Recently, Matthew Galluzzo, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney and criminal appellate lawyer, was appointed by a federal court to represent an individual previously sentenced to 48 years in prison in connection with two armed robberies in the 1990s. The client, Leonard Johnson, had been so harshly penalized in part because of the now outdated laws relating to the “stacking” of federal firearm sentences pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section 924(c). Mr. Johnson filed a pro se motion for reconsideration under 18 U.S.C. Section 3582(c), and Mr. Galluzzo was appointed to supplement that appeal and improve upon it with his legal expertise.
Previously, judges were required to impose 25-year consecutive sentences on convictions for 924(c) firearm charges when the defendants had previous convictions for 924(c). However, the problem with this law is that a person who committed two violations of 924(c) would be sentenced to a 25-year mandatory minimum consecutive sentence, even if they committed that second 924(c) violation before being convicted of the first 924(c). That is precisely what happened to Mr. Johnson: he was arrested in North Carolina for a bank robbery with a firearm, and then charged shortly thereafter with another robbery with a firearm in New York. Even though he had not yet been convicted of a 924(c) charge when he committed the robbery in New York, he got the mandatory minimum consecutive 25-year sentence because the other 924(c) crime happened in North Carolina (and he was convicted in that case) before being sentenced in New York.
Congress clarified this issue recently such that in order for the mandatory consecutive 25-year sentence to apply, the first conviction for 924(c) had to have been final before the commission of the second 924(c) crime. Judges then generally have discretion to modify sentences imposed under the old scheme. United States v. Ballard, 2021 WL 3285009, at *4-*5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 2, 2021); 18 U.S.C. Section 3582. Mr. Galluzzo and Mr. Johnson argued that Mr. Johnson had undergone significant rehabilitation, that he suffered from a variety of health ailments, and that the requested sentence modification still constituted sufficient punishment for his offenses, in which no one was injured.