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United States v. Allen

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 22, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
KRISTIE KAEDAN ALLEN, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         During the sentencing of defendant Allen on January 15, 2019, the Government argued that the Court incorrectly recalculated the mandatory minimum sentence. The Court disagreed and explained from the bench why it disagreed with the Government's argument. This decision is intended to supplement that analysis from the bench.

         ANALYSIS

         In this case, all parties agreed that the statutory mandatory minimum was 180 months. Prior to the sentencing hearing, the Government filed a motion pursuant to Guideline § 5K1.1 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), seeking a 6-level reduction in the offense level based on the defendant's substantial assistance.

         The Court granted the Government's motion under 5K1.1 and § 3553(e), agreeing that the defendant's substantial assistance warranted a 6-level reduction. To recalculate the mandatory minimum, the Court looked for the lowest offense level with a criminal history category of IV that corresponded to a 180-month sentence - here that is 31. Departing 6 levels from 31 yields a 25, and this reduces the range to 84 to 105 months. Thus, under the Court's calculation, the new mandatory minimum is 84 months. See generally U.S. v. Hays, 5 F.3d 292 (7th Cir. 1993) (holding that in a case with a mandatory minimum of 60 months, the two-level departure under a § 3553(e) motion would start “with the lowest offense level consistent with a 60-month sentence and depart[] downward two levels from that point”).

         The original mandatory minimum of 180 months was well-below the Guideline range. The defendant's original Guideline range was 292 to 365 months, based on an offense level of 37 and a criminal history category of IV.

         The Government argues that in cases where the original Guideline range exceeds the statutory mandatory minimum sentence - as here - the Court must start its recalculation of the mandatory minimum with the original Guideline range. Under the Government's calculation, the adjusted offense level of 37 would be reduced by 6 levels to a 31. With a criminal history category of IV, the new range would be 151 to 188 months, meaning the new mandatory minimum would be 151 months.

         The Government argues that whenever the Guideline range exceeds the mandatory minimum, the Court must begin its recalculation by starting with the original Guideline range, and not apply any reduction separately to the existing mandatory minimum.

         The Government cites in support the case of U.S. v. Auld, 321 F.3d 861 (9thCir. 2003). Using that case to direct a court in recalculating the mandatory minimum when the Guideline range is above the mandatory minimum is problematic, however, because Auld was not faced with that circumstance - in Auld, the mandatory minimum exceeded the Guideline range.

         Moreover, there is language in Auld supporting the Court's calculation. In Auld, the defendant argued that his Guideline range should be the starting point for the reduction under 5K1 and § 3553(e). The Circuit rejected that argument, holding that the departure must start instead from the existing mandatory minimum. Then, in determining how far below that mandatory minimum it may sentence, it instructed the District Court to consider the 5K1.1 factors:

Auld's position is foreclosed by the reasoning, if not the direct holding, of Melendez v. U.S., 518 U.S. 120 (1996). The Supreme Court explained in Melendez that the last sentence of § 3553(e) merely “charge[s] the Commission with constraining the district court's discretion in choosing a specific sentence after the Government moves for a departure below the statutory minimum.” Id. at 129. The Commission satisfied this statutory charge by promulgating U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1(a), which provides factors that “guide the district court when it selects a sentence below the statutory minimum, as well as when it selects a sentence below the Guidelines range.” Id. Contrary to Auld's contention, § 3553(e) does not mandate any particular departure point or require that the ultimate sentence imposed fall within the otherwise applicable guideline range. See, e.g., U.S. v. Pillow, 191 F.3d 403, 407 (4th Cir.1999) (“That the resulting ‘sentence' [after a § 3553(e) departure] must be imposed in accordance with the Sentencing Guidelines and policy statements . . . simply means that the district court's discretion in choosing a sentence after the Government moves to depart below the statutorily required minimum sentence is constrained by the Sentencing Guidelines and policy statements. Specifically, the district court should use the factors listed in § 5K1.1(a)(1)-(5) as its guide when it selects a sentence below the statutorily required minimum sentence.

Id. at 864 (emphasis added). The Court has followed this language from Auld in recalculating the mandatory minimum by considering the factors listed in 5K1.1:

(1) the court's evaluation of the significance and usefulness of the defendant's assistance, taking into consideration the government's evaluation of the assistance rendered;
(2) the truthfulness, completeness, and reliability of any information or testimony ...

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