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United States v. Doe

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 9, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
John Doe, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted March 15, 2016 [*] San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California D.C. No. 3:95-cr-00319- MMC-7 Maxine Chesney, District Judge, Presiding

          Walter K. Pyle, Berkeley, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

          J. Douglas Wilson, Assistant United States Attorney; Barbara J. Valliere, Chief, Appellate Division; Melinda Haag, United States Attorney; United States Attorney's Office, San Francisco, California; for Plaintiff-Appellee.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown, Kim McLane Wardlaw, and Richard C. Tallman, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Criminal Law

         The panel held that in granting a motion under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b) for a sentence reduction on the basis of substantial post-sentencing assistance to the government, the district court did not err by failing to rule on controverted factual issues in accord with Rule 32(i)(3).

         The panel held that Rule 35 does not incorporate Rule 32's requirement that the court make findings on disputed or controverted matters. Rule 32 pertains to sentencing, and a Rule 35(b) proceeding is not the equivalent of a de novo sentencing.

          OPINION

          KEOWN, Circuit Judge

         This appeal raises a novel legal issue: When considering a motion to reduce a sentence under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35(b), must a court rule on controverted issues in accord with Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(i)(3)?

         In 2000, John Doe pleaded guilty to soliciting the murders of two of his associates. In a sworn plea agreement, Doe acknowledged that he had induced two co-conspirators to commit the murders, and the court sentenced him to forty years in jail. After sentencing, Doe gave the government information that enabled it to obtain guilty pleas from his co-conspirators. During discussions with the government, Doe backed away from the factual basis for his guilty plea, alternately claiming that he had nothing to do with the murders or that he did not orchestrate the murders.

         Recognizing Doe's contribution, the government filed a motion under Rule 35(b), which allows a court to reduce a sentence if a defendant provides "substantial" post-sentencing assistance to the government. During the Rule 35(b) proceedings, both parties stipulated to numerous documents in the record. One of the government's documents noted that while Doe admitted to providing an alibi for a co-conspirator, he denied soliciting the murders.

         The district court granted the motion and reduced Doe's sentence by six years, basing the extent of the reduction in large part on the "value" of Doe's substantial assistance to the government. The court noted that the co-conspirators did not mastermind the murders and that, although Doe didn't personally carry out the murders, it was likely they would not have occurred without his involvement since he thought of the plan. The court also explained that ...


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