In United States v. Williams, No. 21-12877 (Mar. 23, 2023) (William Pryor, Hull, Marcus), the Court affirmed the denial of the defendant’s motion for a reduced sentence under Section 404 of the First Step Act.
The defendant was eligible for a reduced sentence, and his life sentence exceeded the 30-year statutory maximum that applied after retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act. However, the Court held that the district court had the discretion to leave that life sentence in place because the text of the Fair Sentencing Act did not require the court to reduce any sentence, and the Supreme Court confirmed that understanding in Concepcion. The Court rejected the defendant’s argument that leaving a sentence above the new statutory maximum was a per se abuse of discretion. The Court explained that defendants cannot use Section 404 to re-litigate the legality of their sentences. Finally, the district court adequately explained its decision to deny the motion by addressing the defendant’s arguments and weighing the 3553(a) factors.