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United States v. Spears

United States District Court, D. Oregon

October 15, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
ADOLPH SPEARS, SR., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael H. Simon United States District Judge

         Defendant Adolph Spears, Sr. (“Spears”) brings a motion to reduce his sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A). Spears' motion is based on the First Step Act of 2018 (“First Step Act”), which was signed into law on December 21, 2018. Pub. L. No. 115-391, 132 Stat. 5194 (2018). The First Step Act amended the procedure for requesting sentence modifications based on extraordinary and compelling reasons, commonly referred to as “compassionate release.” The First Step Act allows prisoners to petition the Court for such relief, when before only the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) could move for compassionate release.

         Spears requests modification of his sentence to time served or to probation with or without a condition of home confinement. Spears asserts that he qualifies for compassionate release because he is 76 years old, suffers from a terminal or otherwise serious medical condition, suffers from deteriorating physical health because of the aging process that substantially diminishes his ability to provide self-care within the environment of a correctional facility, has served well more than the required 10 years of his sentence, and has family members willing to house and support him.

         The government responds that Spears filed his motion before the BOP was given the statutory 30-day period to respond to Spears' request for compassionate release and that the Court should stay consideration of the motion until the 30-day period has expired. The government also responds on the merits, arguing that the medical records are not clear with respect to Spears' alleged terminal or serious health problems and that although he may well suffer from deteriorating physical health problems and otherwise qualify for compassionate release, his past record shows that he is a danger to the community and thus the Court should deny the motion. For the reasons discussed below, Spears' motion is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On December 7, 2000, a jury found Spears guilty of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and money laundering. On May 7, 2001, then-U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty (now retired) sentenced Spears to life imprisonment on Count 1 and 240 months' imprisonment on Counts 2, 8, 9, 45, and 47, to be served concurrently, followed by a ten-year term of supervised release. ECF 1789. Spears spent 28 months in custody before sentencing, and thus has served 20 years and nine months of imprisonment.

         Spears is now 76 years and eight months old. Because of his medical problems, in May 2019 he was moved from FCI Sheridan to BOP's Butner Medical Facility in North Carolina. His current medical condition is explained by one of his medical experts, Dr. Jill Ginsberg, as follows:

In summary, Mr. Spears is a 76 year old man with multiple chronic serious medical conditions and limited life expectancy. Most recently, he was diagnosed with a high grade prostate cancer in June of 2018. His prostate cancer was determined to have a Gleason score of 5, meaning that most of the abnormal cancer cells were poorly differentiated. This indicates an aggressive form of cancer with a high risk for progression and metastasis. He also suffers from poorly controlled diabetes, cataracts, diabetic eye disease, chronic pain following spine surgery for disc disease in his neck and back, limited mobility with dependence on a wheelchair, removal of his right kidney in 2016 following a diagnosis of renal cell carcinoma, chronic kidney disease affecting his remaining kidney, and MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of uncertain significance), which carries a risk of progression to multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer).

ECF 2595-1 at 1. Spears' other medical expert, Dr. Daniel J. Roberts, provides a discussion of Spears medical conditions and concludes: “His metastatic prostate cancer, combined with his poor baseline functional status and other aforementioned medical problems, is consistent with a terminal illness with a grim prognosis.” ECF 2595-1 at 6. Spears also has problems swallowing, and underwent an “MBSS, ” an objective swallow study, in August 2019. His chart note from August 27, 2019, discussed his need for “pharyngeal exercises, ” his compensatory mechanism of tilting his head to the left and chewing 15 times in order to swallow, his therapy treatment of “thermal stimulation to improve swallow initiation with puree, ” and that he was “able to swallow pudding x6 without rocking bolus back and forth in his mouth before swallowing.” Spears also suffers from esophageal reflux.

         Spears' daughters Nicola Spears, Deedra Spears-Young, and Dana Spears-Talbert, his daughter-in-law Dana Hodge-Spears, and his granddaughters Amber Ford, Danatria Spears, and Danayshea Winters have all offered to house Spears if he is released and to provide him additional support as needed. Several other family members and friends have offered to assist in Spears' self-care, transportation, spiritual, and medical needs.

         Spears submitted a request to the BOP on September 13, 2019, the same day he filed his motion with the Court, requesting that the BOP seek compassionate release. On September 30, 2019, the BOP summarily denied Spears' request and noted that he could appeal the denial or wait until 30 days after the date of submission of Spears' request (i.e., October 13, 2019) to file a motion with the Court.

         STANDARDS

         Section 3582(c)(1)(A) provides that a court may reduce the sentence of an inmate upon the motion of the BOP or the inmate “after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) to the extent that they are applicable, ” if the court finds that:

(i) extraordinary and compelling reasons warrant such a reduction; or
(ii) the defendant is at least 70 years of age, has served at least 30 years in prison, pursuant to a sentence imposed under section 3559(c), for the offense or offenses for which the defendant is currently imprisoned, and a determination has been made by the Director of the BOP that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any other person or the community, as provided under section 3142(g); and that such ...

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