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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. ANGEL FERRER, a/k/a STRANGE
Case Number: 20-2874
Judge: Cheryl Ann Krause
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Philadelphia, PA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with District Court’s order denying his motion for a sentence reduction charge.
The Fair Sentencing Act raised the drug-quantity thresholds needed to trigger
certain mandatory-minimum sentences. Pub. L. No. 111-220, § 2, 124 Stat. 2372, 2372
(2010). With the First Step Act, Congress gave district courts discretion to implement
those changes retroactively. Pub. L. No. 115-391, § 404, 132 Stat. 5194, 5222 (2018). But
while a court’s discretion to grant sentence reductions is broad, it is not unbounded. At
least two limits apply. First, a district court must “make an accurate calculation of the
amended guidelines range.” United States v. Murphy, 998 F.3d 549, 560 (3d Cir. 2021)
(internal quotation marks omitted). Second, a court must “consider the [18 U.S.C.]
§ 3553(a) factors.” United States v. Easter, 975 F.3d 318, 323 (3d Cir. 2020).
Ferrer argues that the District Court erred on both fronts. He first faults the Court
for failing to recite the amended statutory and guidelines ranges. But even if this omission
constitutes error, the error is harmless. Because the revised statutory range is what made
Ferrer eligible for a sentence reduction, we have little doubt that the District Court
accounted for that range. And because Ferrer’s new guidelines range duplicates his old
1 The District Court exercised jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(B) and
§ 404(b) of the First Step Act, and we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18
U.S.C. § 3742. We review a district court’s denial of a First Step Action motion for abuse
of discretion. See United States v. Easter, 975 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2020). 3
one, there is no “reasonable probability” that spelling out the range would have altered the
Court’s analysis. Molina-Martinez v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 1338, 1345 (2016); see also
United States v. Langford, 516 F.3d 205, 215 (3d Cir. 2008).
Turning to the § 3553(a) factors, Ferrer questions the District Court’s determination
that decreasing his sentence would create an unwarranted disparity between him and other
defendants sentenced after the Fair Sentencing Act. See 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(6). Before
the Act’s passage, Ferrer’s drug quantity—over three kilograms of crack-cocaine—
exceeded the statutory threshold of fifty grams and therefore triggered a mandatoryminimum sentence of ten years. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A) (2006 & Supp. IV 2011).
The Fair Sentencing Act increased that threshold to 280 grams. See 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) (2018). So were Ferrer convicted today, his three kilos of crack-cocaine
would implicate the same mandatory minimum. Reducing his punishment would thus
make him better off than a similarly-situated defendant sentenced after the Act. We have
previously urged courts to avoid such disparities, so we perceive no error in the District
Court avoiding them here. See United States v. Jackson, 964 F.3d 197, 204 (3d Cir. 2020).
Disparities aside, Ferrer criticizes the Court for placing too much weight on his
prison disciplinary infractions and too little weight on the First Step Act’s remedial
purposes. Neither position has force. Contrary to Ferrer’s suggestion, the Court did not
treat his infractions as decisive, but rather as one of many factors counseling against relief.
As for the Act’s remedial purposes, courts honor those purposes by carefully considering
the § 3553(a) factors. See Easter, 975 F.3d at 325; United States v. White, 984 F.3d 76,
89–91 (D.C. Cir. 2020). The District Court did that here.
Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the District Court’s denial of Ferrer’s
motion for a sentence reduction