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Date: 10-17-2021

Case Style:

United States of America v. STEPHEN A. SACCOCCIA

Case Number: 20-2045


Court: United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit

Plaintiff's Attorney: Lauren S. Zurier, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Richard B. Myrus, Acting United States Attorney

Defendant's Attorney:

Boston, MA - Criminal defense Lawyer Directory


Boston, MA - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with laundering more than $136,000,000 for a Colombian drug cartel charge. He know

We briefly rehearse the relevant facts and travel of the
case. Roughly three decades ago, a jury convicted Saccoccia (a
dealer in precious metals) of a panoply of criminal offenses
connected to his role in laundering more than $136,000,000 for a
Colombian drug cartel. The district court sentenced him to the
statutory maximum on each of the fifty-four counts of conviction
and ran the sentences consecutively to aggregate a 660-year term
of immurement. We affirmed Saccoccia's sentence, explaining that
his guideline sentencing range (GSR) was life imprisonment and
noting that the effect of the consecutive sentences imposed by the
district court was functionally equivalent to a life sentence
- 3 -
without the possibility of parole. See United States v. Saccoccia
(Saccoccia I), 58 F.3d 754, 786 & n.28 (1st Cir. 1995).
In the past, Saccoccia has persistently challenged his
conviction, sentence, and forfeiture order. See, e.g., Saccoccia
v. United States, 955 F.3d 171, 172, 173 n.4 (1st Cir. 2020);
United States v. Saccoccia, No. 91-115, 2004 WL 1764556, at *1
(D.R.I. Aug. 2, 2004). Shortly after passage of the FSA, he moved
for compassionate release based on health-related concerns. He
ultimately withdrew that motion but — in May of 2020 — again sought
compassionate release. The motion was filed at the height of the
COVID-19 pandemic. In support, Saccoccia argued that there were
several "extraordinary and compelling reasons" warranting a
sentence reduction pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), which is
commonly referred to as the compassionate-release statute. 18
U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). First, Saccoccia pointed to his
chronic hypertension and hyperlipidemia, among other healthrelated concerns, which he alleged placed him at heightened risk
for complications stemming from COVID-19. In subsequent filings,
Saccoccia also pointed to an elevated prostate-specific antigen
(PSA) level — an indicium of prostate cancer. Additionally,
Saccoccia argued that the sheer length of his prison term
constituted an extraordinary and compelling reason for his
- 4 -
Because the district judge who originally sentenced
Saccoccia had retired, the compassionate-release motion was
referred to a different judge. The district court, in the person
of the newly assigned judge, denied Saccoccia's motion. See United
States v. Saccoccia (Saccoccia II), No. 91-115, 2020 WL 6153694,
at *1 (D.R.I. Oct. 19, 2020). It concluded that Saccoccia did not
demonstrate that his hypertension and hyperlipidemia put him at
increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19 so as to
warrant compassionate release. See id. at *2. The court declined
to give substantive consideration to Saccoccia's arguments
regarding his other medical conditions, deeming them
insufficiently developed. See id. at *2 n.1. The court also
concluded that the length of Saccoccia's sentence, even if
potentially cognizable as a reason for compassionate release, did
not, in the circumstances at hand, warrant such relief. See id.
at *3. Completing its analysis, the court mulled the sentencing
factors limned in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and determined that those
factors did not weigh in Saccoccia's favor. See id. at *4. This
timely appeal followed.
We begin our analysis with a concise explanation of the
statutory framework governing compassionate release and an
overview of how courts generally handle such motions. We then
address Saccoccia's claims with respect to his health-related
- 5 -
concerns. Finally, we turn to his arguments concerning the length
of his sentence, matters ancillary to sentence length, and the
district court's treatment of the section 3553(a) factors.
Federal law has for some time provided that a court, on
motion of the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), "may reduce the
term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in
section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable," upon a
finding that "extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a
reduction . . . and that such a reduction is consistent with
applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission."
