Case News, Office News, & Staff News
The passage of the First Step Act in December 2018 expanded compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1), allowing our clients to file compassionate release motions to reduce sentences based on “extraordinary and compelling reasons” directly with their sentencing courts. This past month, with continued advocacy by the whole office, the district court has joined the majority of courts across the nation that recognize the COVID-19 pandemic should inform the requisite analysis – either in terms of whether extraordinary and compelling reasons exist because of the heightened risk to the most vulnerable federal prisoners to COVID-19 (the elderly and chronically ill) or, if the person qualifies, whether relief is warranted based on the § 3553(a) factors. This past month, four clients from our office and CJA were granted relief with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind. One of those cases is summarized below:
Judge Jones granted compassionate release to Mr. L!
A 43-year-old client who had served 109 months of a 188-month sentence for drug possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm. It has been a roller coaster ride for Mr. L. who came to the office after serving a lengthy state court sentence and who, before being granted compassionate release, had been rebuffed in his efforts to have his sentence reduced through changes to the crack cocaine sentencing guidelines and through an effort to gain resentencing based on a change in the Armed Career Criminal law. Mr. L and his team at the FPD, which included Seattle AFDs Andy Kennedy & Dennis Carroll, and Seattle Paralegals Janet Stanton, and Charlotte Ponikvar with the assistance and guidance of countless others in the office, persevered despite countless setbacks and unlucky breaks and finally achieved success through a petition for compassionate release. Judge Jones recognized that Mr. L’s sickle cell trait put him at unique risk from COVID-19 and that Mr. L had genuinely turned his life around through his exemplary behavior in prison. Mr. L’s story is one of true rehabilitation. Congrats to Mr. L for this new opportunity!
Seattle AFD Chris Sanders secured a time-served sentence for his young client!
Mr. H, a young twenty something year old with no criminal history, found himself in a world of trouble when someone sent him files of child pornography. He made the mistake of sending them along to others not realizing that he would be charged with a federal crime. The FPD team, along with Seattle AFD Chris Sanders were, Seattle Chief Paralegal Patricia Stordeur, Social Worker Dan Potter-Engelskirger, Seattle Investigator Deb Malcolm, and Seattle Paralegal Charlotte Ponikvar, with assists from Seattle AFD Sara Brin and Federal Defender Mike Filipovic – all pitched in to see to it that the Court saw that Mr. H was just a kid who made a mistake. The ordeal is over for Mr. H and he is on his way home with a time served sentence. Congrats to our client and his defense team on this wonderful time -served sentence!
Tacoma First Assistant Miriam Schwartz and Tacoma Paralegal Carolynn Cohn, stood their ground, and didn’t back down, in the fight for early (more accurately, timely), release for their client!
Tireless tenacity by Tacoma paralegal Carolynn Cohn defeated bureaucratic Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) intransigence to win release for AFD Miriam Schwartz’s client Mr. D. Back in April, as COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in the state prison at Monroe, Mr. D lost his chance under Governor Inslee’s order for early release of non-violent inmates because of the BOP’s (arguably erroneous) denial of credit for time served on his (concurrent) federal sentence.
Carolynn sprang into action, persistently dogging the BOP designation office in Grand Prairie, TX. initially arguing that he was entitled to credit for his FDC (pre-sentence) time (“denied”) and then asking BOP to at least designate him to end-of-sentence Residential Reentry Center (RRC) or home confinement, rather than sending Mr. D from Monroe, WA to SeaTac, WA via the “transfer station” in Nevada!
Alas to no avail. Even after 2 post-sentencing orders by Judge Settle (unopposed by the Government), 1st granting Mr. D. the deserved time credit and 2nd recommending RRC or home confinement, in early July Mr. D. was transferred from Monroe to SeaTac via Pahrump, Nevada, and given a release date in mid-October.
After a futile letter from counsel to the FDC warden and legal staff, (and with Grand Prairie still amazingly and erroneously insisting to Carolynn that Mr. D. was not in BOP custody and therefore could not be designated!), a helpful counselor at FDC advised Mr. D that it was the Probation Office, not BOP, that could transfer him to home confinement. . . . . . (however… that’s not actually how it works!).
Fortunately, Judge Settle cut through all this bureaucracy. On August 11th, based largely on Carolynn’s documented communications with Grand Prairie, the Court granted our Motion to Amend Judgment and Imposing Sentence of Time Served, saving Mr. D. over 2 additional and undeserved months in what is now a virus-infected prison.
The Happy Ending: Mr. D. was released that same day to the welcome arms of his parents who are giving him a home with them in Olympia. He called Carolynn the next day to heap praise and thanks on her and on our team!
Yet again, PERSISTENCE/ DEDICATION PAYS!
The Federal Public Defender’s Office has created a Public Relations Committee and they have an email address for all press and media inquiries, firstname.lastname@example.org. This committee and email address was established in an effort to cultivate relationships with the media.
Meet our Seattle Based Fall Legal Extern and Undergrad Intern!
Two Seattle AFDs, who often co-counsel cases together, decided to take to a different court to battle it out for who has the best baseline jumper!
On a sunny Sunday morning in August, Seattle AFDs DC and MH gathered for the socially distanced sports of pickleball and NBA level H-O-R-S-E. While waiting for their turn on the pickleball courts, they the took to the basketball court to compete in an epic battle of dunk attempts and half court shots. MH beat DC in the first round of HORSE, then DC came back and won the second round. MH then stated ‘we have to do best of three’ and the battle for HORSE champ was on. DC came out victorious, winning the third game. MH congratulated DC on his best of 3 victory, but didn’t want to settle with an L and challenged DC to one more game. MH, who really dug deep and took his chances with a lot of 3’s, beat DC in the 4th game, but MH wasn’t done there. The last challenge was for sudden death- simply one shot. MH, still smarting from his best of three lost, came out strong, making his first shot. Pressure was on DC to tie it up, but was centimeters off and missed. MH earned back the bragging rights to HORSE champion and celebrated with water and air hi-fives!