FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE [Hon. George Z. Singal, U.S. District Judge]
Elizabeth A. Billowitz on brief for appellant.
Benjamin M. Block, Assistant United States Attorney, and
Halsey B. Frank, United States Attorney, on brief for
Howard, Chief Judge, Boudin and Barron, Circuit Judges.
BOUDIN, Circuit Judge.
Reid pled guilty to possession with intent to distribute
cocaine and heroin. 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1),
841(b)(1)(C). The district court found Reid to be a career
offender, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a), subject to a guidelines
sentencing range ("GSR") of 151 to 188 months, but
it sentenced him to a below-guidelines term of seventy-eight
months in prison. On appeal, Reid challenges his sentence.
27, 2016, in the course of a wiretap investigation into a
drug trafficking conspiracy in the Portland, Maine area, law
enforcement agents arrested Reid shortly after he traveled by
bus from New York to Portland with 253 grams of cocaine and
twenty-eight grams of heroin in his backpack. Reid was
charged, along with others, with conspiracy to distribute
cocaine and heroin, 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846,
but thereafter pled guilty to possession with intent to
distribute, id. §§ 841(a)(1),
presentence investigation report ("PSR") said that
there was "no evidence to suggest that [Reid] was
engaged in any further activities of the drug
conspiracy" beyond acting as a courier. The PSR
recommended a two-level minor participant role reduction,
U.S.S.G. § 3B1.2(b), but it advised against a four-level
minimal participant reduction, id. § 3B1.2(a),
because Reid "must have had some knowledge and
understanding of the scope of the criminal enterprise and the
activities of those involved to be trusted to transport that
significant amount of narcotics across multiple states."
also set forth Reid's lengthy criminal history, which
included a juvenile conviction at age thirteen for
third-degree robbery; adult convictions at age seventeen for
possession of crack cocaine and first-degree robbery; and
subsequent convictions for disobeying an officer and
resisting arrest, sale of a half-gram of cocaine,
second-degree possession of a forged instrument, and
conspiracy to defraud the United States by altering postal
money orders. Reid's convictions for first-degree robbery
and sale of cocaine qualified him as a career offender under
U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(a).
sentencing hearing on September 18, 2017, defense counsel
conceded that there was a "sufficient basis . . . to
substantiate" Reid's career offender designation,
but sought a reduced variant sentence. The district court
accordingly found that Reid was a career offender, with a
corresponding total offense level of twenty-nine--after a
three-level decrease for acceptance of responsibility,
U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1--and a criminal history category of VI.
Reid's career offender status mooted his request for a
minimal participant reduction because the career offender
guidelines do not allow for role reductions. "[I]n any
event," the court found, Reid did not qualify for the
minimal participant reduction.
advisory GSR as a career offender was 151 to 188 months. The
government recommended a below-guidelines sentence "in
the neighborhood of six years" based on Reid's youth
at the time of his predicate robbery conviction and the small
quantity involved in his predicate drug trafficking
conviction. The evidence, the government recognized, did not
suggest that Reid had further involvement in the conspiracy
beyond the one trip. Defense counsel, pointing to Reid's
peripheral role in the instant conspiracy, his disadvantaged
upbringing, and the circumstances of his predicate
convictions, requested a sentence within the GSR that would
have applied had Reid not qualified as a career offender
(twenty-seven to thirty-three months).
court sentenced Reid to seventy-eight months'
imprisonment--a sentence significantly below Reid's GSR
as a career offender. The judge stressed that Reid had been
"a prolific criminal" since a young age and that,
by the age of thirty-one, he had "an amazing record of
criminal activity." The judge also noted that over the
years Reid had "taken advantage of repeated
leniency" and had violated parole.
that Reid's was a "very difficult case," the
court looked for but found "not much" in terms of
redeeming factors or prospects for improvement: The court
stated that "every time [Reid] had a chance, he . . .
committed another crime." After considering a ten-year
sentence "to protect the public from someone who is a
career criminal," the court settled for a sentence even
further below the adopted GSR.
appeal, Reid's first claim of error is that the court
wrongly denied him a minimal participant reduction. U.S.S.G.
§ 3B1.2(a). However, Reid's offense level was
dictated by the career offender guidelines, which do not
countenance role reductions: U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1(b)
provides that where, as here, "the offense level for a
career offender . . . is greater than the offense level
otherwise applicable, the [career offender] offense level . .
. shall apply." Accordingly, a minimal participant
designation would not have helped ...