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U.S. v. MUNOZ

April 23, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST LUZ MARINA MUNOZ A/K/A "TUSA," DEFENDANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shirley Wohl Kram, United States District Judge

AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Luz Marina Munoz moves for safety valve relief pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3553(f), arguing that she has truthfully provided to the Government all the information she has regarding her offense. For the reasons set forth below, Munoz's motion for safety valve relief is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 19, 2001, Munoz pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of cocaine, in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Sections 812, 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(B), and 846. Munoz argues that she should be eligible for relief from the mandatory five year minimum sentence because she has provided to the Government all of the information she has regarding her crime. During her proffer sessions with the Government and her testimony before the Court, Munoz, a regular customer of a Queens, New York coffee shop, claimed that she was approached by an acquaintance she met at that restaurant, known to her only as "Carlos", who asked her to find a buyer for a kilogram of cocaine. See Tr. at 4. In opposition to her request for relief, the Government contends that Munoz's story regarding her mere acquaintance with the drug supplier Carlos and her relative ease in finding a buyer for such a large quantity of narcotics suggest that she is aware of much more information regarding her crime than she has disclosed, and she has therefore failed to qualify for safety valve relief. See Letter to Hon. Shirley Wohl Kram from AUSA Miriam H. Baer, dated April 4, 2002 at 6 (hereinafter "Gov't Opp'n").

II. DISCUSSION

A. APPLICABLE LAW

Title 21, United States Code, Section 841(b)(1)(B) mandates a five year minimum sentence for defendants convicted of distributing 500 grams or more of cocaine. However, under Title 18, United States Code, Section 3553(f), and Section 5C1.2(a)(5) of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, the court may sentence a defendant without regard for the statutory minimum sentence if the court finds at sentencing that:

(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point . . .;
(2) the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense;
(3) the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;
(4) the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager or supervisor of others in the offense . . . and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise . . .; and
(5) not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the defendant has truthfully provided to the Government all information 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 . . ."
The defendant has the burden of proving that she meets all of the criteria of the safety valve provisions. See United States v. Conde, 178 F.3d 616, 620 (2d Cir. 1999).

A defendant may qualify for safety valve relief "so long as he or she `volunteer[s] to the government complete and truthful information no later than the time of sentencing' — even if he or she had repeatedly lied to the Government before telling the truth." United States v. Reynosa, 239 F.3d 143, 149 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Schreiber, 191 F.3d 103, 106 (2d Cir. 1999)). The Government, however, need not present "independent" evidence to rebut the defendant's safety valve proffer if that proffer, in light of the defendant's credibility and the facts of that case, appears untruthful or incomplete. See United States v. Marquez, 280 F.3d 19, 24 (1st Cir. 2002).

Further, the fact that the defendant lacks "relevant or useful" information, or information "the Government is already aware of," does not disqualify a defendant from safety valve relief. 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)(5). "If a safety valve proffer provides the government with new, useful information, this is a windfall to the government." United States v. Schreiber, 191 F.3d at 108.

To the extent a defendant qualifies for safety valve relief, she is entitled to a two-level reduction in offense level pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2D1.1(b)(6).

B. APPLICATION

There is no dispute in this case that Munoz satisfies the first four criteria for safety valve relief. She does not have more than one criminal history point; she did not use violence in the commission of the offense; no death or serious bodily injury to any person resulted from her offense; and she was not a manager, leader, organizer, or supervisor of others.

However, the fifth criterion of 18 U.S.C. ยง 3553(f) is in dispute. In order to make a factual determination as to whether Munoz disclosed all of the information she has regarding her offense, the Court held a hearing on June 26, 2002 at which Munoz and Detective Patrick McAllister of the New York City Police Department each testified as to the ...


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