United States v. Ramsey, No. 5:06-CR-226, 2007 WL 2475940 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 4, 2007)
In Ramsey, the court found that the government breached its cooperation agreement with Ramsey, and ordered it to comply with its obligations under that agreement. And if that is not a sufficiently extraordinary result, the nature of the breach surely is.
Ramsey pled guilty to certain narcotics offenses that carried a 120 month mandatory minimum sentence. He also entered into a cooperation agreement with the government providing (among other things) that: (1) the government retained the power, in its sole discretion, to "recommend a downward departure under either or both of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e) and U.S.S.G. § 5k1.1"; and (2) "the final decision as to how much, if any, reduction in sentence is warranted because of that assistance, rests solely with the sentencing Court."
Ramsey held up his end of the bargain -- he cooperated. Based on that cooperation, the government moved for a five-level downward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1. If the court accepted the five-level downward departure, Ramsey's advisory Guidelines range would be 121-151 months. And because the bottom end of that Guidelines range was just above the statutory 120 month mandatory minimum, the Government declined to move for a downward departure under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e), which would have freed the court to sentence Ramsey below the 120 month mandatory minimum.
The problem with the government's action is that it forced the court to be in a position of not being able to independently evaluate the value of Ramsey's cooperation. It only had one month with which to play (the difference between the 120 month mandatory minimum and the 121 months at the bottom of Ramsey's Guidelines range). The court was none too pleased. And it called the government out on it.
Specifically, the court found that the "government has, in essence, made the determination of what sentence is reasonable based upon the nature and extent of Ramsey's substantial assistance. By not making a motion under § 3553(e), the government has reserved for itself 'the final decision as to how much, if any, reduction in sentence is warranted' by defendant's substantial cooperation." That action ran afoul of the terms of the cooperation agreement into which Ramsey and the government entered, which provided "that the final determination of how much of a reduction is warranted will be made by the Court," not the government.
In a word, the government did not act in bad faith or breach the cooperation agreement by only moving for a downward departure pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 5K1.1 and not 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e). It had the discretion to do just that. But by doing so, the government did breach the provision of the cooperation agreement "that reserved for the Court the final judgment as to the value of Ramsey's substantial assistance." Remedy? Specific performance -- the "government is deemed to have filed a motion for a downward departure pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3553(e)."