18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) (2000); see also Comprehensive Crime
Control Act of 1984, Pub. L. No. 98-473, 98 Stat. 1837, 1998-99
(1984). This compassionate-release statute carved out a narrow
exception to the general rule that "[t]he court may not modify a
term of imprisonment once it has been imposed."1 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c).
In 2018, Congress passed the FSA. See Pub. L. No. 115-
391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018). Pertinently, the FSA amended the
1 The statute also allows a district court to reduce a sentence
when a defendant with a mandatory life sentence reaches at least
seventy years of age, has served at least thirty years, and is not
a danger to the safety of the community. See 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(1)(A)(ii). Moreover, section 3582(c) creates other
avenues for a sentence reduction. See, e.g., id. § 3582(c)(1)(B);
id. § 3582(c)(2). None of these other avenues is implicated here.
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compassionate-release statute to allow incarcerated individuals to
file their own motions seeking compassionate release as long as
they first apply to the BOP.2 See id. § 603(b), 132 Stat. at 5239;
18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) (2018). Saccoccia's motion was filed
under this revised regime.
To grant a sentence reduction in response to a prisonerinitiated motion for compassionate release alleging "extraordinary
and compelling reasons," a district court must make several
findings. First, the court must find both that the defendant has
presented an "extraordinary and compelling reason" warranting a
sentence reduction, 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i), and that "such
a reduction is consistent with applicable policy statements issued
by the Sentencing Commission," id. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Put another
way, the district court must find that the defendant's situation
constitutes the type of "extreme hardship" that the compassionaterelease statute is designed to ameliorate. United States v.
2 Such motions are variously referred to as sentence-reduction
motions and compassionate-release motions. We use those terms
interchangeably. So, too, the court below interchangeably
referred to Saccoccia's request as one for "release" and one for
a "sentence reduction." See Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *4.
Based on its use of the term "reduction," we conclude that the
district court correctly understood that the compassionate-release
statute contemplates any form of sentence reduction, including
release. See 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A) ("[T]he court . . . may
reduce the term of imprisonment (and may impose a term of probation
or supervised release with or without conditions that does not
exceed the unserved portion of the original term of imprisonment)
. . . ." (emphasis supplied)).
- 7 -
Havener, 905 F.2d 3, 6 (1st Cir. 1990) (Breyer, J.). It must also
abide by any applicable policy guidance from the Sentencing
Commission, which is required by statute to "describe what should
be considered extraordinary and compelling reasons for sentence
reduction, including the criteria to be applied and a list of
specific examples." 28 U.S.C. § 994(t).3 Then, the court must
consider any applicable section 3553(a) factors, see 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(1)(A), and "determine whether, in its discretion, the
reduction . . . is warranted in whole or in part under the
particular circumstances of the case." Dillon v. United States,
560 U.S. 817, 827 (2010) (describing similar two-part inquiry for
sentence reduction under section 3582(c)(2), a provision adjacent
to section 3582(c)(1), employing similar language); see United
States v. Vaughn, 806 F.3d 640, 643 (1st Cir. 2015) (same).
At both steps of this pavane, our standard of review is
the same. Recognizing that the compassionate-release statute
provides that a district court's decision to grant or deny a
3 The current policy guidance, United States Sentencing
Commission, Guidelines Manual, §1B1.13 (Nov. 2018), provides that
"[u]pon motion of the Director of the [BOP] under [section
3582(c)(1)(A)]," a court may grant relief, after considering the
applicable factors listed at section 3553(a), when it finds both
that "extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant the reduction"
and that "the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other
person or to the community, as provided in 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g)."
Id. §1B1.13(1)(A), (2). Section 1B1.13 also provides four
categories of extraordinary and compelling reasons. See id.
§1B1.13 cmt. n.1(A)-(D).
