Court Opinion: 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion for Aug. 3

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals

Editor’s Note: Law Week Colorado edits court opinion summaries for style and, when necessary, length.

United States v. Crosby

Gregory Crosby appealed a district court’s order denying his motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Finding no abuse of discretion, a 10th Circuit panel out of Topeka, Kansas, affirmed.

In December 2009, a jury convicted Crosby of attempted bank robbery, violating 18 U.S.C. 2113(a), and conveying false information, violating 18 U.S.C. 1038. His convictions stem from a May 2009 incident in which he handed a bank teller a note demanding cash and falsely claimed to have planted bombs in his car and a federal courthouse. For these offenses, the district court sentenced Crosby to 262 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Crosby appealed his conviction for attempted bank robbery, and the 10th Circuit in 2011 affirmed, the opinion noted, citing its decision United States v. Crosby.

In December 2022, Crosby filed a compassionate-release motion under 3582(c)(1)(A) seeking to reduce his sentence by 36 months based on his age and completion of education programs while in prison. The government responded Crosby didn’t satisfy the statutory requirements for obtaining such relief because he didn’t exhaust his administrative remedies and, even if he had, he failed to show a sentence reduction was warranted. The district court agreed on both counts and denied Crosby’s motion.

Crosby appealed, arguing the district court erred in denying his compassionate-release motion under 3582(c)(1)(A). The 10th Circuit reviewed such a denial for abuse of discretion, reversing only if the district court based its decision on incorrect legal conclusions or clearly erroneous factual findings, the opinion noted citing the 10th Circuit decision United States v. Hemmelgarn. Section 3582(c)(1)(A) requires defendants to exhaust their administrative remedies before requesting a sentence reduction. Once they do so, the 10th Circuit opinion noted citing the 10th Circuit decision United States v. McGee, the district court may grant a reduction if three requirements are met: extraordinary and compelling circumstances support the reduction; the reduction is consistent with the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s applicable policy statements; and the 18 U.S.C. 3553(a) sentencing factors support a reduction. The district court can consider these three requirements in any order and can deny relief if any requirement is lacking, according to the 10th Circuit decision United States v. Hald. Because there are currently no applicable policy statements for defendant-filed compassionate-release motions like Crosby’s, only the first and third requirements are relevant here, the opinion added.

Crosby challenged both grounds on which the district court denied his motion. He first argued that although he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his motion, he exhausted them after the district court denied his motion. And, assuming he properly exhausted administrative remedies, he argued the district court should have granted his motion and reduced his sentence as requested. The 10th Circuit needed to only address the second argument because even if Crosby could overcome the exhaustion requirement by satisfying it after the district court’s decision, he didn’t show the district court erred in denying his motion on the merits, the court explained.

On the merits, the district court concluded Crosby failed to show either extraordinary and compelling circumstances or that the 3553(a) factors supported a sentence reduction. But on appeal, the opinion noted, Crosby only disputed the district court’s conclusion he failed to show extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting a sentence reduction, ignoring the district court’s separate conclusion the 3533(a) factors did not support a reduction. His failure to address both necessary requirements for relief under 3582(c)(1)(A) is enough, by itself, to affirm the district court’s decision, the opinion noted citing the 10th Circuit decisions Shook v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs and United States v. Thompson.

According to the opinion, even if the 10th Circuit overlooked his failure to address the 3553(a) factors, Crosby still failed to undermine the district court’s conclusion he didn’t establish extraordinary and compelling circumstances warranting a sentence reduction. Crosby pointed to his efforts at rehabilitation while in prison, but as the district court noted, “rehabilitation alone is not an extraordinary and compelling reason for relief.” And although Crosby’s motion cited his age as an additional circumstance supporting a reduction, Crosby didn’t discuss these circumstances on appeal or refute the district court’s conclusion it wasn’t so extraordinary and compelling as to warrant relief when considered together with his rehabilitation efforts.

For these reasons, even if Crosby properly exhausted his administrative remedies, he didn’t show the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for compassionate release, the court found. Therefore the 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Crosby’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted.

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