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United States v. Solomon

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

October 1, 2019




         Presently before the Court is Defendant Wanda Solomon's Motion for Reduction of Sentence and Request for Expedited Consideration (Docket No. 284 at Crim. No. 05-350; Docket No. 951 at Crim. No. 05-385), the Government Response in Opposition thereto (Docket No. 289 at Crim. No. 05-350; Docket No. 958 at Crim. No. 05-385); Defendant's Reply (Docket No. 294 at Crim. No. 05-350; Docket No. 970 at Crim. No. 05-385) and the Government's Sur-reply (Docket No. 296 at Crim. No. 05-350; Docket No. 972 at Crim. No. 05-385).[1] Upon careful consideration of the parties' respective positions set forth in the briefing and a review of the record in this case, Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. Background

         Defendant ran a large-scale cocaine distribution ring in Western Pennsylvania, which involved numerous family members, including one of her minor children. (Docket No. 943-1 at 2). One of Defendant's co-conspirators was her son, Jelani Solomon, who was eventually arrested and then ordered the murder of an informant whom he believed had led to his arrest. (Id.). Following Jelani's arrest, Defendant continued trafficking in cocaine and attempted to collect on drug debts owed to him. (Docket No. 958-1 at 34). All told, Defendant's drug trafficking activities continued for over a decade before she was charged in two separate indictments in this District at Criminal Nos. 05-350 and 05-385. (Docket No. 943-1 at 2).

         On August 2, 2006, Defendant appeared before Judge Terrence F. McVerry[2] and pled guilty to Count One of the Indictment at Criminal No. 05-350, which charged her with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine and 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (hereinafter, “the crack cocaine count”), and Count One of the Superseding Indictment at Criminal No. 05-385, which charged her with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 5 kilograms or more of cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846 (hereinafter, the “powder cocaine count”).

         Defendant's sentencing hearing was held on March 20, 2007. At the time, she was subject to a mandatory statutory term of not less than ten (10) years and up to life imprisonment and five (5) years' supervised release on both the crack cocaine and the powder cocaine counts. (Docket No. 958-1 at 16). Prior to sentencing, counsel for the parties reached a stipulation that Defendant was responsible for more than 5 kilograms but less than 15 kilograms of cocaine. (Docket No. 958-2 at 4-5, 15). As a result, Defendant's total offense level was 35, and with a criminal history category of III, the advisory guidelines range was 210 to 262 months' imprisonment. (Id. at 5). As to Defendant's argument involving a crack cocaine disparity, Judge McVerry explained that the “disparity in this instance . . . is a distinction without a difference . . . [b]ecause there are two indictments . . . and the second indictment [at Criminal No. 05-385] involves a range of significant kilograms of cocaine, [thus, ] the crack cocaine in the first indictment [at Criminal No. 05-350] does not effectively increase the sentencing guidelines calculation.” (Id. at 16-17).

         Ultimately, Judge McVerry sentenced Defendant to 240 months' imprisonment on both the crack cocaine and powder cocaine counts to be served concurrently, followed by concurrent terms of five (5) years' supervised release at each count. (Docket No. 958-2 at 49-50; Docket No. 376 at 2-3). In imposing this sentence, Judge McVerry considered the well-known sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). As to the seriousness of Defendant's offenses and the need to impose a lengthy sentence, Judge McVerry remarked:

The pervasiveness of your conspiracy is despicable; most especially despicable because it appears as though almost every sibling in your family was involved in criminal activity one way or another, including having the involvement to some degree of a minor . . . in transporting drugs and/or money over the course of the time -- it's absolutely incredible to me that everybody in the Solomon family was involved in this criminal activity for a lengthy period of time.
It is clear that you had a major leadership role in the conspiracy and you continued the conspiracy after the horrific homicide of a helpless man . . . for virtually no reason in the world. That you continued to run the business, you continued to supply Jelani with money, you continued to pay his bills, you continued to help [one of the co-conspirators] after this incident.
Your prior criminal involvement and history is of no small moment in my consideration of sentencing.
This sentence is based on the need to reflect the seriousness of the offense, and the offense is imminently serious; to promote respect for the law, which I hope you gain over the course of the next 20 years; to provide just and sound punishment for the offenses, which you deserve; to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct; to protect the public, especially the public in Beaver County, from further crimes by you; and to provide you with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional training, of which I hope you avail yourself in the most effective manner while incarcerated.

(Docket No. 958-2 at 52-53).

         Defendant filed a direct appeal, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the District Court's Judgment on June 1, 2009. (Docket No. 803). Defendant later unsuccessfully attempted on numerous occasions to have her sentence vacated or reduced. (Docket Nos. 806, 809, 829, 833, 834, 838, 868, 882, 914, 915, 916, 918).

         Defendant also filed a motion for a sentence reduction as a result of amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines which retroactively reduced the base offense level for certain drug offenses, which Judge McVerry denied on February 19, 2016. (Docket Nos. 923, 925). Judge McVerry recognized that Defendant was technically eligible for consideration of a reduction, and noted that the newly applicable advisory guidelines range would be 168-210 months' imprisonment, but he declined to exercise his discretion to reduce Defendant's sentence. (Docket No. 925 at 1, 2, 3). In reaching that decision, Judge McVerry considered Defendant's conduct and accomplishments while ...

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