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compassionate-release motion is discretionary, see 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(1)(A), we review a district court's denial of a
compassionate-release motion for abuse of discretion, see, e.g.,
United States v. Long, 997 F.3d 342, 352 (D.C. Cir. 2021); United
States v. Pawlowski, 967 F.3d 327, 330 (3d Cir. 2020); cf. United
States v. Concepcion, 991 F.3d 279, 292 (1st Cir. 2021) (reviewing
denial of motion for resentencing under FSA for abuse of
discretion); United States v. Rodríguez-Rosado, 909 F.3d 472, 479
(1st Cir. 2018) (reviewing denial of section 3582(c)(2) motion for
abuse of discretion). This standard of review, however, is not
monolithic. Under it, "we review the district court's answers to
legal questions de novo, factual findings for clear error, and
judgment calls with some deference to the district court's exercise
of its discretion." Akebia Therapeutics, Inc. v. Azar, 976 F.3d
86, 92 (1st Cir. 2020).
Saccoccia's first argument posits that his poor physical
health, in combination with his age (sixty-two at the time the
district court ruled) and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,
constitutes an extraordinary and compelling reason sufficient to
ground his motion. He identifies two distinct aspects of his
health: an amalgam of diagnosed chronic conditions (including
hypertension and hyperlipidemia) and an elevated PSA level. The
district court determined that Saccoccia's hypertension and
- 9 -
hyperlipidemia — the focus of his chronic health-related arguments
— did not clear the high bar needed for showing an extraordinary
and compelling reason to justify compassionate release. See
Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *2. The court considered
Saccoccia's proffered medical evidence but concluded that neither
of these conditions was serious and that they did not comprise a
unique risk for severe complications arising from COVID-19. The
court found, for example, that Saccoccia did not suffer from
pulmonary hypertension, identified by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) as particularly problematic in light
of COVID-19's effects on the respiratory system. See id.
These findings are supported by the record, and we
discern nothing resembling an abuse of discretion. See United
States v. Aponte-Guzmán, 696 F.3d 157, 161 (1st Cir. 2012). Health
concerns are not uncommon among people in their sixties, but not
every complex of health concerns is sufficient to warrant
compassionate release. This remains true even in the midst of the
COVID-19 pandemic. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 might
in some cases justify compassionate release based on the criteria
set forth in the Sentencing Commission's current policy guidance
regarding a defendant's medical conditions and age, see USSG
§1B1.13 cmt. n.1(A)-(B), but the district court, relying on thencurrent CDC guidance, reasonably determined that Saccoccia's
- 10 -
medical conditions did not establish any such vulnerability in his
particular case.
Even apart from such criteria, words have significance.
Words like "extraordinary" and "compelling," when used by Congress
in framing a statute, must be given their plain meaning. See Robb
Evans & Assocs. v. United States, 850 F.3d 24, 34 (1st Cir. 2017);
United States v. Carroll, 105 F.3d 740, 744 (1st Cir. 1997). The
district court's determination that Saccoccia's health concerns
and the threat of COVID-19 did not add up to an extraordinary and
compelling reason for a sentence reduction is also consistent, we
think, with the plain meaning of the words that Congress chose to
Saccoccia trains more fire on the district court's
rejection of his plea for compassionate release based on his
elevated PSA level. In his view, the court should have treated
that elevated PSA level as the functional equivalent of a showing
of prostate cancer. Relatedly, he attacks, as legal error, the
district court's categorical treatment of some of his healthrelated arguments — including, most notably, his prostate-cancer
argument — as "not developed." Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at
*2 n.1. As a component of this attack, he intimates that the lack
of a formal diagnosis should be disregarded because the BOP delayed
confirmatory tests.
