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United States of America v. Lorenzo Austin

April 18, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
LORENZO AUSTIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California Lawrence K. Karlton, Senior District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 2:05-cr-00269-LKK-EFB-1

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bea, Circuit Judge:

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted

March 12, 2012-San Francisco, California

Before: J. Clifford Wallace, Dorothy W. Nelson, and

Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Bea

OPINION

Lorenzo Austin was sentenced to a seventeen-year prison term pursuant to a plea agreement. Two years later, Austin filed a motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), which the district court granted. While this case was pending, the United States Supreme Court decided Freeman v. United States, 131 S. Ct. 2685 (2011). We conclude that Justice Sotomayor's concurrence in Freeman controls this case because Austin's plea agreement was a Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) plea agreement ("(C) agreement"). Applying her opinion, we hold that the district court lacked jurisdiction to reduce Austin's sentence because the imposed seventeen-year sentence was "based on" the parties' plea agreement and not on "a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission." § 3582(c)(2); see Freeman, 131 S. Ct. at 2697-98 (Sotomayor, J., concurring).

I.

In 2005, Austin was charged by indictment with possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A)(i); and being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The government also filed an information charging Austin of having been previously convicted of a felony drug offense. Austin entered into a written plea agreement signed by Austin and the attorneys representing both sides. In the agreement, Austin agreed to plead guilty to violating § 841(a)(1) (drug possession with intent to distribute) and § 924(c)(1)(A)(i) (firearm possession in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime). In exchange, the government agreed to dismiss the § 922(g)(1) (felon in possession of firearm) charge and to move to strike the information. The plea agreement further stipulated that both parties agreed to recommend a seventeen-year sentence to the district judge. It also provided that it would be "null and void" if the court did not accept Austin's guilty pleas or failed to sentence Austin to the agreed-to seventeen-year prison term. On January 23, 2007, the district court entered judgment pursuant to the plea agreement and sentenced Austin to the agreed-to seventeen-year prison term.

On January 27, 2009, Austin filed a motion with the district court to reduce his sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. ยง 3582(c)(2); the government opposed the motion. The district court granted the motion holding that Austin's sentence was "based on" a sentencing range that had been subsequently lowered by the Sentencing Commission. The district court reduced Austin's sentence from seventeen years to fifteen years. ...


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