1, 6-9). In Holloway, which will
be discussed in greater detail below, the United States
Attorney-in response to several direct requests from the
district judge-agreed to vacate certain convictions in order
to reduce a 57-year sentence that was the result of mandatory
Government filed a two-paragraph response to the instant
motion, claiming that Defendant cited no legal authority, and
asserting that this court lacks jurisdiction to provide
Defendant with the relief he seeks. (Doc. 319). The
Government's response does not address Holloway
or the actual relief Defendant requests, i.e., that this
court follow Holloway and petition the Government to
exercise its discretion to reduce his sentence (e.g., by
vacating one of his counts of conviction) in the interests of
has exhausted his direct appeal and post-conviction avenues
for relief. He now asks this court to follow
Holloway's example by requesting that the
Government revisit his case and exercise its discretion to
vacate one or more counts of conviction or take some other
action that would reduce his current federal sentence. (Doc.
315 at 6-9). For the following reasons, the court finds that
Defendant's case is distinguishable from
Holloway, and will deny his request.
Holloway, Francois Holloway and an accomplice were
charged with stealing three cars at gunpoint over a two-day
span. Holloway, 68 F.Supp.3d at 312. The government
charged each carjacking separately, and each carjacking count
was accompanied by a “§ 924(c)” count for
using a firearm during a crime of violence, see 18
U.S.C. § 924(c). Holloway, 68 F.Supp.3d at 312.
Holloway had been offered a plea agreement with a sentencing
range of 130 to 147 months in which two of the § 924(c)
counts would be dropped, but he rejected that offer and went
to trial. Id. At trial, Holloway was convicted on
all counts, and, due to the “stacked” mandatory
minimums imposed by § 924(c), as well as the statutory
requirement that § 924(c) sentences run consecutively to
one another and all other sentences in the case, he received
a mandatory sentence of imprisonment of 691 months, or
57 years and 7 months. Id. at 312-13.
highlighting the draconian nature of Holloway's mandatory
sentence, Judge Gleeson noted that in 2013, the average
federal sentence for murder was only 268 months. Id.
at 313 (citation omitted). He also juxtaposed Holloway's
sentence with that of Holloway's co-defendant, who had
engaged in similar conduct but received a sentence of just 27
months after pleading guilty and testifying for the
government. Id. In light of what appeared to Judge
Gleeson to be an extremely unjust punishment, on two separate
occasions he called on the United States Attorney to consider
having the government exercise “its discretion to agree
to an order vacating two or more of Holloway's 18 U.S.C.
§ 924(c) convictions.” Id. at 314.
thoroughly reviewing the circumstances of the case and
Holloway's “extraordinary” record during his
twenty years of incarceration, as well as completing a
time-consuming search to find and speak to several of the
carjacking victims, the government agreed that it would not
oppose a motion to vacate two of the § 924(c)
convictions and resentence Holloway. Id. at 315. As
Judge Gleeson explained, Holloway's “sentence was
far more severe than necessary to reflect the seriousness of
his crimes and to adequately protect the community from him,
” and the government made the courageous decision to
“remedy injustice[ ]” rather than simply taking
the “easy route” by responding that
“there's nothing we can do about your
sentence[.]” Id. at 316.
the court notes that Holloway is a district court
decision from outside the Third Circuit, and has no binding
effect on this court. More importantly, the court finds