United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM P. JOHNSON, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court following a hearing on Defendant
Bobby Willis' Motion to Reduce Sentence (Doc. 96).
Defendant seeks compassionate release pursuant to 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582 and the First Step Act, Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132
Stat. 5194. The United States opposes the motion based on,
inter alia, the severity of Defendant's crime. Having
carefully reviewed the record and applicable law, the Court
denies the Motion.
2010, Defendant persuaded Joseph and Teresa Lee to transfer
$1 million - the majority of their retirement savings - to a
real estate investment group. Defendant pocketed the money
instead of investing it as promised. When the Lees later
inquired about the status of their investment, Defendant
represented it had grown in value. In 2015, the United States
charged Defendant with two counts of wire fraud (18 U.S.C.
§ 1343). He pled guilty in exchange for a sentence of 0
to 24 months imprisonment. During sentencing proceedings,
Defendant requested probation based on his various medical
conditions. By a Judgment entered February 12, 2018, the
Court (Hon. Robert G. James) sentenced Defendant to 24 months
on each count, to run concurrently, followed by three years
of supervised release.
was originally scheduled to report to the Bureau of Prisons
(BOP) on April 5, 2018. He received an extension based on
medical issues and continued to litigate restitution
throughout 2018. On December 19, 2018, Defendant began
serving his sentence at a BOP medical facility in
Springfield, Missouri. The next day, he asked the BOP to move
for a reduction in sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(A). The BOP denied the request on April 9, 2019,
citing the severity of his offense. Based on certain credits,
Defendant is scheduled to be released on September 28, 2019,
after serving about nine months in federal
filed the instant Motion to Reduce Sentence on April 17,
2019. He argues BOP Physician Scott Moose predicted he has
less than 18 months to live based on his medical issues.
Those issues include: Factor V Leiden Deficiency; segmental
arterial mediolysis (i.e., arterial dissections);
severe coronary artery disease; strokes; Parkinson's
disease; diabetes; labile hypertension; and kidney
hemorrhage. He asks the Court to order his immediate release,
which would reduce his federal sentence to about five months.
The United States concedes Defendant meets the medical
criteria for a sentence reduction. However, the United States
argues Defendant should serve the full nine months in BOP
custody based on the severity of his crime. At the hearing,
the United States also noted it considered Defendant's
medical conditions and offered a below-guideline sentence in
the Plea Agreement. The Plea Agreement contemplates a
sentence of 0 to 24 months, while the guideline range is 27
to 33 months.
release is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). Prior to the
enactment of the First Step Act, only the BOP could raise the
issue. The First Step Act modified 18 U.S.C. §
3582(c)(1)(A), however, with the intent of “increasing
the use and transparency of compassionate release.”
Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194, at 5239. Section
3582(c)(1)(A) now allows a federal prisoner to seek
compassionate release after exhausting all administrative
remedies with the BOP. The parties agree Defendant has
satisfied the exhaustion requirement.
from allowing prisoners to bring a motion directly, the First
Step Act did not change the standards for compassionate
release. Relief is available where the proposed sentence
reduction is supported by: (1) “extraordinary and
compelling reasons;” (2) “applicable policy
statements issued by the Sentencing Commission[;]” and
(3) “the factors set forth in [18 U.S.C. §]
3553(a).” 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). As to the
first requirement, Congress directed the Sentencing
Commission to “describe what should be considered
extraordinary and compelling reasons for a sentence
reduction, including … a list of specific
examples.” 28 U.S.C. § 994(t). The Application
Notes to U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13 describe two categories of
extraordinary medical impairments. The first category applies
to prisoners 65 or older who have served at least 10 years
(or 75%) of their sentence and are experiencing
“serious deterioration … because of the aging
process.” U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13, app. note. The second
category, which is relevant here, applies to younger
prisoners “suffering from a terminal illness” or
“a serious … medical condition that
substantially diminishes the ability … to provide
self-care within the environment of the correctional
facility.” Id. Defendant is wheelchair bound,
blind, and requires 24/7 care. He was also given a specific
prognosis of life expectancy (18 months or less from January
2019). The Court therefore finds “extraordinary and
compelling reasons” warrant a sentence reduction.
next requirement - that the reduction is consistent with
Sentencing Commission policy - focuses on community safety.
The Guidelines provide that compassionate release is
appropriate only where the “defendant is not a danger
to the safety of any other person or to the community.”
U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13(2). Relevant factors include the
nature of the offense, the history and characteristics of the
defendant, and the nature of the danger. Id.
(incorporating the 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) factors).
Defendant contends he is too frail to pose a risk of danger.
The United States disagrees, noting he managed to steal from
the victims despite various health problems. The Court is
hesitant to find Defendant poses no risk to the community, as
fraud appears ingrained in his character. However, given
Defendant's health problems, the Court is convinced any
risk can be managed by the terms of his supervised release.
See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g) (noting conditions of
release can mitigate danger to the community). A sentence
reduction is therefore consistent with Sentencing Commission
last requirement for compassionate release, which focuses on
the § 3553(a) factors, is the main point of contention
in this case. Defendant argues the factors favor leniency
because each day in the BOP medical facility constitutes
“hard time.” The United States contends Defendant
already received a lenient sentence based on his medical
conditions, and that further reductions are inappropriate
based on the severity of his crime.
Section 3553(a) requires the Court to impose a sentence that
(1) the nature and circumstances of the
offense and the history and characteristics of the ...