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Downs v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

January 8, 2018

Eugene Downs, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued: October 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville. Nos. 2:09-cr-00117-2; 2:13-cv-00007-J. Ronnie Greer, District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Erin P. Rust, FEDERAL DEFENDER SERVICES OF EASTERN TENNESSEE, INC., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          William A. Roach, Jr., UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Erin P. Rust, FEDERAL DEFENDER SERVICES OF EASTERN TENNESSEE, INC., Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nikki C. Pierce, FEDERAL DEFENDER SERVICES OF EASTERN TENNESSEE, INC., Greeneville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          William A. Roach, Jr., UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: SUHRHEINRICH, GRIFFIN, and KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          KETHLEDGE, Circuit Judge.

         Eugene Downs argues that the date on which he was "sentenced" for his drug crime was not the date of his sentencing hearing-at which the court orally pronounced his sentence-but the date on which the court entered the criminal judgment that reflected his sentence. We reject that argument and affirm.

         In 2010 Downs pled guilty to conspiring to distribute 50 grams or more of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846. On August 2, 2010, the district court held a sentencing hearing and orally pronounced a sentence of ten years' imprisonment, which was then the mandatory-minimum sentence for Downs's crime. The very next day, however, the President signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced from ten years to five the mandatory-minimum sentence for distribution of 50 grams of crack. That reduction presumptively did not apply to crimes (like Downs's) committed before the Act's effective date. See 1 U.S.C. § 109. Another thirteen days later-on August 16, 2010-the district court entered its judgment in Downs's case.

         Almost two years later, the Supreme Court found the § 109 presumption rebutted as to pre-Act offenders who were first sentenced after August 3, 2010 (i.e., the Act's effective date). See Dorsey v. United States, 567 U.S. 260, 281 (2012). Hence the Supreme Court held that the Act did apply to defendants sentenced after August 3, 2010.

         Downs thereafter moved to vacate his sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 2255. Although Downs's sentencing hearing took place on August 2, 2010-before the Act's effective date- Downs argued that he was not "sentenced" until the district court entered its judgment on August 16, 2010. The district court disagreed and denied Downs's motion, holding that he was sentenced on the date of his sentencing hearing. We ...


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