United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. Reeves United States District Judge.
Jameel Sleet has requested safety-valve relief under U.S.S.G.
§ 5C1.2 and 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f). However, the
safety valve requires the defendant to perform an affirmative
act to provide information to the government. This is true
even if the defendant ultimately has no information that the
government does not already possess. A simple "I already
told you everything I know," does not suffice.
Jameel Sleet pleaded guilty to possession with intent to
distribute 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance
containing fentanyl, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §
841(a)(1). Sleet admitted the following pursuant to his plea
On November 14, 2018, Lexington Police Department officers
stopped a vehicle and encountered Jameel Sleet, a passenger
in the vehicle. An officer conducted a pat down of Sleet and
discovered a quantity of fentanyl in Sleet's front
pocket. Officers subsequently located three additional
baggies of fentanyl, cocaine base, and cocaine in Sleet's
underwear. In total, Sleet had 40 grams of fentanyl, 16 grams
of cocaine base, and 39 grams of cocaine on his person at the
time of his arrest. Sleet knowingly possessed the narcotics
and intended to distribute each of the three narcotics to
another person. All the above events occurred in the Eastern
District of Kentucky.
statutory punishment for this offense is imprisonment for not
less than five years and not more than 40 years. 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(b)(1)(B). However, Sleet contends that the
statutory minimum does not apply because he is eligible for
safety-valve relief under U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2(a) and 18
U.S.C. § 3553(f). The government contends that he is not
eligible for such relief because he has not truthfully
provided to the government all information and evidence he
has concerning the offense.
the United States Code and the Sentencing Guidelines include
safety valve provisions which indicate that the statutory
minimum sentence does not apply to defendants who meet
certain criteria. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f), U.S.S.G. §
5C1.2(a). The provisions differ in one significant respect
(i.e., criminal history), but both require that the defendant
did not use violence or credible threats of violence; the
offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to
any person; and the defendant was not an organizer, leader,
manager, or supervisor of others involved in the offense. The
final factor required is that:
not later than the time of the sentencing healing, the
defendant has truthfully provided to the Government all
infoimation and evidence the defendant has concerning the
offense or offenses that were part of the same course of
conduct or of a common scheme or plan, but the fact that the
defendant has no relevant or useful other information to
provide or that the Government is already aware of the
information shall not preclude a determination by the court
that the defendant has complied with this requirement.
§ 3553(f)(5); U.S.S.G. § 5C1.2(a)(5).
parties agree that Sleet has satisfied the first four
requirements. However, they disagree regarding the fifth and
final requirement. Specifically, Sleet contends that his
"full admission at the time of his guilty plea" is
sufficient because he was not convicted of participating in a
conspiracy or ongoing criminal enterprise and he "has no
other relevant information to provide to the government
regarding his offense." The government maintains that
Sleet's guilty plea, standing alone, is not enough to
satisfy the fifth element of the safety valve.
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has
recognized some general principles in dealing with requests
for relief under the safety valve. First, the
defendant bears the burden of proving by a
preponderance of the evidence that he is entitled to the
safety-valve adjustment. United States v. Adu, 82
F.3d 119, 123-24 (6th Cir. 1996). Second, the safety valve
requires a higher degree of disclosure than that required for
acceptance of responsibility under U.S.S.G. § 3E1.1.
Id. Under § 3E1.1, the defendant is not
required to volunteer, or affirmatively admit, relevant
conduct beyond the offense of conviction to obtain a
two-level reduction. Id. at 124. The safety valve,
on the other hand, requires the defendant to "truthfully
provide all information he has concerning the offense of
conviction and all relevant conduct."
Id. (emphasis in original).
plain language of § 5CI.2(a)(5) and § 3553(f)(5) do
not indicate the method by which a defendant must provide
information to the United States. However, the Sixth Circuit
has held that the safety valve "clearly require[s] an
affirmative act by the defendant truthfully disclosing all
the information he possesses that concerns his offense or
related offenses." Id. In part, this is because
the safety valve is "intended to benefit only those
defendants who truly cooperate." United States v.
O'Dell, 247 F.3d 655, 675 (6th Cir. 2001).
the guidelines and statutory language do not explicitly
require a proffer session or a debriefing with the
government, it is unlikely that a defendant could ever rely
solely on his guilty plea to gain safety valve relief.
See United States v. Altamirano-Quintero, 511 F.3d
1087, 1095 (10th Cir. 2007) (disclosure requirement was not
satisfied by statements contained in plea agreement);
United States v. Morales,260 Fed.Appx. 585, 588
(4th Cir. 2008) ("A guilty plea alone is insufficient to
entitle a defendant to the adjustment."). Thus, because
an affirmative act is required, most courts have assumed that
a proffer session or debriefing is necessary. See, e.g.,
United States v. Wrenn, 66 F.3d 1, 2-3 (1st Cir. 1995)
(acceding to government's allegations during plea
colloquy is not enough to satisfy safety valve, which
"contemplates an affirmative act of cooperation with the
government no later than the time of the sentencing
healing"); Williams v. United States, Crim. No.
F13-CR-0025, 2017 WL 4277284, at *6 (N.D.Ga. Sept. 26, 2017)
(suggesting that defendant must seek out debriefing
or some way of disclosing the information to the government,
even if the information is unhelpful or if it is information
the government already knows); Trevino-Vasquez v. United
States, Crim. No. 7:09-CR-04-l, 2015 WL 13546109, at *3
(S.D. Tx. Jan. 9, 2015) ...