Bloomington man sentenced to life in prison granted compassionate release

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A Bloomington man sentenced to life in prison 30 years ago on drug and firearm charges has been granted compassionate release by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana through the First Step Act.

The court ruled the 72-year old’s poor health, time served and “perfect” disciplinary record while in federal custody constituted “extraordinary and compelling” reasons for his release.

In 1991, Michael Lloyd Cummings was sentenced to an aggregate life sentence after a jury found him guilty of two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute more than 1,000 grams of methamphetamine and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Cummings had moved to Bloomington after pleading guilty to felony possession of meth in California in 1990.

While moving, Cummings brought laboratory equipment, which he later used to manufacture the drug. He then distributed meth to several people, including his adopted 22-year-old daughter for personal use, and to his 19-year-old son for personal use and resale. Several additional individuals were also given meth for resale.

On March 25, 1991, law enforcement officers searched Cummings’ house, where they found meth and 12 firearms — many of which were loaded. During the conspiracy, it was determined Cummings distributed at least 3 pounds of meth to other individuals, and a chemist testified the defendant had sufficient supplies to manufacture at least 7 kilograms of the drug.

At the time of sentencing, Cummings’ charges required a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years of imprisonment for the drug counts, with a maximum of life in prison. Based on a total combined offense level of 42 and a criminal history category of III, the guidelines ranged from 30 years to life.

Cummings is currently housed at the federal prison in Terre Haute.

As of Feb. 22, the Bureau of Prisons gave Cummings a low security classification and considered him a minimum risk of recidivism. During his time in prison, he has maintained a perfect discipline record and, until a recent injury, had successfully maintained employment.

Cummings’ medical records show he suffers from several medical conditions, including hyperlipidemia, hypertension, epilepsy/seizure disorder and polyarthritis, according to the Indiana Southern District Court. In addition, in 2020, Cummings suffered a brain injury after he fell from a height while working and has not been able to hear since. He currently uses a whiteboard to communicate and a cane to walk.

While Cummings was receiving inpatient rehabilitation for his fall, he also tested positive for COVID-19.

Upon release, Cummings plans to live with his sister in Indiana and support himself with Social Security, Medicare benefits and possible additional benefits available to him as a veteran.

When considering release, the court looked at 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A), which asks if “extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction” and whether the reduction is otherwise “consistent with this policy statement.” The court also looked at whether the defendant presented a danger to the safety of any other person in the community and if applicable sentencing facts favored granting the motion.

Ultimately, Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker recognized that Cummings committed serious crimes but found his release, which will be supervised for 10 years, appropriate.

“Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c), the Court finds that extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant a reduction of Mr. Cummings’s sentence to time served, that Mr. Cummings does not pose a danger to any other person or the community under the conditions of release, that the (18 U.S.C.) § 3553(a) factors support a reduction, and that his release from imprisonment is consistent with the Sentencing Commission’s applicable policy statements,” Barker wrote in United States of America v. Michael Lloyd Cummings, 1:19-cr-00049.

The order, signed Monday, is stayed up to 21 days for the verification of Cummings’ residence and/or the establishment of a release plan, and to make appropriate travel arrangements and ensure his safe release.

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