By Sean R. Francis, M.S.
President, Justice Solutions of America
In what is sure to be one of many cases asking the federal courts to clarify the scope of the First Step Act (FSA), the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah has found that the FSA allows judicial relief for stacked sentences.
Mandatory minimums led to a 55-year sentence for 20-year-old Kepa Maumau. After the FSA was passed Maumau sought relief from the district court. In determining that the court had the authority to grant relief the court noted that before the FSA an offender would need the Director of the Bureau of Prisons to motion the court seeking a sentence reduction or compassionate release.
However, with passage of the FSA this was no longer the case. The BOP now has nothing to do with it and an offender is free to seek relief directly from the district court. https://www.criminallegalnews.org/news/2020/mar/18/utah-district-court-finds-first-step-act-gives-court-authority-reduce-stacked-55-year-924c-sentence/
Maumau argued that the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines allows “…..relief when, “[a]s determined by the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, there exists in the defendant’s case an extraordinary and compelling
reason….” He further argued that “the catch-all provision that limits relief to grounds identified by the Director is inconsistent with the law as outlined in the First Step Act.”
Finding now new policy statement or authority to the contrary the court held that “ this court joins the majority of other district courts that have addressed this issue in concluding that it has discretion to provide [the defendant] with relief, even if his situation does not directly fall within the Sentencing Commission’s current policy statement. Under the First Step Act, it is for the court, not the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, to determine whether there is an ‘extraordinary and compelling reason’ to reduce a sentence.” U.S. v. Maumau, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28392 ( D. Utah 2020)
The court also rejected the government’s argument that compassionate release is only for the old and frail who are suffering medical issues. Therefore, it would appear that the First Step Act could potentially become a vehicle for many offenders who have suffered under the weight of draconian federal sentencing policies to get some much needed relief.
Mar 30th, 2020Mar 30th, 2020