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Cameron v. United States

United States District Court, D. Maine

November 6, 2018

JAMES M. CAMERON, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER AFFIRMING THE RECOMMENDED DECISION OF THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE

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

         The Court rejects an inmate's claim that the retroactive application of Amendment 801, a newly adopted child pornography provision of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, to his case would have resulted in a lower guideline calculation and hence a lower sentence. The Court concludes instead that the inmate would have been subject to the same guideline sentence range under either the old or new guideline provisions. For the reasons in the Magistrate Judge's recommended decision and further detailed in this opinion, the Court rejects the inmate's objection and affirms the decision.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On July 18, 2017, Petitioner James Cameron filed a motion to vacate, set aside, or correct his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255. The United States Magistrate Judge filed with the Court on March 26, 2018 his Recommended Decision. Recommended Decision on 28 U.S.C. § 2255 Mot. (ECF No. 366) (Recommended Decision). Mr. Cameron filed his objection to the Recommended Decision on April 16, 2018. Obj. to Recommended Decision of Magistrate Judge and Req. for District Court De Novo Review (ECF No. 367) (Pet'r's Obj.). The Government filed its response to the objection on April 17, 2018 (ECF No. 368), relying on its previous motion for summary dismissal of the Petitioner's motion to vacate, set aside, or correct sentence and on the contents of the Recommended Decision.[1] Gov't's Resp. to Pet'r's Obj. to Recommended Decision of Magistrate Judge and Req. for District Court De Novo Review (ECF No. 364).

         In his motion, Mr. Cameron contends he is entitled to a reduction in his sentence because if Amendment 801 were applied to his guideline calculations, he would have been subject to a two-level, not a five-level enhancement for distribution of child pornography and Amendment 801 to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (U.S.S.G.) § 2G2.2(b)(3)(b) is a clarifying amendment to be applied retroactively under Isabel v. United States, 980 F.2d 60 (1st Cir. 1992).[2] Pet'r's Mot. to Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody at 5 (ECF No. 355) (Pet'r's Mot.). He urges the Court to revisit his sentence of 165 months, recalculate the proper guideline range, which he says should be 168 to 210 months, reduce the bottom of that range by 70 months and issue a new sentence of 98 months.[3] Id. at 7-8.

         Over Mr. Cameron's objection, the Court affirms the Magistrate Judge's recommended decision for the reasons set forth in that decision. However, as the Court concludes that Mr. Cameron's motion is based on a flawed premise, namely that he would not have been subject to the five-level increase under the amended version of § 2G2.2(b)(3), the Court explains in some detail why it has reached that conclusion, overruled his objection and affirmed the recommended decision.

         A. James Cameron's March 10, 2011 Sentencing

         When the Court sentenced Mr. Cameron on March 10, 2011 to 192 months of incarceration, the guideline calculation included a five-level increase under U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) because he traded images of child pornography. See Transcript of Proceedings, Sentencing Proceedings 11:14-12:4 (ECF No. 263) (2011 Sentencing Tr.).

         The applicable guideline provision read:

(3) (Apply the greatest) If the offense involved:
. . .
(B) Distribution for the receipt, or expectation of receipt, of a thing of value, but not for pecuniary gain, increase by five levels.
. . .
(F) Distribution other than distribution described in subdivisions (A) through
(E), increase by 2 levels.

U.S.S.G. § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B), (F); see United States v. Rogers, 666 F.Supp.2d 148, 150 (D. Me. 2009). Mr. Cameron objected to the five-level enhancement on the ground that the evidence did not reveal that he had “engaged in quid pro quo image exchanges.” Mr. Cameron's Mem. in Aid of Sentencing at 32 (ECF No. 223) (Def.'s Mem.). The Court disagreed and applied the five-level enhancement because the trial record “contains sufficient evidence to establish that he bartered images of child pornography for other images of child pornography.” United States v. Cameron, No. 1:09-cr-00024-JAW, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24878, at *20-22 (D. Me. Mar. 11, 2011). Adding all the applicable guideline enhancements, Mr. Cameron's total offense level was 39 and with a criminal history category I, he faced a guideline sentence range of 262 to 327 months of incarceration. Id. at *4. On March 11, 2011, the Court imposed a sentence of 192 months of incarceration, seventy months less than the bottom of the guideline sentence range, no fine, ten years of supervised release, no restitution, and a $100 special assessment. J. (ECF No. 241). When the First Circuit vacated six counts of conviction, it did not reach any of Mr. Cameron's sentencing challenges. United States v. Cameron, 699 F.3d 621, 653 (1st Cir. 2012).

