Thursday, October 26, 2006

Court Upholds Government's Failure to Move for Third-Point Reduction Under 3E1.1

US v. Chase: Chase pleaded guilty to distributing drugs within 1000 feet of a school, based on several controlled buys. When he was arrested on state charges, the name he gave to the officers was actually his brother's, which led to his brother's brief term of custody upon being arrested when the federal indictment came down in the brother's name. Chase entered into a plea agreement in which the Government agreed to move for the third point under USSG 3E1.1 if Chase (1) paid his $100 special assessment within 40 days of entering his plea, and (2) fully cooperated with the Government.

At sentencing, the Government refused to move for the third point because the special assessment was not paid and Chase was not completely forthcoming about his offense (for instance, he could only name his source as "a white guy named Steve"). Chase recognized that the district court could not sua sponte award the third point, but asked for a sentence which "nonetheless reflects the additional one level." The district court sentenced Chase to 210 months in prison, the bottom of the Guideline range.

On appeal, Chase argued that the Government breached the plea agreement by refusing to move for the third point. The Fourth rejected that argument, noting that Chase failed to pay the assessment (protestations of inability to pay notwithstanding) and that successful cooperation was determined by the Government, which concluded that Chase was not fully forthcoming about his dealings. The court also rejected Chase's contention that the district court could award the third point without a motion from the Government.

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