- 11 -
There is no doubt that Saccoccia properly raised
arguments related to potential prostate cancer before the district
court. In supplemental filings to his compassionate-release
motion, Saccoccia included (among other things) medical records
indicating that his PSA levels had increased from 2019 to 2020 and
that such an increase warranted further testing for prostate
cancer. But we understand the district court's treatment of
Saccoccia's prostate-cancer argument as "not developed" to mean
that — with only suggestive test results and in the absence of an
actual diagnosis — Saccoccia could not meaningfully represent that
he has prostate cancer. After all, an elevated PSA level is far
removed from a definite indicator of prostate cancer.
To be sure, an elevated PSA level (especially when it
represents a significant year-to-year rise) may indicate a need
for further testing. Here, however, a myriad of other possible
explanations exist for Saccoccia's test results. See U.S.
Preventive Servs. Task Force, Recommendation Statement, Screening
for Prostate Cancer, 319 JAMA 1901, 1902-03 (2018). This is
particularly true given Saccoccia's chronic condition of benign
hypertrophy of the prostate, which itself may produce an elevated
PSA level. See id. So, too, Saccoccia is in his sixties, and
aging itself is correlated with increased PSA levels. And in any
event, Saccoccia was tested again in August of 2020 — this time by
an outside lab — and that test yielded a PSA level lower than his
- 12 -
immediately preceding test.4 This uncertainty, which can be
resolved to a large extent through further testing and
consultation, affords a plausible basis for the district court's
treatment of Saccoccia's prostate-cancer argument as "not
developed" when presented to the court.
Our takeaway from the district court's treatment of
Saccoccia's other health-related arguments, including his
prostate-cancer argument, as "not developed," is reinforced by the
fact that the court took pains to leave the door open for a future
compassionate-release motion should subsequent medical
developments warrant. See Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *5
n.4. If, say, Saccoccia were actually to be diagnosed as having
prostate cancer, he could again move for compassionate release
with that diagnosis in hand.5 At this early stage, though, the
district court's refusal to accept Saccoccia's premature
characterization of his condition as "prostate cancer" was well
within the encincture of its discretion.
Saccoccia has a fallback position. He suggests that the
potential risk for prostate cancer is alone sufficient to justify
4 Saccoccia's PSA level in March of 2020 was 9.76 ng/ml. This
marked an increase from his February 2019 PSA level, which was
4.69 ng/ml. Upon subsequent testing, in August of 2020, Saccoccia
was found to have a PSA level of 6.6 ng/ml.
5 We do not mean to imply that a diagnosis of prostate cancer,
standing alone, would justify compassionate release. That would
depend on a constellation of other factors, including the BOP's
ability to treat such an illness within the federal prison system.
- 13 -
a finding of extraordinary and compelling reasons because the BOP
has dragged its institutional feet with respect to further PSA
testing. We accept the premise of Saccoccia's plaint: a district
court may find the existence of an extraordinary and compelling
reason sufficient to justify compassionate release based upon
material BOP interference in or stonewalling of medical testing or
treatment. See, e.g., United States v. Crowell, No. 16-107, 2020
WL 4734341, at *2 (D.R.I. Aug. 14, 2020). But we reject the
conclusion that Saccoccia draws from this premise. The record in
this case does not show either material interference or
stonewalling on the BOP's part.
To the contrary, the record makes manifest that the BOP
has been monitoring Saccoccia's prostate condition and has made
reasonable efforts to ensure that he receives adequate medical
care. During the eighteen-month period from February of 2019 to
August of 2020, Saccoccia had no fewer than three PSA tests. See
supra note 4. In addition, the BOP sought to schedule a urology
consultation for July of 2020. The consultation had not yet taken
place at the time (three months later) that the district court
ruled on Saccoccia's motion. But this fact alone, in light of the
BOP's efforts to monitor Saccoccia's prostate condition, does not
evince undue delay.
To say more about Saccoccia's health-related concerns
would be to paint the lily. The bottom line is that the district
- 14 -
court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting Saccoccia's claims
that those concerns constituted an extraordinary and compelling
reason warranting compassionate release.
