United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
LYNN WINMILL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
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.
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
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”).
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.
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
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.
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.
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
(2) the truthfulness, completeness, and reliability of any
information or testimony ...