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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. SHANTELL LAMONT JONES
Case Number: 20-2507
Judge: Peter J. Phipps
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Philadelphia, PA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with two counts of drug possession and distribution charges.
In 2012, at age 39, Shantell Lamont Jones twice sold powder cocaine to a
confidential informant in Erie, Pennsylvania. A federal grand jury indicted him, and he
pleaded guilty to two counts of drug possession and distribution under 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C). See 18 U.S.C. § 3231 (conferring jurisdiction over
federal crimes). Because that was not Jones’s first or second conviction – in fact, it was
his ninth as an adult, including two firearms offenses – the sentencing court applied the
career-offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1. See United States v. Jones, 552 F.
App’x 185 (3d Cir. 2014) (affirming application of the career-offender enhancement).
Jones’s resulting sentence consisted of two concurrent 168-month terms of imprisonment.
Jones’s projected release date is July 20, 2024. But under the First Step Act of
2018, he moved for compassionate release based on his removed spleen, hypertension,
hypercholesterolemia, and appendicitis in combination with the risks posed by the
COVID-19 pandemic. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). The District Court denied his
motion, and Jones timely appealed. As a challenge to a final order, his appeal is within
our appellate jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we will affirm the District Court’s
Three criteria govern compassionate-release motions. Courts evaluate such
motions (i) for extraordinary and compelling reasons for release; (ii) with due
consideration of the sentencing factors listed at 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a); and (iii) for
consistency with any applicable policy statements from the United States Sentencing 3
Commission. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Any of those criteria may provide a basis
for denying the motion.
The District Court denied Jones’s motion for two reasons. It determined that his
medical conditions were not extraordinary and compelling, even considering the
COVID-19 pandemic. See United States v. Jones, 2020 WL 3871084, at *2–4 (W.D. Pa.
July 8, 2020). It also explained that a reduced sentence would be inappropriate under the
§ 3553(a) factors. See id. at *4.
Jones challenges both of those rationales on appeal. In response, the Government
argues that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Jones’s motion. The
Government further contends that the statutory phrase “extraordinary and compelling
reasons” should have only the meaning defined in U.S.S.G. § 1B1.13, which is a
Sentencing Guidelines policy statement. But even if that phrase does not have that
particular meaning, the Government submits that Jones cannot meet the standard.
The District Court did not abuse its discretion in considering the § 3553(a) factors,
and that suffices to affirm the denial of Jones’s motion for compassionate release. See
United States v. Pawlowski, 967 F.3d 327, 330 (3d Cir. 2020). The District Court
evaluated the § 3553(a) factors in recognition that “the mere existence of COVID-19 in
society and the possibility that it may spread to a particular prison alone cannot
independently justify compassionate release, especially considering [the Bureau of
Prisons’ statutory role, and its] extensive and professional efforts to curtail the virus’s
spread.” Jones, 2020 WL 3871084, at *3 (quoting United States v. Raia, 954 F.3d 594, 4
597 (3d Cir. 2020)). Further, in considering “the nature and circumstances of the offense
and the history and characteristics of the defendant,” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1), the District
Court agreed with the assessment that Jones was “the quintessential career offender.”
Jones, 2020 WL 3871084, at *4 (citation omitted). As it observed, even without the
career-offender enhancement, Jones would have a Category VI criminal history – the
highest category – because of his “long history of criminal behavior since age 18[,] with
most gaps in that behavior occurring only during times of incarceration.” Id. In
assessing “the need for the sentence imposed,” 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2), the District Court
recognized that Jones’s offenses include not only multiple drug offenses, but also simple
assault, carrying a firearm without a license, reckless endangerment, receiving stolen
property, and driving under the influence. See Jones, 2020 WL 3871084, at *4. The
District Court further appreciated two other facts that likewise counseled against
compassionate release: his age when he committed his most recent drug offense and his
being under court supervision at the time. See id. Nothing about the District Court’s
analysis prompts “a definite and firm conviction that [the court] committed a clear error
of judgment in the conclusion it reached upon a weighing of the relevant factors.”
Pawlowski, 967 F.3d at 330 (quoting Oddi v. Ford Motor Co., 234 F.3d 136, 146 (3d Cir.
Outcome: Accordingly, we will affirm the order denying Jones compassionate release