United States v. Owens, No. 20-2139 (6th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Owens was convicted of five counts of possessing or aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm during a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. 924(c)), one carjacking, four counts of bank robbery by force or violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. A single section 924(c) conviction carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. Each subsequent 924(c) conviction then (2004) triggered an additional 25 years, even if those convictions were part of a single indictment. If Owens had agreed to cooperate, the government would have allowed him to plead guilty to a single count. After Owens rejected the government’s offers, he was convicted and sentenced to 1260 months.
Owens’s co-conspirators pleaded guilty and were sentenced, respectively, to 21 months, 33 months, 39 years, and 25 years of incarceration. In 2019, Owens sought resentencing, noting that he would not be subject to the same lengthy sentence if sentenced today because the First Step Act amended 18 U.S.C. 924(c), so that his sentence would be 25 years. Appointed counsel argued that Owens was punished for going to trial and emphasized his “remarkable” record of rehabilitation. Owens then moved for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1).
The district court denied Owens’s motion, concluding that the disparity between Owens's sentence and the sentence that he would receive today was not an “extraordinary and compelling reason” for compassionate release. The court did not consider any other factors. The Sixth Circuit reversed, directing the court to consider whether Owens’s rehabilitative efforts and the lengthy sentence he received because of exercising his right to a trial may, in combination with the First Step Act’s changes, constitute an extraordinary and compelling reason for compassionate release.