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United States v. Ford

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 25, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
DARLENE FORD

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR RECOMMENDATION REGARDING LENGTH OF RRC PLACEMENT

          JOHN A. WOODCOCK, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The Court dismisses without prejudice an inmate's motion for recommendation to a residential reentry center because the defendant repeatedly lied before federal juries and at her sentencing hearing, she received an obstruction of justice enhancement for lying. Therefore the Court does not credit her uncorroborated statements and will require corroboration before acting on any similar motion she may wish to file in the future.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On February 24, 2015, the Court sentenced Darlene Ford to a term of incarceration of 78 months for her part in a conspiracy to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants, a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), maintaining a drug involved place, a violation of 21 U.S.C. 856(a), and aiding and abetting a felon's possession of a firearm, a violation of 18 U.SC. 922(g)(1), all to be served concurrently. J. (ECF No. 423). On September 15, 2016, the Court dismissed the firearm count after Ms. Ford's successful appeal on that issue, but the Court imposed the same term of imprisonment, 78 months, on the two remaining counts, to be served concurrently. Am. J. (ECF No. 477); Op. of the United States Ct. of Appeals (ECF No. 460); J. of the United States Ct. of Appeals (ECF No. 461).

         A. Darlene Ford's Motion

         On May 24, 2018, Ms. Ford moved this Court to recommend to the United States Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that she receive eight months of Residential Reentry Center placement. Mot. for Recommendation Regarding Length of RRC Placement (ECF No. 493) (Def.'s Mot.). Ms. Ford's motion is largely a hand written copy of a “fill-in-the-blanks” motion.[1]

         Ms. Ford states that she has a current release date of October 3, 2019 and she therefore requests that she be recommended for the reentry center in a timely manner. Id. at 2-3. She says that during her incarceration, she has maintained a clean record, completed a number of training programs, and mentored her peers. Id. at 3. Conceding that the BOP has the ultimate authority to designate her to an RRC, she also observes that the BOP is required to consider any judicial recommendation. Id. at 2-4. She notes that she graduated from the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP) on November 9, 2017. Id. at 3. Ms. Ford requests that the Court recommend to the BOP that she spend eight months in an RRC. Id. at 5.

         B. The Government's Response

         On May 11, 2018, the Government filed a pro forma response, taking no position on the motion. Gov't Resp. to Def.'s Mot. for Recommendation Regarding Placement at 1 (ECF No. 494) (Gov't's Resp.). The Government referred the Court to its recent response to a similar motion in another case. Id. at 1-2 (citing United States v. Tiffany Sutherland, 1:15-CR-00041-JAW-2, Government's Second Response to Motion for Recommendation Regarding Length of RRC Placement (ECF No. 202) (Gov't's Sutherland Resp.)).

         The Government concurs with Ms. Ford that the BOP, not this Court, has the authority to determine her place of imprisonment. Gov't's Sutherland Resp. at 2-3. The Government observes that the pre-release designation statute, 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c), provides that the BOP may exercise its discretion in assigning an inmate to pre-release custody and that any recommendation from this Court must be subject to the BOP's statutory discretion. Id. at 3. The Government points to other court decisions which have granted post-judgment motions similar to Ms. Ford's. Id. at 3-4 (citing caselaw). In the end, the Government leaves the decision as to whether to make a recommendation to the sound discretion of the Court. Id. at 4.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The United States Supreme Court has written that Congress has given the BOP “plenary control, subject to statutory constraints, over ‘the place of the prisoner's imprisonment.'” Tapia v. United States, 141 S.Ct. 2382, 2390 (2011) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3621(b)). Federal law permits a court to make a recommendation to the BOP, “[b]ut decisionmaking authority rests with the BOP.” Id. at 2390-91. The applicable statutory provision is 18 U.S.C. § 3624(c)(1):

[The BOP] shall, to the extent practicable, ensure that a prisoner serving a term of imprisonment spends a portion of the final months of that term (not to exceed 12 months), under conditions that will afford that prisoner a reasonable opportunity to adjust to and prepare for the reentry of that prisoner into the community. Such conditions may include a community correctional facility.

         Federal law also provides that a sentencing court may make a recommendation that a prisoner serve a term of imprisonment in a residential reentry center. 18 U.S.C. § ...


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