This brings us to Saccoccia's remaining argument. He
contends that the length of his 660-year sentence, combined with
his age, the duration of his confinement to date, and other
circumstances, collectively comprise an extraordinary and
compelling reason for compassionate release. This contention
raises a number of subsidiary questions.
The first question is whether — as Saccoccia would have
it — a district court may consider sentence length as an
extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release.
This question is nuanced, partially because the compassionaterelease statute requires that a sentence reduction be "consistent
with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing
Commission." 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). In Dillon, the Supreme
Court interpreted this language in the context of a different
ground for a sentence modification under section 3582(c). See 560
U.S. at 826-27. The Court held that the phrase "consistent with
applicable policy statements" rendered the Sentencing Commission's
policy guidance binding upon courts mulling sentence-reduction
motions. See id.
- 15 -
This holding presents a potential obstacle for
Saccoccia: section 1B1.13 does not explicitly allow for length of
sentence itself to serve as an extraordinary and compelling reason
for release, though there is a catch-all category for "[o]ther
[r]easons." See USSG §1B1.13 cmt. n.1(A)-(D) (providing four
categories of extraordinary and compelling reasons: (A) medical
reasons; (B) age; (C) family circumstances; and (D) "[o]ther
[r]easons"). But there is a rub: the Sentencing Commission's
current policy guidance predates the FSA. Since the Sentencing
Commission has not had a quorum from the time that Congress enacted
the FSA in 2018, it has not been in a position to provide updated
guidance. The result is that section 1B1.13 addresses the
compassionate release process as one instituted by motion of the
BOP, including the requirement that the "[o]ther [r]easons"
warranting relief must be "determined by the Director of the
[BOP]." Id. cmt. n.1(D).
Against this backdrop, Saccoccia argues that courts
confronted with prisoner-initiated motions for compassionate
release are not bound by the Sentencing Commission's current policy
guidance and so may decide for themselves what constitutes an
extraordinary and compelling reason sufficient to justify
compassionate release. This sort of argument — that section 1B1.13
is not an "applicable" policy statement constraining the courts
— has been viewed approvingly by the overwhelming majority of the
- 16 -
courts of appeals that have passed on the issue. See, e.g., Long,
997 F.3d at 355; United States v. Aruda, 993 F.3d 797, 802 (9th
Cir. 2021) (per curiam); United States v. Elias, 984 F.3d 516, 519
(6th Cir. 2021); United States v. McCoy, 981 F.3d 271, 281 (4th
Cir. 2020); United States v. Gunn, 980 F.3d 1178, 1180 (7th Cir.
2020); United States v. Brooker, 976 F.3d 228, 230 (2d Cir. 2020).
But see United States v. Bryant, 996 F.3d 1243, 1262 (11th Cir.
2021). We have not had occasion to resolve the issue, and we need
not do so today. Cf. Privitera v. Curran (In re Curran), 855 F.3d
19, 22 (1st Cir. 2017) ("[C]ourts should not rush to decide
unsettled issues when the exigencies of a particular case do not
require such definitive measures."). Instead, we assume, for
argument's sake, that a court adjudicating a prisoner-initiated
motion for compassionate release may go beyond the confines of the
Sentencing Commission's current policy guidance (at least while
the Commission lacks a quorum) in determining whether a particular
circumstance or set of circumstances constitutes an extraordinary
and compelling reason to grant the motion.
This sets the stage for a second question. Even if we
assume — as we have done — that the Sentencing Commission's current
policy guidance is not binding in the circumstances of this case,
the question remains whether length of sentence can constitute an
extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release.
Once again, we have the luxury of being able to defer the
- 17 -
resolution of a thorny question. The circumstances of this case
permit us to leave this question unanswered and to assume,
favorably to Saccoccia, that length of sentence may itself
constitute an extraordinary and compelling reason for
compassionate release.
