FAMM Amicus Brief: Koons v. United States | FAMM


FAMM Amicus Brief: Koons v. United States

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Contact: Rabiah Burks

FAMM Amicus Brief: Koons v. United States


WASHINGTON, DC — FAMM filed an amicus brief this week in the case of Koons v. United States, in the Supreme Court. FAMM argues that the U.S. Sentencing Commission guidelines should govern cases in which defendants provide “substantial assistance” to the government that results in the removal of the mandatory minimum sentence that would otherwise apply.

In 2010, as a result of his cooperation with the government, Mr. Koons did not receive a mandatory minimum sentence following his conviction for a drug trafficking crime. Then in 2014, the Sentencing Commission reduced drug sentences in the federal sentencing guidelines and made the reductions retroactive. The change is known as “Drugs Minus Two.” The Commission explicitly provided that prisoners like Mr. Koons, who had avoided mandatory minimums sentences due to their cooperation, were eligible for a lower sentence under Drugs Minus Two. Mr. Koons unsuccessfully sought retroactive reduction of his sentence based on the new, lower guidelines.

The government argues that Mr. Koons is not entitled to have his sentence reduced based on the lower guideline range. It argues that the Sentencing Commission erred in making retroactivity available to defendants like him who cooperated. Such defendants, the government contends, who avoided receiving a mandatory minimum due to their assistance were not sentenced under the guidelines. Therefore, they are not eligible for guideline retroactivity.

In the brief, FAMM explains why the government is wrong in its interpretation of federal law and how its approach frustrates congressional intent.  

FAMM also brings to the Supreme Court its case for why the government’s position would, if upheld, lead to unjust sentencing policy. The brief outlines the devastating effects of mandatory minimum sentences on prisoners, their families, and society. Given the grave harm caused by mandatory sentences, FAMM stresses the need to employ them sparingly and only when authorized by statute. 


FAMM is a nonpartisan, national advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice reforms to make our communities safe. Founded in 1991, FAMM promotes change by raising the voices of families and individuals who are directly affected by counterproductive sentencing and prison policies.  

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