by Casey J. Bastian
On December 15, 2022, the U.S, District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania reduced Rashidah Brice’s sentence by 30 months. Brice had filed a motion for compassionate release under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) and presented three circumstances that might constitute extraordinary and compelling reasons to grant the request. The Court found that her sexual assault by a guard and cooperating in his prosecution warranted a limited sentence reduction instead.
Brice was sentenced to 185 months in prison on August 20, 2013, after she pleaded guilty to three counts under 18 U.S.C. § 1591 for sex-trafficking three victims, one of whom was a minor. The Court recalled the “heinous” and “horrifying” details of her crime, in which she and her co-defendant, Christian Dior “Gucci Prada” Womack – who is also the father of her two minor children – extorted and coerced two women and a 17-year-old girl to have sex with strangers for money and also with them, filming the encounters and forcing them to take cocaine to stay awake, as well as threatening them with guns.
When Brice returned to the court with a motion for compassionate release, she asserted three grounds: a sexual assault by a federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) guard; her cooperation in his prosecution; and that both parents of her children were incarcerated – their father, Womack, for life. Brice requested a reduction to time served and moved for immediate release.
The court first considered Brice’s criminal history and characteristics, noting that sentencing guidelines ranged from 292-365 months but on government motion was previously reduced to 168-210 months.
The analysis then turned to Brice’s assault, cooperation, and conduct in prison. The Court first noted that under § 3582, a defendant must show “extraordinary and compelling reasons” to warrant a departure, and the analysis must also turn on the sentencing factors laid out in 18 U.S.C. §3553(a), “to the extent they are applicable.” The Court added that it has “broad discretion” to consider “all relevant information” and is “bound only when Congress or the Constitution expressly limits the type of information a district court may consider in modifying a sentence,” citing Concepcion v. United States, 142 S. Ct. 2389 (2022).
Brice argued that her assault made her experience in prison “more than what was intended to punish her for her crimes.” The government argued that, while tragic, it did not rise to an extraordinary or compelling reason to reduce Brice’s sentence.
The Court turned to United States v. Mateo, 299 F. Supp. 2d 201 (S.D.N.Y. 2004), in which the defendant was forced to undress in front of a male prison guard and give birth without medical attention; even then, the decision allowed that “derelictions on the part of prison officials [are] to be expected as an incidence of the usual hardships associated with prison,” but what Brice endured was “far beyond” ordinary “derelictions,” the Court said.
The Court also looked to United States v. Rodriguez, 213 F. Supp 2d 1298 (M.D. Ala. 2002), in which the defendant was raped by a guard while awaiting sentencing, and the sentencing court granted a downward departure. Though cooperation cannot be the sole basis for a sentence reduction in the Third Circuit, the Court allowed, Brice’s cooperation ended “not [just] an isolated incident but a pattern of misconduct”; therefore it constituted an “extraordinary and compelling reason” warranting a reduction.
Lastly, the Court noted, Brice’s conduct in prison was marred by “numerous disciplinary infractions.” However, most were minor, and only one involved a fight with another prisoner. Brice was also not the leader in her crimes, though “an active participant.”
“[J]ust as the sexual assault Brice suffered from in prison cannot be undone,” the Court said, “the harm inflicted on Brice’s victims cannot be undone.” So immediate release would not be appropriate. Instead the Court reduced Brice’s sentence from 185 to 155 months. See: United States v. Brice, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 225732 (E.D. Pa.).
The docket for Brice’s case does not name the BOP guard who raped her and other prisoners in her lockup. But there are many possibilities, given the number of convictions against BOP staff for multiple sexual assaults of prisoners. [See: PLN, Mar. 2023, p.1.]
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