Federal prisoner wins habeas relief for miscalculated sentence

A prisoner challenging the calculation of his federal sentence was granted habeas corpus relief Wednesday after a district court judge found his sentences were miscalculated.

Rene Gonzalez, serving three federal sentences for drug-related convictions, argued that the Bureau of Prisons miscalculated one of his sentences.

Gonzalez’s first federal sentence came in July 2013 after he pleaded guilty in the U.S. District for the Northern District of Mississippi to conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to 112 months imprisonment, which was later reduced to 90 months.

Again in April 2014, Gonzalez was sentenced to 109 months’ imprisonment to be served concurrently to his Mississippi case after pleading guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to aiding and abetting and possession with intent to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin. His third federal sentence came in the same district court a few months later after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. In that case, Gonzalez was sentenced 84 months’ imprisonment to run concurrently to the sentence imposed in the Mississippi case and the first Texas case.

The issue, Gonzalez argued, was that district court in his second Texas case did not intend for his sentence to extend any further than the sentences he had already received. But the U.S. District for the Southern District of Indiana initially denied his petition for relief, finding the computation of Gonzalez’s sentences is governed by 18 U.S.C. § 3585.

“Under this statute and because the Court ordered his sentence to be served concurrently, Mr. Gonzalez can be given credit toward his 84-month sentence starting on the date it was imposed. But, the Court held, under § 3585, the 84-month sentence cannot commence before it was imposed. This is because § 3585(b) permits credit toward a sentence for time already spent in custody, but expressly prohibits credit when the time has already been credited to another sentence,” the Southern District Court wrote in a Wednesday order.

In supporting his motion to reconsider, Gonzalez contended that the sentencing court intended for the 84-month sentence to start sooner.

District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt ultimately granted Gonzalez’s motion to reconsider in Rene Gabriel Gonzalez v. T.J. Watson, 1:19-cv-01856, also granting his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

“Because Mr. Gonzalez has shown that the sentencing court in the second Southern District of Texas case intended for his 84-month sentence in that case to start running on July 6, 2012, his motion to reconsider is granted,” Pratt wrote for the Southern District Court.

“The BOP is directed to reduce his sentence in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Case No. 5:14-cr-00404-S-016 to a total term of 84 months, commencing as of July 6, 2012,” the federal judge concluded.

All other terms shall remain the same, the order states.

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