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United States v. Hald.

No. 20-3195. D.Kan. Judge Hartz. Motion for Compassionate Release—18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A)—18 USC § 3553(a) Factors.

August 2, 2021

Three defendants filed motions for compassionate release with the district court under 18 USC § 3582(c)(1)(A), arguing that their underlying health conditions and mounting infections at their correctional facilities constituted “extraordinary and compelling reasons” for early release. Relying on the factors set forth in 18 USC § 3553(a), the district court denied the motions, noting the serious nature of defendants’ offenses, their criminal histories, and the violent circumstances surrounding their offenses. As to defendant Wesley, the court concluded that his medical condition did not constitute an extraordinary and compelling reason under the statute.

On appeal, defendants Hald and Sands argued that the district court erred in not applying the § 3582(c)(1)(a) three-step test in its proper order. They maintained that the district court is not permitted to deny relief based on its assessment of the § 3553(a) factors without first making a determination on the existence of extraordinary and compelling reasons. Section 3582(c)(1)(a) requires that relief be granted only if all three prerequisites are satisfied, but it does not mandate a particular ordering of the three steps; district courts may deny compassionate release motions when any factor is lacking and need not address the other factors. Accordingly, the district court did not err.

Defendant Wesley argued that the district court abused its discretion in determining that he did not demonstrate extraordinary and compelling circumstances to support compassionate release. However, in denying Wesley’s motion, the court stated that even if he had demonstrated such reasons, the § 3553(a) factors would nonetheless preclude relief. Further, the court correctly considered the relevant factors and nothing more was required, so the district court did not abuse its discretion in considering the § 3553(a) factors.

Lastly, the Tenth Circuit rejected Wesley’s argument that the motion denial created an unwarranted sentencing disparity based on grants of compassionate release to other defendants. The court considered the seriousness of Wesley’s criminal activity and the fact that there was a substantial portion of the sentence remaining.

The motion denials were affirmed.

Official US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit proceedings can be found at the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit website.

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