The assumption that length of sentence, in the abstract,
may be considered as an extraordinary and compelling reason for
compassionate release is merely a starting point, not an endpoint. That assumed fact serves as a gateway for a case-specific
evaluation of the defendant's situation. See United States v.
Harris, 989 F.3d 908, 912 (11th Cir. 2021). Here, the district
court assumed that it had the authority to consider the sheer
length of Saccoccia's sentence as an extraordinary and compelling
reason for Saccoccia's compassionate release. See Saccoccia II,
2020 WL 6153694, at *3. It nonetheless concluded that the length
of Saccoccia's sentence, even when viewed in conjunction with a
variety of other considerations cited by Saccoccia, did not warrant
his compassionate release. See id. at *3-4.
In reaching this conclusion, the court canvassed a
number of different factors, including the length of Saccoccia's
sentence, his claim that his sentence was disproportionate when
viewed in light of the offenses of conviction, his claim that his
sentence was unduly influenced by the then-mandatory nature of the
sentencing guidelines, and his claim that his advanced age and the
- 18 -
length of time he already had served made recidivism unlikely and
counselled in favor of his release. See id. at *2-3. Though the
section 3553(a) factors may serve as an independent basis for a
district court's decision to deny a compassionate-release motion
and need only be addressed if the court finds an extraordinary and
compelling reason favoring release, the court below went the extra
mile: it wrapped the package and tied a bow on it by completing
a section 3553(a) analysis. See id. at *4. It found the section
3553(a) factors inhospitable to Saccoccia's plea for compassionate
release. See id.
We proceed to test the soundness of the district court's
conclusions. The critical question, of course, is whether the
district court abused its discretion in holding that Saccoccia's
particular circumstances related to his sentence and the section
3553(a) factors, fell short of warranting his compassionate
release. We find no such abuse.
A 660-year sentence, Saccoccia says, is "unfathomable."
But in legal matters, as in life, "[e]verything depends on
context." Rivera-Velásquez v. Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection &
Ins. Co., 750 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2014). Viewed in context,
Saccoccia's 660-year sentence is readily comprehensible.
Saccoccia holds a special place in the pantheon of money
launderers, and his GSR was life imprisonment. See Saccoccia I,
58 F.3d at 786. The sentencing court, working with a total of
- 19 -
fifty-four counts and a series of relatively modest statutory
maxima, imposed the statutory maximum sentence on each count and
ran those sentences consecutively to effectuate a life sentence.
See id. We affirmed that aggregate sentence on direct review,
acknowledging the seriousness of Saccoccia's criminal activity.
See id. at 789.
The district court reasonably determined that the
passage of time — even in light of the changed legal landscape
regarding the Sentencing Guidelines, see United States v. Booker,
543 U.S. 220, 245 (2005), and Saccoccia's other sentence-related
arguments — did not render that lengthy sentence either
unreasonable or incommensurate with the scope and gravity of
Saccoccia's offenses. The basis for this conclusion is nose-onthe-face plain. The district court emphasized the seriousness of
Saccoccia's offenses. See Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *3-
4. Then — highlighting the other factors that it considered most
telling — the court reviewed Saccoccia's criminal record, his age
at the time of the offenses of conviction, and his obstruction of
justice during his prosecution for money laundering. See id. at
*3. Taking everything into account, the court rejected Saccoccia's
bid for compassionate release based on sentence length. See id.
at *3-4.6 Relatedly, the court found that the section 3553(a)
6 These considerations were framed by the district court as
distinguishing features from the defendant in Brooker. See
- 20 -
factors, on balance, did not favor a sentence reduction. See id.
at *4. It explained that granting Saccoccia's request would send
the wrong message and marshalled case law supporting the
proposition that a sentence reduction would both fail to account
for the seriousness of the offenses of conviction and undercut the
policy of promoting deterrence. See id.
