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United States of America v. Juan Lugo
Case Number: 20-2845
Judge: PER CURIAM
Before: JORDAN, MATEY and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges
Court: UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
On appeal from The United States District Court
for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office
New York, NY - Criminal defense lawyer represented defendant with appealing from the order of the District Court denying his motion for compassionate release. He was charged with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
In 2011, Lugo pleaded guilty to distribution and possession with intent to distribute
cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). The District Court sentenced him to 120
months in prison, to be served consecutively to the 51-month sentence imposed for
violating the conditions of supervised release in a prior criminal case. Lugo did not file a
After exhausting his administrative remedies within the Bureau of Prisons, in July
2020, Lugo filed his motion seeking compassionate release based on “extraordinary and
compelling reasons” under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i). Lugo stated that he has
numerous health conditions that increase his risk of serious complications or death if he
contracts COVID-19. Specifically, he alleged that he has “moderate-severe” asthma,
hyperlipidemia, prehypertension, obesity, and prediabetes. He also listed his medication
regimen and provided some details of his medical history. After considering the parties’
briefs, the District Court agreed that Lugo’s moderate asthma diagnosis demonstrates an
elevated risk from COVID-19 and establishes extraordinary and compelling reasons for
compassionate release. However, the District Court denied Lugo’s motion, concluding
that Lugo’s release was not warranted, stating that “those extraordinary and compelling
reasons are outweighed by the relevant 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) sentencing factors and the
danger that Lugo poses ‘to the safety of any other person or to the community.’” (Dist.
Ct. Sep. 2, 2020 Order at 4 (citing 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(1)(A); U.S. Sentencing
Guidelines Manual § 1B1.13(2)).) Lugo filed a timely notice of appeal.
We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. We review the District Court’s
ruling on a § 3582(c)(1)(A)(i) motion for compassionate release for abuse of discretion.
See United States v. Pawlowski, 967 F.3d 327, 330 (3d Cir. 2020).
Because the District Court found that Lugo’s asthma is sufficient to establish
extraordinary and compelling reasons for compassionate release,
1 Lugo’s arguments on
appeal concern the District Court’s weighing of other factors to deny his motion. For
example, Lugo protests that the District Court relied on criminal history, including
marijuana charges from when he was a teenager and contempt of court convictions
relating to child support that since has been paid. He also notes that marijuana is now
legal in many states. In sum, Lugo argues that the District Court should not have
concluded that he is a danger to the community on his record, and that compassionate
release is warranted.
We discern no abuse of discretion here. Consideration of relevant § 3553(a)
factors is an explicit part of the analysis of a motion under § 3582(c)(1)(A); those factors
include “history and characteristics of the defendant,” “the need for the sentence imposed
. . . to promote respect for the law,” and “deterrence to criminal conduct.” See
Pawlowski, 967 F.3d at 330 (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) and (2)(A)-(B)). Moreover,
as the District Court noted, consideration of whether Lugo is a danger to the community
is relevant to evaluating whether granting compassionate release under § 3582(c)(1)(A) is
1 The Government does not concede this point. See Appellee’s Br. at 10-11. We need
not address the issue in light of our disposition of this appeal.
consistent with Sentencing Commission policy. See 18 U.S.C. § 3142(g); U.S.S.G.
§ 1B1.13; see also Pawlowski, 967 F.3d at 329 n.6 (noting that, under § 3582(c)(1)(A),
a sentence reduction must be “consistent with applicable policy statements issued
by the Sentencing Commission”). In Lugo’s case, the District Court considered the
serious nature of Lugo’s current cocaine distribution conviction, along with his
significant criminal history, which also includes reckless endangerment and possession of
firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking. In addition, the government pointed out that,
while in custody, Lugo has been disciplined for fighting and for possessing and using
narcotics amongst other infractions. Addressing deterrence of further criminal activity
and promoting respect for the law, the District Court also noted the importance of the fact
that Lugo committed his current offense while on supervised release. Upon consideration
of the record and Lugo’s arguments, we find no “clear error of judgment” in the District
Court’s decision made after weighing permissible factors. See Pawlowski, 967 F.3d at