         B. James Cameron's December 17, 2014 Sentencing Hearing

         On December 17, 2014, Mr. Cameron came before the Court for resentencing. Before his resentencing hearing, Mr. Cameron again objected to the five-level enhancement under § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) on the ground that he had not engaged in a quid pro quo image exchange. Defense Mem. Addressing Unresolved Guideline Calculation Issues at 8-10 (ECF No. 329). The Court again rejected Mr. Cameron's objection. See United States v. Cameron, No. 1:09-cr-00024-JAW; 1:13-cr-00001-JAW, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148418, at *30-35 (D. Me. Oct. 17, 2014) (“In sum, there are no meaningful differences between the exchanges in the upheld counts and the exchanges the Court considered in its 2011 Sentencing Order, and no intervening law mandates a different result. The Court hews to its previous conclusion that the five-level enhancement for distribution for a thing of value under U.S.S.S. § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) applies to Mr. Cameron”).

         The Court, however, changed the guideline calculations because the First Circuit had vacated Mr. Cameron's convictions on six counts and, after the Court subtracted the child pornography images associated with those counts, the Court reduced the number of images from between 300 and 600 images consistent with a four-level enhancement under § 2G2.2(b)(7)(C) to between 150 and 300 consistent with a three-level enhancement under § 2G2.2(b)(7)(B). Instead of a total offense level of 39, he would have faced a total offense level of 38.

         But because Mr. Cameron fled the District of Maine immediately after the First Circuit issued its 2012 ruling, he faced an obstruction of justice enhancement and his total offense level was recalculated to equal 40, and with a criminal history category I, he faced a guideline sentence range of 292 to 365 months. United States v. Cameron, No. 1:09-cr-00024-JAW, 1:13-cr-00001-JAW, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148418, at *67 (D. Me. Oct. 17, 2014); Transcript of Proceedings, Sentencing Proceedings 65:5-67:4 (ECF No. 348) (2014 Sentencing Tr.). At Mr. Cameron's resentencing hearing, the Court reconfirmed that it would not count the images involved in counts that had been vacated and that the Government decided not to prosecute. Id. 80:19-22 (“I've determined that I'm not going to hold Mr. Cameron responsible for the acquitted counts, the conduct underlying the acquitted counts”).

         The Court also addressed the impact of the obstruction of justice enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 3C1.1. In its October 17, 2014 sentencing order, the Court concluded that the guideline calculations properly included a two-level enhancement for obstruction of justice because Mr. Cameron fled while released on bail pending appeal. Cameron, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 148418, at *36-61. Here, the Government elected also to proceed against Mr. Cameron in a separate criminal case for contempt of court. See United States v. Cameron, 1:13-cr-00001-JAW. The guideline range for his contempt of court conviction was 18 to 24 months, and the Court imposed a 24 month consecutive sentence on that new conviction. See J. (ECF No. 34), United States v. Cameron, 1:13-cr-000001-JAW.

         Even though the Court could have imposed an obstruction of justice enhancement on the child pornography case and a consecutive sentence on the contempt of court case, it did not include the two-level obstruction of justice enhancement and arrived at a lower theoretical guideline range for purposes of the sentencing analysis under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a). See 2014 Sentencing Tr. 82:16-23. As part of its analysis under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a), using a guideline calculation without the two-level obstruction of justice enhancement, the Court calculated the guideline range to be 235 to 293 months. Id. Reducing the bottom of the guideline range by seventy months, (which is what the Court had done at the original sentencing hearing), the Court imposed a sentence on resentencing of 165 months on the child pornography counts. Id. This sentence, in the Court's view, gave Mr. Cameron the “benefit of his appellate victory.” Id. 83:25-84:2.

         C. James Cameron's Second Appeal

         Mr. Cameron appealed his sentence to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and claimed the 165 month sentence was procedurally and substantively unreasonable. United States v. Cameron, 835 F.3d 46, 47 (1st Cir. 2016). Mr. Cameron did not challenge the five-level enhancement under § 2G2.2(b)(3)(B) on appeal. Id. at 51 (“Here, the district court correctly treated the Sentencing Guidelines as its starting point in calculating Cameron's sentence. Cameron does not contest the district court's calculation. . . .”).

         D. Amendment 801 ...


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