The opinion of the court was delivered by: VAUGHN WALKER, District Judge
Pursuant to FRCrP 35(b)(2)(A), the government has moved the
court to reduce the sentence originally imposed upon defendant
Michael Medjuck, based upon defendant's substantial assistance to
authorities in the investigation and prosecution of individuals
involved in smuggling and distributing drugs at the Federal
Correctional Institution in Pekin, Illinois. Doc # 1601. The
defendant agrees that his sentence should be reduced, but seeks a
significantly larger reduction than the government has requested.
For the reasons stated below, the court GRANTS the government's
motion (Doc # 1601) and reduces defendant's sentence to time
Much of the factual background regarding defendant's crime is
thoroughly described in the Ninth Circuit's opinion in United
States v. Medjuck, 48 F.3d 1107 (9th Cir 1995), and the court need
not repeat those facts here. Briefly, defendant and several
others were apprehended by United States authorities while
bringing a boatload of hashish from Pakistan to Canada. Def Resp
(Doc # 1604) at 9:10-12. Defendant was arrested in September 1991
and has been incarcerated since that date. Id at 1:3 n1, 9:12.
Defendant was charged under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act
(MDLEA), 46 U.S.C. § 1903, for possession of hashish on the high
seas. Defendant was also charged with various other drug crimes
under Title 21. Id at 9:12-21; see also Doc # 243.
Following a lengthy challenge to the indictment on the grounds
that an insufficient nexus existed between the drugs and the
United States, defendant was tried and was then convicted only of
the MDLEA charges. Def Resp at 11:1-13; see also Doc # 1272. On
July 26, 1996, District Judge Eugene F Lynch employed level 40 of
the Sentencing Guidelines to sentence defendant to 292 months in
custody, as well as a ten-year supervised release period and a
$250,000 fine. Decl John J E Markham (Markham Decl; Doc # 1605)
at 2 ¶ 9, Exh 7; see also Doc # 1317.
The matter was eventually reassigned to the undersigned on July
15, 1997. Doc # 1436. On April 8, 2004, some thirteen years after
defendant was initially taken into custody, the government filed
a Rule 35(b) motion to reduce defendant's sentence for substantial assistance, requesting that defendant's prison
term be reduced from 292 months to 240 months. Doc # 1601.
According to the government's papers, from October 2000 through
October 2003, defendant assisted the government in investigating
and prosecuting drug smuggling and distribution involving prison
personnel in a federal detention facility in Illinois. See Gov't
Mot (Doc # 1601), Exh A. The government contends that 240 months
is the mandatory minimum sentence, taking into account
defendant's substantial assistance, and, moreover, that the court
has no discretion to order defendant's sentence reduced further
without a specific request from the government. On April 27,
2004, defendant filed a response to the government's motion,
contending that he is entitled to have his sentence reduced to
time served (now roughly 154 months) and to be released
immediately. Doc # 1604. The court took oral argument on the
motion at a May 27, 2004 hearing.
To resolve the government's motion, the court must examine
three issues: (1) whether the court has authority to reduce
defendant's sentence below the statutory minimum; (2) whether the
statute under which defendant was sentenced carries a statutory
minimum; and (3) what level of sentence reduction is warranted.
Although the government and the defendant agree that a sentence
reduction is warranted, given defendant's substantial assistance,
they disagree about the law that governs the court's authority to do this. The government's position is that the court
may not reduce a sentence below the statutory minimum unless the
government files a separate motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), while
defendant contends that the text of Rule 35(b) gives the court
all the authority necessary to make such a departure. For
purposes of deciding this issue, the court assumes arguendo
that the 20-year mandatory minimum suggested by the government is
applicable, although, as detailed in section II B below, the
court holds that there is no statutory minimum in this case.
The court begins with the text of the relevant rules and
statutes. As the government points out, 18 U.S.C. § 3553 contains
the guidelines the court must follow when imposing a sentence.
That statute allows the court to impose a sentence that is less
than the statutory minimum to reflect the defendant's substantial
assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another
individual. See § 3553(e). By the plain language of the statute,
however, the court's authority to impose such a sentence is
limited to situations in which the government expressly moves to
impose a sentence below the statutory minimum. See id (granting
the court this authority "[u]pon motion of the Government"); see
also Melendez v. United States, 518 U.S. 120, 125-26 (1996).
But by its own terms, § 3553(e) applies to situations in which
the court imposes a sentence. When the court instead modifies
a previously-imposed term of imprisonment, its authority to do so
is found in 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c). That section allows the court to
modify a defendant's term of imprisonment under certain
circumstances and expressly authorizes the court to modify a
prison term to the extent permitted under Rule 35. See §
3582(c)(1)(B). Rule 35, in turn, governs the court's exercise of discretion in
correcting or reducing a sentence.
Rule 35 expressly provides that, upon the government's motion
to reduce a sentence under subsection (b), the court "may reduce
the sentence to a level below the minimum sentence established by
statute." See FRCrP 35(b)(4). Unlike § 3553(e), neither § 3582
nor Rule 35 contains any language limiting the court's authority
in this regard to cases in which the government expressly has
moved to reduce a sentence below the statutory minimum. The plain
language of § 3582 and Rule 35, therefore, support defendant's
position that the court may, under Rule 35(b), reduce a prison
sentence below the statutory minimum.
The government nonetheless argues that, the court may not
reduce a defendant's sentence to below the statutory minimum
unless the government moves to do so, citing Melendez, a case
that involved the initial imposition of a sentence under §
3553(e), rather than the later reduction of a sentence. In
Melendez, the government moved under § 5K1.1 of the Sentencing
Guidelines to depart downward from the sentencing range set by
the Guidelines. Melendez, 518 US at 123. The defendant argued
that the government's motion pursuant to § ...