In United States v. Gonzalez, No. 19-14381 (June 21, 2023) (Jordan, Newsom, Tjoflat), the Court revised its earlier panel opinion from August 2021 in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Concepcion. It again affirmed the denial of Mr. Gonzalez’s motion under § 404(b) of the First Step Act.
The Court reaffirmed its conclusion that Mr. Gonzalez’s revocation of supervised release sentence was eligible for a reduction under the First Step Act because the underlying offense was a covered offense under § 404(b).
The Court noted, however, that eligibility “is not the end of the matter,” because though § 404(b) authorizes district courts to reduce sentences of defendants with covered offenses, it does not require them to do so. In his post-Concepcion briefing, Mr. Gonzalez urged the Court to hold that district courts must always calculate and consider a defendant’s new range under the Sentencing Guidelines before exercising its discretion under § 404(b), as the Seventh Circuit held in United States v. Corner, 967 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2020), but the Court declined. The Court disagreed with Mr. Gonzalez’s argument that because the district court never made any determination as to his applicable penalty, it failed to demonstrate that it “reasoned through [his] arguments,” as required by Concepcion. That is, here, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mr. Gonzalez’s motion because it provided a brief statement of reasons that was clear and supported by the record. As a result, the district court’s explanation of its refusal to reduce Mr. Gonzalez’s sentence did not violate Concepcion.