In calumnizing the district court's conclusions,
Saccoccia seizes single-mindedly upon its statement that
compassionate release "would send the wrong message both to
[Saccoccia] and to society," id., as an indication that only a few
factors were considered. In his view, the court failed to consider
certain mitigating factors, such as his alleged prostate cancer,
the length of time already served, and alleged sentence disparities
(including disparities arising when his sentence is compared to
sentences imposed upon leaders of the drug cartel for whom
Saccoccia laundered money). But this is whistling past the
graveyard. The district court said that it exercised its broad
discretion in denying compassionate release in light of the
Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *3. Saccoccia argues that the
district court improperly grafted the criteria used by the Second
Circuit in Brooker onto his case. Contrary to Saccoccia's
importunings, the district court did not suggest that Saccoccia
had to be held to the same criteria as the defendant in Brooker.
Our understanding is that the district court looked to the Brooker
decision in determining the type of factors to be considered when
evaluating whether extraordinary and compelling reasons for a
sentence reduction existed. For that purpose, Brooker was an
appropriate point of reference.
- 21 -
"balance" of the factors, id., and we have no reason not to take
this statement at face value. No more was exigible: "[m]erely
raising potentially mitigating factors does not guarantee" a
favorable decision. United States v. Dávila-González, 595 F.3d
42, 49 (1st Cir. 2010).
Our case law is pellucid that a district court, when
conducting a section 3553(a) analysis, need not tick off each and
every factor in a mechanical sequence. See United States v. Dixon,
449 F.3d 194, 205 (1st Cir. 2006) ("[I]t is not required to address
those factors, one by one, in some sort of rote incantation when
explicating its sentencing decision."). Instead, we presume
— absent some contrary indication — that a sentencing court
considered all the mitigating factors and that those not
specifically mentioned were simply unpersuasive. See United
States v. Martins, 413 F.3d 139, 154 (1st Cir. 2005).
This case law has evolved in the sentencing context
proper, but we think that it applies with at least equal force in
the compassionate-release context. Cf. Rodríguez-Rosado, 909 F.3d
at 480 (applying similar proposition in analogous context of
section 3582(c)(2) motion). The common denominator is, of course,
the broad discretion afforded to the district court in evaluating
motions for compassionate release, as in sentencing matters, and
when weighing the section 3553(a) factors. See 18 U.S.C.
§ 3582(c)(1)(A) ("[T]he court . . . may reduce the term of
- 22 -
imprisonment . . . after considering the factors set forth in
section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable."); cf.
Aponte-Guzmán, 696 F.3d at 160-61 (explaining in the analogous
section 3582(c)(2) context that sentence reductions are
discretionary and not a matter of right).
Although Saccoccia argues that this court should require
further explanation from a district court (particularly where, as
here, the motion judge did not impose the defendant's sentence),
we think compassionate release motions should not devolve into
satellite sentencing hearings. The Supreme Court has explained
that a sentence modification in the analogous section 3582(c)(2)
context is "not a plenary resentencing proceeding." Chavez-Meza
v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1959, 1967 (2018) (quoting Dillon,
560 U.S. at 826). Relatedly, the Court has assumed for argument's
sake that "district courts have equivalent duties when initially
sentencing a defendant and when later modifying the sentence."
Id. at 1965. Building on this foundation, the Court explained
that, "[i]n some cases," as in the sentencing context, "it may be
sufficient for purposes of appellate review that the judge simply
relied upon the record, while making clear that he or she has
considered the parties' arguments and taken account of the §3553(a)
factors." Id. at 1965-67. Here, the district court presented its
reasons (which do not reflect a failure to consider pertinent
factors) and explicitly adopted those in the government's
- 23 -
briefing. See Saccoccia II, 2020 WL 6153694, at *4. These various
reasons provide a sufficient basis for the district court's
decision. Our examination of the record reveals that the court
below did not trespass — or even closely approach — the margins of
its broad discretion in denying Saccoccia's motion.

Outcome: We need go no further. For the reasons elucidated above,
the judgment of the district court is

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