Public Meeting - October 11, 1995

Minutes of the October 11, 1995

United States Sentencing Commission Business Meeting

The meeting was called to order at 10:15 a.m. by Chairman Richard P. Conaboy in the training rooms of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building. The following commissioners and staff participated:

  • Richard P. Conaboy, Chairman

  • Michael S. Gelacak, Vice Chairman

  • A. David Mazzone, Vice Chairman

  • Wayne A. Budd, Commissioner

  • Julie E. Carnes, Commissioner

  • Michael Goldsmith, Commissioner

  • Deanell R. Tacha, Commissioner

  • Mary Frances Harkenrider, Ex Officio Commissioner

  • Edward F. Reilly, Jr., Ex Officio Commissioner

  • Phyllis J. Newton, Staff Director

  • Paul K. Martin, Deputy Staff Director

  • John R. Steer, General Counsel

  • Susan Katzenelson, Director, Office of Policy Analysis

  • Pamela Montgomery, Deputy General Counsel

  • Win Swenson, Deputy General Counsel


Chairman Conaboy commenced the meeting by noting the Sentencing Commission's ten-year anniversary this month and recognizing the hard work and accomplishments of current and former commissioners, staff, and others who contributed to the mission of the Commission. He also noted that October is the first anniversary of the newly constituted Commission.

Chairman Conaboy introduced probation officers Jamison F. Reed (W.D. TX) and Pamela Lassiter (N.D. FL.), both on temporary assignment to the Commission.

Motion made by Commissioner Budd to adopt the minutes of the September 6, 1995, meeting; seconded by Commissioner Carnes. Passed unanimously.

Win Swenson, providing a follow-up to the recently held corporate symposium, recognized the following Commission staff: Andy Purdy, Mary Didier, Cameron Counters, Marguerite Driessen, Rusty Burress, John Scalia, and Norma Humphries. He stated that there were approximately 450 registered attendees, including Commission staff, and that participants were quite laudatory about the event and, in particular, the Commission's role in holding the conference. Mr. Swenson reported that staff was preparing a proceedings book. In terms of future Commission initiatives in this area, he recommended, along the line of the Chairman's four point plan, training and monitoring in the corporate area to meet ongoing interest. In terms of the Chairman's request of how the Commission can work with business schools to create a more ethical, law abiding corporate culture, he suggested pursuing contact with some business schools and reviewing the definition of a qualifying compliance program for possible modification reflecting management concepts that support compliance. He also noted that the Commission had received significant support from symposium attendees for its efforts to analyze how governmental policies might be further coordinated and recommended that staff submit proposals to the Commission on how this topic might be further pursued. Commissioner Budd stated that the work Mr. Swenson did was truly outstanding and that the symposium was very substantive and placed the Commission in a leadership role. Commissioner Goldsmith echoed those remarks and added that staff's can-do attitude helped make the symposium successful. Chairman Conaboy congratulated Mr. Swenson for the success of the symposium.

Susan Katzenelson and Pamela Montgomery presented the preliminary findings on substantial assistance practices under the guidelines and statute. In doing so, they briefed the Commission on the seven main data collection efforts: literature review, case law, United States attorney surveys, site visits, individual case studies, conspiracy case studies, and aggregate statistical analysis. They reported that preliminary findings indicate that defendants involved in money laundering offenses and defendants in Criminal History Category One were more likely to receive a substantial assistance departure and that those in Criminal History Category One received larger degrees of departure than defendants in higher criminal history categories. They emphasized the importance of understanding substantial assistance in the more comprehensive context of processing criminal cases. That is, substantial assistance is part of a larger sequence of events, including declination decisions, initial and superseding indictments, plea bargaining, and sentencing. Commissioner Carnes requested that the group, when mandatory minimum statutes are involved, review the amount of 5K1.1 reduction from the applicable guideline range, not the mandatory minimum. Commissioner Tacha asked staff to provide data pre-and-post-the Reno memo outlining changes in prosecutorial practices. The draft report should be finalized within the next few weeks.

General Counsel Steer, reporting on the appropriations process, stated that in late September the Senate, because of a Hatfield-Hollings leadership amendment, reappropriated the Commission's current funding level, which reflects what the House had earlier appropriated. In relation to the Commission's crack and money laundering amendments, the Senate added a rider to the Commission's appropriation bill blocking these two Commission amendment. The Senate also passed an Abraham bill, with a Kennedy amendment, that would block those two Commission amendments, send the crack cocaine issue back to the Commission for reconsideration in light of certain specified factors, and require the Department of Justice to report to Congress on its plea and charging practices as they relate to money laundering offenses and for the Commission to comment on this report. Commissioner Gelacak noted Senator Hatch's involvement in procuring the Commission's funding. Chairman Conaboy stated that the Commission had sent correspondence to a number of senators involved in that process.

Staff Director Newton, thanking the commissioners for their work with respect to restoration of the Commission's current funding levels for fiscal year 1996, stated that the numbers for fiscal year 1997 were due. She reported that the loose-leaf manual is at the printers and will be distributed to judges by November 1, 1995, with a memorandum stating that it is to be used in conjunction with the 1994 Guidelines Manual until Congress takes action on the submitted amendments. She announced that the Commission has hired Judy Sheon to fill the position of principal technical drafter and that Dr. Candace Johnson will present her race and ethnicity study at the November Commission meeting. She also announced that the Commission has signed a contract for public service announcements designed to inform the public about sentence lengths in the federal system for drug offenses.

Commissioner Gelacak requested that a recommendation from FAMM relating to safety valve retroactivity be placed on the agenda for the November meeting. Commissioner Tacha requested that staff model this issue with respect to its effects on sentences, the number of defendants, and how it compares to those defendants not in this category.

Chairman Conaboy adjourned the meeting at 12:16.